I recently caught up with an old friend, RogersDude69, and had a long conversation about retail and smartphones. I sent him a few questions over email to get some answers about how retailers market and sell BlackBerrys.
Tell me about smartphone sales where you work, which platform is being pushed the hardest right now?
I work at Rogers Plus, the corporate retail store. Our current lineup of phones are:
- iPhone 3G 8GB, iPhone 3GS 16GB, iPhone 3GS 32GB
- BlackBerry 8220, BlackBerry 8520, BlackBerry 9000, BlackBerry 9700
- HTC Dream, HTC Magic+, Samsung Spica
- Sony Ericsson Xperia X1
- Nokia N86
Our particular store sells more BlackBerry devices than iPhone devices, because there is a larger selection, and the iPhone in particular has been the same device for nearly the last 2 years.
Internally, we have a big push to sell the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, most likely because the X10 is coming out soon. There are sales incentives to sell the device even more so than our regular commission.
What were customer demands for consumer smartphones when iPhone (3G) launched, are they different now?
Most consumers in Canada who wanted a phone that surfed the web and got email went with a BlackBerry. However, the plans themselves had a small limit on the amount of bandwidth that was allowed. For $40 you could get 25 MB of data. I would sell a couple BlackBerry devices a week at my store, usually to someone who wore a suit and tie.
When the iPhone 3G launched in Canada, that data plans were boosted from 25 MB to 500 MB, for $15 less. Since data plans have become cheaper, more and more people have decided to take the plunge and buy a smartphone.
Younger women, younger men, older women, older men, what are these groups looking for in a smartphone, what are their purchasing motivations? What are their smartphone preferences?
Younger Women – BlackBerry Messenger
Younger Men – Cool Applications
Older Women – Ease of Use and email
Older Men – Work Related applications
Not long ago, apps for phones were sold through a carrier deck, now it’s shifting towards a manufacturer store model, how does this effect smartphone sales?
I think it has definitely increased the sales of smartphones themselves, as the platform stores are more advertised by the manufacturers, rather than the carriers. Generally, it makes people have more control over their devices, and complain about something else besides the price of ringtones.
Are consumers interested in software?
Most consumers aren’t, in my experience. The only consumers that are interested in software, are what the industry calls the prosumer. You know, the early adopters and the ones that spend lots and lots of money on their toys.
What is your favorite BlackBerry to sell someone on right now and why?
My favorite is the BlackBerry 9700, since it’s got a much better battery life than the 9000, and it’s a 3G phone, so you can download stuff really quick. More importantly, it doesn’t have a trackball, but a trackpad, which doesn’t break down hardware-wise. Other than that, I also push the BlackBerry 8520, because it’s pretty cheap but still makes me more commission.
If someone doesn’t know what kind of smartphone they want, what factors lead you sell them on a BlackBerry over an iPhone?
The first question I ask people is: Would you be using your device primarily to communicate with people, or would you be using the device to surf the web and entertain for yourself?
That usually cuts the line between iPhone and BlackBerry. When people say communication, I push BlackBerry. When they say surf the web, I tell them iPhone. Other that, I sell BlackBerry because I have more models to choose from and it’s a Canadian Company.
Do you deal much with returns? Which makes and models are returned the most and why?
Currently, for a smartphone it is the LG EVE. Overall, it has to do with the people who are buying smartphones. There is a lot of ignorance in this industry and sometimes a user simply doesn’t understand how to use a smartphone. I’ve seen users who make the mistake of typing in their gmail password for the BlackBerry lock screen until the phone locks and their data is wiped. I also see users typing their BlackBerry password into their Gmail and want to return the phone because “their email is broken.” People will also return the BlackBerry when there are smudges on the screen, or if the frame of it seems to separate slightly (some BB 8520s do this). What surprises me, is that in general people don’t return the iPhone.
Which apps do you talk about when the topic of BlackBerry applications comes up?
The first application I talk about is BlackBerry App World. It’s strange that the store for the BlackBerry isn’t pre-loaded on the devices but I will often take the time to download it onto people’s devices for them. The next is BlackBerry Messenger, followed by Windows Live Messenger or Facebook. Games aren’t usually talked about in store.
Which devices sell the most accessories on signup?
When I sell the iPhone, I immediately grab a rubber case made by iSkin, and I force people to buy it because the iPhone does not take a fall. I’ve seen about a hundred iPhones with broken screens. If that phone falls on it’s side, the screen cracks and the rubber case helps tremendously. When selling a BlackBerry, I tend to sell a lot of car chargers.
What is your favorite BlackBerry application of the moment and why?
My application that I use the most is Magmic’s Sudoku (which is free and preinstalled), Magmic’s Daily NYT Crosswords (which is a subscription), BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, BlackBerry’s official Twitter app (I am awesome) and Foursquare.
What is your favorite iPhone application?
The Rogers My Account application, which isn’t pre-loaded on the iPhone, but tells you your minutes, text messages, and data usage before your bill comes out. It’s also important to note that I don’t use the iPhone, I just tell my customers that they should download that application.
Which platform most often leads to people coming in and talking about it, but not buying anything?
It’s probably the Android operating system. People come in, ask about it, and then leave. I often have people come in and ask about BlackBerry and iPhone, but they usually leave the store having purchased one. The questions I get are always about the ability to do something, such as check their email, and the answer is always “yes”. People still don’t realize what a smartphone is and what it can do.