Who’s winning the smartphone buzz?

Chinese brands are investing heavily in India and in the online space, hoping it will drive image leadership, online sales and, eventually, offline sales as well


The launch of new smartphones keeps social media chattering, and the buzz peaks around Diwali when manufacturers start battling for market share. NetImpact, a digital consultancy specializing in social analytics, analysed about 350,000 social media conversations during 1-15 November. The analysis threw up some interesting findings, which could indicate the way the smartphone market is headed.

The Chinese brands are knocking. Hard

When social conversations by volume are bucketed by brands, the composition of the leading stand out. While traditional volume market-share leaders such as Samsung and Micromax did appear in the top group, three of the top six brands that dominated conversations were Chinese—Gionee, OnePlus and Coolpad. Among the top 15 brands, seven were Chinese.

Clearly, Chinese brands are investing heavily in India and in the online space, hoping it will drive image leadership, online sales and, eventually, offline sales as well. The analysis also shows the social share spread is more competitive than the overall volume shares published regularly where the gaps are more, especially between the top 3.

Smart marketing and value disruption

Success in dominating social media seems to have several reasons. Gionee, at a surprise No. 2, leveraged music to the hilt with its Sunburn festival campaign and some high-impact engagements that hooked the digitally active. Then there was the high-risk but clever marketing strategy of OnePlus, of generating excitement via exclusivity through invitations to buy the phone. This is a risky strategy as it adds another step in the buying process, but OnePlus managed to pull it off flawlessly.

Apart from smart marketing, social chatter was driven by value disruption promised by some brands. Coolpad Note 3 powered itself to the top 6 club as it provides disruptive features at a lower price point; it is the only smartphone priced below Rs.10,000 that comes with a fingerprint sensor and 3GB RAM. Equally, it was OnePlus2’s power-packed specifications at the Rs.25,000 price band that caught people’s fancy and triggered conversations.

“Online and social are playing a significantly increased role in the consumer buying journey of smartphones and hence the significant aggression in this space,” says Rahul Saighal, managing director, NetImpact Solutions, a digital marketing consultancy. “The rankings also show that the newer brands are setting the standards in innovativeness in this space with an eye to future wins.”

The usual leaders hold the positions—just!

Samsung and Micromax remained in the top 3, but their leadership in social media chatter was nowhere close to the extent of their lead in volume shares published regularly. Samsung conversations revolved around the new Galaxy J series with 4G capabilities. After a gap, Samsung seems to have aligned behind film stars, with Shahid Kapoor promoting the J series to help drive youth engagement and attention.

At No. 4, Apple continues to be in the top 6, despite traditionally limited marketing in the social space, reflecting the brand’s inherent strength to generate organic conversations. Interestingly, a significant portion of the conversations were around the upgrade plan for the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, triggering the question whether many are finding its prices out of reach.

Lead indicators

With the rise in Internet users, the online and social presence and savviness of brands will be a key determinant of brand choice from information selection to word of mouth to image leadership. A strong position and performance here could be a lead indicator of emerging challengers to established incumbents in different segments. A set of upheavals seems to be in the making.

METHODOLOGY

The number of conversations have been arrived at with the following methodology and NetImpact’s proprietary techniques:

l Time-frame taken: 1 November to 15 November

l Conversations are defined as tweets, mentions, comments, retweets and shares

l Conversations measured are those that could be captured by various tools and packages and NetImpact’s proprietary techniques. These are not exhaustive, but strongly directional given the numbers captured

l These conversations are the ones that had a mention directly or indirectly to the brand

NetImpact Solutions is a new-age digital marketing consultancy-cum-agency with a specialization in social analytics. www.netimpactlimited.com

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