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High Tech Strategic Update: September 2020 Review

This year has presented many challenges for marketers in high tech. From the virus to social issues, it has affected how we bring our brands to market. Now that we are about six months past initial lockdown more than half of Americans are in the “coming to grips” and “living a new normal” mindsets. As life has been slowly normalizing, worries have shifted to the economy, presidential election, social injustice, and racial inequality. As marketers, we will continue to overcome these obstacles by focusing on customer relationships, improving customer experiences, and building brand loyalty by delivering real value from tapping into data.

Marketers working in the High-Tech products and services industry have an opportunity to align with the current events and showcase how their brand is helping the world. Consumers and businesses alike have looked to tech products to make their lives easier and more entertaining throughout and after the lockdown. Apps and digital platforms have allowed us to stay in contact with our loved ones and make our voices heard on the issues we care about. Marketers now have an opportunity to propel their brand to the top by adapting their messaging and experiences to their customer’s new needs.

Industry Insights and Trends

Listed below are observations about the high tech industry gleaned from recent news stories.

Disney’s LED technology helps filmmakers continue work and adds efficiency

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused filming delays and hindered widespread travel for production crews, but LED technology developed for the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” could aid production. More than 50% of “The Mandalorian’s” first season was filmed using this new technology, basically eliminating the need for on-location shoots.

Pinewood Studios in Atlanta announced plans to bring a similar LED stage to its facility. The technology can reduce the cost of productions, as film crews won’t have to travel to international locations.  It also makes post-production work easier.

Google Maps adjusts to new travelling patterns

Traffic reduction due to COVID-19 has forced Google to adjust how it predicts driving conditions in Google Maps. Google says global traffic fell by 50% after lockdowns started earlier this year. To give a more accurate estimated time of arrival, Google now prioritizes traffic data from the last two to four weeks in its calculations rather than historical patterns.

Google announces Series One, new flagship Google Meet hardware-as-a-service plan

Google said that it will release a range of flagship hardware for its Google Meet platform -- an effort meant to bolster Meet's appeal among distributed and remote teams. Video conferencing and collaboration players in hardware and software are increasingly turning to hardware-as-a-service plans and bundled hardware and software offerings in response to increased demand for collaboration tools.

Building out the 5G infrastructure creates big opportunities and fierce competition

Nokia has suffered a setback after it had lost out to Samsung Electronics on a part of the contract to supply new 5G equipment to Verizon in the United States.

With this $6.64 billion contract win, Samsung has reinforced its position as a challenger to the dominance of Nokia and its Nordic rival Ericsson in selling telecom gear, after China's Huawei was barred from bidding for 5G contracts in the United States.

Major telecom firms such as Verizon use several suppliers for building various parts of a network with radio contracts accounting for a big part of the spending.

However, U.S. satellite TV provider Dish Network, racing to build a 5G network in the United States by 2023, has turned to Finland’s Nokia to supply 5G core software. Dish is building its network ground up and has so far chosen non-traditional telecoms vendors and a new technology called Open Radio Access Network (RAN) that uses software to run network functions on the cloud, reducing the use of physical equipment.

Smartphone market declines, but 5G models are set to see continued growth in 2020

According to new figures from Canalys, smartphone shipments are set to experience a 10.7% decline for the year. There are a couple of silver linings worth noting. For starters, 5G adoption continues to grow. 5G was expected to have a rebounding effect for the industry, though the pandemic quickly hampered those plans. It has likely prevented a further slide in sales. And numbers are still expected to rebound somewhat in 2021, at 9.9% year over year. That’s not quite enough to return things to pre-2020 levels, but would no doubt be a welcome sign for an industry that has shown signs of decline for some time now.

Consumer Sentiment

Listed below are observations about consumer sentiment in the high tech industry taken from various published stories.

Non-essential purchase decisions driven by offers and trust

When it comes to non-essential items, 53% would purchase it today if they found a great deal on it. 28% would buy store brands because they are effective. 22% would purchase store brands because they’re less expensive. 50% would go with the name brand that they trust.

Broadcast campaigns driving increased traffic

Broadcast campaigns are performing well during the COVID-19 Pandemic. While overall ad spending has declined, a new study of TV and radio ad campaigns indicates they are actually performing better during the COVID-19 pandemic. On an average, TV and radio ad campaigns are generating nearly 7% greater "lift“, which is defined as increased traffic to the advertiser's website, over the course of the 15 months analyzed.

Concern for presidential elections and social issues increasing in importance

From August to September, worry has shifted from the health crisis and the economy to other emerging topics. While the health crisis and economy are still the top two concerns, the presidential election, social unrest, and racial inequality have seen significant gains.

Top 5 National Issues of interest

Source: Dentsu Aegis Navigator, Sept. 17, 2020

Expected increase in eCommerce revenue helps offset decline in retail sales

According to an eMarketer study, the computers and consumer electronics product category is expected to drop 6.9% for retail sales for 2020, but eCommerce sales are expected to increase 17.9% YoY.

Latest Trends

Listed below are observable trends in high tech that were identified from public new stories.

AR sees more adoption among retailers and entertainers

The pandemic is accelerating AR adoption for retailer and entertainers. Nielsen called the COVID-19 pandemic an “unexpected catalyst” for the adoption of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) to assist with the shopping experience. More than 20% of US retailers are expected to invest in AR or VR for their company’s online store in June, up from 8% in January.

Demand for cloud services increases from increased remote work

Oracle signaled a recovery in client spending as remote work spurred demand for cloud services as well as traditional licensing business, helping it beat expectations for first-quarter results. It comes at a time when Oracle has been pushing into the cloud business that helps companies save cost by renting data centers rather than owning them.

5G infrastructure services use machine learning to increase efficiency

Nokia rolled out enhancements to its Self-Organizing Network software, bringing more automation to network operations. The vendor-agnostic software should help communication service providers more easily manage complex 5G networks, Nokia says.

The latest release uses machine learning to detect network issues and self-correct any deviations based on a set of defined objectives.

Workday launches VIBE to help track of diversity and inclusion initiatives

Workday launches VIBE Central and VIBE Index to measure diversity and inclusion efforts. Workday is launching a dashboard that brings together a company’s diversity and inclusion data, best practices content and reporting as well as tools to identify gaps in attrition, leadership and hiring.

AT&T considers cellphone plans subsidized by ads

AT&T is considering offering wireless phone plans partially subsidized by advertising as soon as a year from now, Chief Executive John Stankey said in an interview on Tuesday (Sep 15th). The consideration, which has not been previously disclosed, underscores AT&T’s commitment to the advertising business as the U.S. phone carrier reviews its portfolio to identify assets to sell in order to reduce its debt load. AT&T is considering selling its advertising-technology unit Xandr.

Amazon accelerates hiring despite industry-wide pullback

Amazon plans to hire 33,000 corporate and technology workers across the US in the coming months. It hired 36,400 people in the three months ended June 30, bringing its headcount to 876,800, an increase of 34% year over year. That number is expected to reach one million employees around the world, a major milestone, once Amazon permanently hires some of the temporary workers it brought on during the pandemic.

Tech companies big and small have pulled back on hiring and announced layoffs. More than 560 tech start-ups have cut roughly 78,900 jobs since March 11, according to Layoffs.fyi, which tracks job cuts in the tech start-up industry.

Innovative Creative

Shown below are recent examples of innovative creative coming from high tech companies.

Accenture

SAS Software

Nokia

Xbox

What We See Working (and Why)

Brands taking political stances more likely to see benefits over backlash

Brands that take a stance are more likely to gain new and loyal customers. While over one third of consumers have switched brands after opposing a stance, close to one half of respondents have continued to purchase a brand that takes a political stance they support, offsetting any switchers. Additionally, consumers are more likely to voice advocacy for a brand they support. Overall a brand staying silent elicited the least amount of action from consumers, with half saying they have done nothing about a brands silence on key issues. Yet, there is still a cost: the other half of consumers have taken some action, with a quarter switching brands and 1 in 5 boycotting or encouraging their network to boycott, respectively.

Demand for video conferencing — and its ecosystem

Demand for video conferencing tools has skyrocketed as meetings and classroom sessions have moved online. This has been a boon for app marketplaces, software projects, and cloud providers.

Demand for collaboration software

Office tools that enable people to work collaboratively on documents or presentations are valuable. Zoho, Salesforce, Google, Microsoft and almost every other online collaboration tool supports a marketplace where third parties can offer extensions that add functionality to the platforms.

Demand for cocooning software

Subscription services that offer unlimited access such as Disney Plus, Hulu, or newspapers and books have done well.

In conclusion, high tech brands need to actively address marketing efforts given the new environment to both overcome today’s challenges while also capitalizing on new opportunities. “Navigating the new normal” will require revised marketing guidelines for the end of 2020 and beyond.

Marketing Guidelines

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