“Digital is growing at an exponential rate in the Middle East in comparison to anywhere else in the world ” says Taro Kimura, Managing Director, Sony Middle East & AfricaDecember 21, 2017
In conversation with Taro Kimura, Managing Director, Sony Middle East & Africa, he spoke about the Digital market growth in Middle East is much higher compared to anywhere in the world and AI will the focus of Sony for 2018 as AI market in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) expected to reach $114 million (Dh418.38 million) by 2021.
What’s the latest in Sony Middle East? What are the plans you’re working on, and what are your priorities for 2018?
Sony’s presence and market share in the Middle East and Africa continues to grow and exceed our expectations. Representing a key growth market for us, the company plans to sustain its popularity in the region through new product introductions across different segments in TV, audio and digital imaging. We will focus on our expanded product line-up in 2018 and look at growing our existing customer base by 20 per cent in the region.
What were the hottest marketing trends of 2017 and how will you expect these trends to impact the marketing landscape of 2018?
In the Middle East, digital transformation has evolved from being just a trend to a crucial component of business strategy. Businesses that do not place digital firmly at the center of their growth strategy run the risk of increasing irrelevancy in the eyes of customers and the market. As the world grows increasingly interconnected, brands must commit themselves to enhancing their digital presence, and utilizing the right channels to appeal to the 21st century consumer.
More than 70 per cent of UAE residents aged 18-40 years will poll their circle of influencers before making a purchase, and up to 50 per cent of all purchasing decisions involve word-of-mouth recommendations. So identifying and targeting those influencers with the right messages/offerings presents a powerful marketing opportunity for brands. (BPG C&W Influencer survey)
When it comes to your marketing strategies, how is the Middle East different from other markets of Sony?
The Middle East market is one of the most dynamic markets in the world – with a relatively young population, hungry for innovative products. Therefore, in order to achieve our ambitious plans for the region, we have to re-engineer our operations and develop strategies that suit the market. Our marketing strategies are a combination of product, place, price and promotions and these are the four core components we focus on to maximise our marketing strategy in the region. We aim to offer our customers the best experiences with our innovative products, while encouraging them to appreciate their unique value.
Going forward, what will be Sony’s priority areas?
Sony is committed to developing a refreshed line-up of products each year to cater to evolving consumer needs. This year, we launched the technologically advanced BRAVIA OLED TVs – A1 series in the TV category. In the Digital Imaging category, we introduced the outstanding Alpha 9, the much-awaited A7RIII and an all-new type camera – RX0. In the audio category we launched path-breaking new technology laden Noise cancelling headphones, the 1000X series and a very unique 170 cm tall Hi-fi system, the V90D.
For 2018, we will continue to introduce new products that are aimed at different customer segments in the region. The television category is a key driver for business growth and an integral part of our product strategy for 2018. Which is why, we are planning to launch our new range of TVs in the region during the first half of the year. We are positive that our business development strategy will place us in a strong position to gain market share in our focus categories – which are television, digital imaging and audio products.
How have consumer behaviors changed this year when it comes to consumer electronics in general?
The influence of technology continues to be a key driver and enabler of change across the globe and consumers are adopting a more modern, convenient lifestyle. In recent years, there has been a shift towards more compact and multifunctional devices, particularly those offering Internet connectivity.
Additionally, digital is growing at an exponential rate in the Middle East in comparison to anywhere else in the world causing retailers to realise the need to invest in digital channels as consumers spend more time online. A consistent theme is the growth of consumers turning to online retail websites in order to research prices and descriptions before buying products. In this day and age, consumers in the region are looking for seamless experiences with brands and products – and Sony aims to deliver products that are aligned with customer tastes and preferences.
What do you think is the next big thing in technology?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gaining significant traction in the region with the AI market in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) expected to reach $114 million (Dh418.38 million) by 2021.
In addition, the role of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will continue to transform the retail sector. There is huge potential for the augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) industry in the Middle East and Africa. Shipments of AR and VR headsets expected to reach 13.7 million units by end of 2017 globally, growing to 81.2 million units by 2021 with a compound annual growth rate of 56.1 per cent.
At Sony, we aim to combine our existing strengths in areas such as video and audio technologies, sensors and mechatronics, with artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, communications and other elements to offer new proposals that would expand the field of electronics. In November, Sony refined its AI and robotics technology to deliver an all new entertainment robot ‘Aibo’. Its capability of forming an emotional bond with its owners shows how Sony is steadily advancing multiple initiatives in the filed of AI and robotics.