Apple‘s partner China Unicom sold since its 30 October debut only 5,000 iPhones, while some market analysts predicted a sale of millions. Shaun Rein explains in Forbes how Apple and China Unicom had it all wrong and how they can save the iPhone by changing strategies fast.
When the official iPhone launched, its cracked edition was already very popular and had actually been selling for a premium at China’s early adopters. A few million iPhone were already in China when Apple basically tried to tap into what could have been their market, if they would have acted faster and smarter.
Since China’s digital vanguard is changing its gadgets very fast, not all is lost, but according to Shaun Rein a drastic change of strategy is a condition.
1. Listen to local consumers:
The phone is being sold packaged with monthly subscription plans, just as in the U.S., but the vast majority of Chinese prefer to buy pay-as-you-go charge cards. Top-up cards can be bought and recharged cheaply at street vendors everywhere in less than 30 seconds, with no identification required. Subscribing by the month is a pain.
2. Pick China Mobile rather than China Unicom as a partner:
Our research suggests that most consumers believe China Mobile has better signal stability than China Unicom, especially in regional cities beyond Shanghai and Beijing, where more and more business trips and vacations are taking place. People told us they didn’t want to change carriers, because they didn’t want to worry about weak signals when traveling, even if that meant staying with China Mobile’s slower connection. There is also no phone number portability between China Mobile and China Unicom, and consumers don’t want to change their numbers just for a new phone.
3. Launch globally at once:
Finally, one of Apple’s biggest mistakes was that it didn’t launch the iPhone around the world all at once. It took far too long to get to China. In today’s world, companies can no longer be strongly Americentric, starting product launches in the U.S. alone and only gradually reaching other markets as supply chains catch up. The new growth markets will be in places like China, India and Brazil, where consumers are still spending. Consumers in those places don’t want to wait years to get a product they read about online the moment it comes out.
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