The preliminary attendance numbers are in. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reported that more than 140,000 industry professionals attended the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this past January. These figures are up dramatically from two years ago when the CEA reported attendance had dropped to 113,085 in 2009. With nearly a 20 percent increase and attendance numbers back to pre-recession totals, it's clear that things are starting to look up for this important market segment. These much-improved figures make the statement that it's time once again for promotional products distributors to roll up their sleeves and get refamiliarized with the wildly popular and ever-changing electronics niche.
Kellie Claudio, director of new business development, Sweda Company LLC, City of Industry, Calif., noted, "With new innovation and innate enthusiasm in the electronics business, the future never looked brighter. As reported by the CES management, there is a renewed excitement for 2011 [and it is] truly an exciting time for new young designers to launch their inventive [products] into the market."
What do these new products look like? Sandra Coburn, marketing supervisor, Ariel Premium Supply Inc., Saint Louis, Mo., explained design is leaning heavily into the portable realm. "Portable products are the new standard. Consumers want to be able to have everything on the go. The current trend is really due to the popularity of the smartphone as an all-inclusive portable device that allows the consumer to perform most of the same functions they would previously have needed a computer for."
What does this mean? The imprintable products available to your end-buyers aren't just limited the ubiquitous memory sticks or family-friendly digital frames of a few years ago. Now more portability-oriented media devices like e-readers, MP3 speakers and earbuds are serious and practical options. Keep in mind that you should not only be looking to sell the portable media devices themselves, but also remember the whole host of accessories that can complete the electronics package for your client, like neoprene media tablet cases, smartphone skins, portable chargers, microfiber cloth screen cleaners and anything else that protects or enhances the electronic device's usability or portability. Coburn provided a quick rundown of product features and accessories end-users find most valuable and give the most visibility to a brand:
• Small in size so that the product can fit in a purse, briefcase or pocket, making the product convenient to take everywhere.
• Belt clips are an ideal feature because they not only increase usability, but also help the advertised message be seen by more people, improving its advertising value.
• Products that work with cell phones, smartphones and other popular devices will be seen by consumers as most useful and will thus have the greatest perceived value.
• The product must be seen as a useful item. Consumers are no longer interested in electronics for novelty appeal.
Claudio also made this suggestion, "Think about where the product will be stationary. [With the] printing on the front of it, anyone coming into your office will see the logo so constant and continuing marketing value occurs. If the printing is on the back, you will be the only one seeing a corporate logo."
Consider too how an end-user wants the imprint to appear on the product. With a high level of sophistication inherent in the product, a high level of sophistication should also be considered when branding it. Coburn explained this concept. "With electronic devices, there is a need for white space. An imprint should be big enough to grab attention, but on an electronic item a gigantic imprint is going to make a product look clunky and will reduce its perceived value, she said. "Ask for imprint size options when you can from suppliers to make sure your electronic product promotion looks classy."
Know The Trends and Instructions
Do you feel like there is a lot to keep up with here? That's because there is. "The electronics market is very volatile," noted Claudio, "Change doesn't happen seasonally. It happens daily. What we merchandise today as being new and fresh will certainly become old hat very quickly, which is why we are balancing on the edge of new technology every day by analyzing how long the life will be of our prospective new products."
Keeping this fast pace in mind, it is important as a distributor that you keep in the loop of new technology, continue to learn about the functionality of any product you are selling and become the expert. This way you can demonstrate directly to clients how any given product works and show the value it brings to end-users. But before going into demonstrate the effectiveness of a given product, Coburn pointed out a few things to keep in mind. "Make sure the electronic product functions as you expect it to prior to presenting it," she said. "With electronic products, the demonstration can make or break a sale. No one wants to feel like a fool or behind the times because they don't know how to use a device, and your demonstration can save your customer a lot of embarrassment if they are asked to demonstrate the product themselves," she continued. "If you don't know how to use the item yourself, don't be afraid to ask the supplier to walk you through how to use the product and if they have any support materials, such as instructions or video demonstrations to make sure you look like a hero the first time you approach your customer."
A Product for All Markets
Because this is a product segment that stretches far beyond any one industry, the advice from both Coburn and Claudio is to try to sell into them all. "It is interesting but I can say confidentially that electronics hit every market," explained Claudio. Coburn concluded, "I think that the greatest opportunity is going to be with markets that have had the greatest struggles to recover from the recession, so financial, insurance and corporate markets would be great for electronics. These markets need to remind their customers that they are innovative and useful and there is no better way to advertise that than with an innovative useful electronic promotional product."