IT News Africa recently had an opportunity to talk to Deon Liebenberg, Managing Director for Samsung South Africa. While Liebenberg is very optimistic about the future of Samsung products across the African continent, he mentioned that a lot of work still has to be done. We also spoke to him about the future of Samsung products, brand loyalty and Samsung’s unique designs.
1. Compared to other consumer brands, where does Samsung fit in, in terms of market share?
It’s very difficult to measure or just put one number down. We are number one in so many categories. What makes us different is that we have hundreds of products we can sell. It’s not just phones that we are focusing on, but what the consumer in South Africa really enjoys at the moment, is going through a revolution of connectivity and smart life and everything else. We very strategically started positioning our brand against that – smart television, smart camera, smart hub, smart phone, allShare. So it’s all around that, and I think that is why a lot of this is starting to make sense for us in South Africa. If you compare that to the rest of the continent, it’s in different phases of development. Where in South Africa we have been here the longest and it’s the hub for our African expansion and the consumer is slightly different – similar but different. Because it’s youth-centric – half of the population is under the age of 20 – that tells you what the target market is. It’s much more developed that some of the other African countries. We have about over 350 staff focussing on a very good distribution strategy.
2. Do you feel that brand loyalty plays a factor in Samsung’s success?
You have to ask why – why people started buying Samsung products. This is part of our strategy, but you bought your TV, then a monitor. Then you realised the value and the quality and the ‘premiumness’ about it, and the connectivity and things started to work out. People definitely align brands, and what we needed to do, and what we started to do over the last couple of months, is we consolidated our businesses units into driving very specific brands. We realised the same customers buying their first TV, first washing machine, and first smartphone, go through exactly the same thought process. So we can bring a lot of brand equity and value for money – and that is how we position ourselves.
3. Samsung products have unique designs. What thought-process goes into that?
One of the pillars we are focussing on is design – so aesthetically it needs to be quiet aspirational. And I think that we set the tone – it’s the thinnest, or the brightest or best design ever in most of the products, because we will always win the design. So I think because it’s such a youth-centric and young-minded type of consumer that buys these things, that is what sets the tone. If you bundle that with making it relevant in the market for the right value, we’ll win. It’s a tough environment, but we are still driving double digit growth, and our growth has been absolutely amazing. I have never worked for a company that has had such high growth achievements.
4. What is South Africa’s role in contributing towards growth in the rest of Africa?
It’s very unique. Because if you consider out of 52 different countries, the base for African expansion is here (South Africa) and our regional head office is in South Africa. What we have done is specifically designed and built various products for various countries. And, in terms of market fit, you can’t just design once and say that it fits across a billion people – logically it doesn’t make sense. What makes us unique is that we are very focussed on specific countries and regions – that is why we have all the regional managing directors focussing on their own regions. We do share a lot of best practice across the business, and have a very strong, focussed leadership team under George (Ferreira).
5. What will be the most exciting development for Samsung in terms of new products?
I think there are a couple of products. Think about connectivity in the market, lots of phones, lots of televisions, fridges – all of these things are coming together now and people are looking for some sort of collaborative convergence of technology. A lot of people have been talking about this for so many years, it’s a reality and I’m excited about this consumer who started to get access to the internet – it’s the same guy who is buying his smart TV, it’s the same guy who is buying his smart camera, and all of these things. We are so well positioned to get these things to work together like we have demonstrated, and that for me is the next drive. But there is a challenge, because there are 50-million active SIM cards, if not more, which means everyone should have access, but not everyone does. We have announced the Galaxy Pocket, the most affordable smartphone in the world and a number of other things, but you don’t want to make it too cost-effective, because there is a high level of aspiration.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor