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Accessory to the Sale

October 1, 2007

4 Min Read
Accessory to the Sale

By Tara Seals

A businessperson without a cell phone is like a shark without teeth, or a politician without airtime: rendered almost useless. But despite a high rate of adoption, the business market for wireless service is rife with churn, with companies buying from whomever and wherever has the cheapest service and best-featured phones. But theres hope in accessories: wireless dealers can gain repeat business and create a higher-value customer relationship by selling everything from speakers to travel cases to headsets.

Accessories are a crucial differentiator for dealers in a market where the plans and the phones vary little from shop to shop. You must sell accessories, says David Lorsch, CEO of DBL Distributing LLC, a wholesale consumer electronics distributor. If you are solely relying on the handset piece or the contract, youre going to send your customers somewhere else eventually. Its a very competitive market, and you want to offer something that lets you add value and makes you stand out. He adds that accessories also give dealers three to four times the normal hardware margin.

Further, accessorizing the sale improves customer satisfaction and allows dealers to become more consultative. According to In-Stat, North American business users are much more likely to opt for high-end handset models and big contracts, with ARPUs routinely in excess of $200, four times the norm. But these lucrative customers often dont feel special, with more than 60 percent reporting that they feel unappreciated by the provider to which theyre giving their wireless business.

This opens up an opportunity for a dealer to do what the carriers cant, entering the breach with tailored customer service and an end-toend package. No one [carrier] can provide all the capabilities required to address the needs of the business customer, which results in a highly interconnected mobile ecosystem, says ABI Research principal analyst Dan Shey.

Accessories are a large part of that mobile ecosystem. You sell the customer a plan, a phone and accessories, but its the accessories that make the sale more complicated, and therefore, stickier, explains Des Owens, general manager at Metrico Wireless Inc., which tests how well individual devices and accessories perform on networks, and how they compare. A branded store will sell specific phones and specific accessories that show those phones in the best possible light, but in reality, there may be a much better headset, say, for a businesspersons needs. A dealer or consultant can help them weed through all the options, because how is the customer to know whats marketing hype and whats real when it comes to performance? Some accessories perform better with device A, for instance, but not so well with device B.

AT&T Inc. is trying a hybrid model of using retail stores and consultants to increase loyalty among small businesses. The free program is called Exclusively Business, and it offers customers who sign up for it access to an overlay sales force of wireless small business specialists, via phone and in person. These specialists will position accessories as a natural extension to the productivity gains, convenience and features of a device, but also need to recognize customer needs and address them with the right solution, says Lynn Castlevetro, director of small business marketing at AT&T wireless unit. Understanding a customers preferences over time is important for long-term retention.

She says that whereas there is a special emphasis on the growing personalization and self-expression trends in the consumer market for mobile accessories, in the mobile professionals and small business market, accessories are more about performance, convenience and extending the functionalities of the device, while making a mark of professionalism.

The main goal for these customers, she says, is to do more with fewer resources and less time. We recognize that a small business owner might need to take a 45-minute sales call while on the way to the airport, or reply to all 23 e-mails before boarding a plane, all with utmost efficiency and without getting tangled in wires or getting sore fingers.

Accessories will continue to be critical for stickiness, particularly as fixed-mobile convergence takes off. You want to make a device stickier, and you do that by connecting it out more and more to external parts of life, says Owens. You do that with accessories, and as wireless permeates everything from home to office, users will find they cant very easily just rip out the whole setup theyve created, even if theres a nicer, slicker product they want.

At the Very Least

  • Here are mobile accessories every serious road warrior and business owner should own.

  • A Bluetooth headset to free your hands for lengthy business calls.

  • Mobile batteries so you dont get caught on the road without a backup.

  • Extra phone chargers for your car and your office.

  • A wireless keyboard for those long e-mails.

  • An mini or micro SD memory card to provide ample storage for business.

Source: AT&T Inc.


ABI Research www.abiresearch.com
AT&T Inc. www.att.com
DBL Distributing www.dbldistributing.com
In-Stat www.instat.com
Metrico Wireless Inc. www.metricowireless.com

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