Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CMO Club May '08: Improving a confusing retail experience at the last three feet

Gene Kelsey, EVP at Panasonic admitted his company has had a very hard time selling flat panel televisions. That's because for consumers, there's a weird combination of enormous demand and enormous confusion. Consumers have tons of questions about the conversion to digital and HD in general. There are various technologies (e.g. LCD, plasma, DLP) and form factors.

Panasonic is highly dependent on big box retailers. In fact, the top four account for 50% of their sales. And that's very unreliable because store to store, town to town, consumers are presented with a very inconsistent experience.

What Panasonic realized when it comes to retail of HD televisions is the battle is won or lost at the last three feet. Consumers enter the store both excited and confused. Panasonic could help close those "last three feet" sales if they helped retailers clear up the confusion for their customers. That's the understanding that led to Panasonic's SSR (Sales Support Representative) Team. The SSR Team are panasonic employees that go store to store helping retail employees with training, detailing, and merchandising. They're evangelists, trying to make the flat panel purchasing process easier. They have online product training as well.

In another marketing as a service project for Panasonic cameras, the company let attendees at a sporting event borrow a Panasonic camera. Those sports fans that took them up on their camera offer would be given special seating to take photos, plus they'd print photos for you, and let you keep the memory card.

They've been doing these projects for a year and in April they hit a sales record. What they've learned from the experience is the bigger the box, the more hand holding is required. There's no such thing as too much service. Their employees can't be on the floor enough.

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