Technology

No. 1 in the world, why no presence in China?

In February, Samsung launched its new flagship phone Galaxy S22 series with much fanfare in the global market, but the news didn't seem to make much splash in the market in China. After the event, Chinese consumers didn't seem to show much enthusiasm for the S22 either, compared to the positive response from the Korean, US and even Indian markets. Obviously, once again, Samsung's wish to use the S22 to return to its former glory in the Chinese market is difficult to achieve.

The five or six years since 2016 have seen a steady contraction of Samsung's cell phone market share in China. In Samsung's external rhetoric, it has been emphasizing that it remains the world's number one position in the global smartphone market. On the surface, it seems that the existence of the Chinese market does not matter to Samsung, the world's number one, but in fact, for the world's largest single market like China, Samsung's expectations and ambitions have never ceased.

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According to data recently released by IDC, Samsung once again reigned as the global smartphone champion in 2021 with a 20.1% market share and 270 million shipments. In stark contrast, however, Samsung phones are still missing from the rankings of the Chinese smartphone market.

No. 1 in the world, why no presence in China?

Why has Samsung been able to occupy the first position in global sales? In terms of exogenous reasons, much of it stems from Huawei's withdrawal, and Samsung has one less strongest rival in the high-end market. Objectively speaking, if not for political reasons, then from 2019 onwards, the number one position in the world should undoubtedly belong to Huawei. Without access to the U.S. market, as well as the premise of 0 increase in the overseas market in that year, Huawei's global shipments in 2019 remained as high as 240 million, with only 50 million difference from Samsung, the first place in that year. Unfortunately, from 2019 onwards, Huawei is rapidly falling, and now can only be classified as "other" category.

On the other hand, Apple has not been showing any interest in the low-end market, which has given Samsung enough space in the low-end and mid-range markets, which also constitute an important part of shipments.

Of course, from its own conditions, Samsung also has its own advantages. First of all, Samsung's low-end Galaxy A series and F series, the global market share is very high, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Samsung can rely on their years of accumulated channel advantages and product diversification advantages, covering as many people as possible, so sales have always maintained a high market share.

In the high-end market, Samsung's folding screen phones occupy 90% of the global sales share of folding screen phones. Of course, its constantly iterating S series has also been its magic weapon to reap the high-end market. So all together, in many markets, Samsung is usually right behind Apple. For example, in the U.S. market, Samsung has been the second largest cell phone manufacturer after Apple.

No. 1 in the world, why no presence in China?

Data source: Counterpoint

The situation of Samsung in the Chinese market is much more complicated. Samsung's rise in the Chinese market largely lies in the domestic market to seize the smartphone window growth dividend, when HOVM did not form enough competitiveness, Apple and Huawei did not occupy too large a share of the high-end market, the market in Samsung almost like no man's land. However, with the gradual growth of domestic brands and Apple's soaring, in the high, medium and low-end markets have formed a direct threat to Samsung, coupled with Samsung's continuous PR and marketing mistakes, coupled with geopolitical issues over the years, Samsung's defeat in the Chinese market is also inevitable.

On the other hand, along with more Chinese manufacturers gradually open overseas markets, Samsung is gradually losing its advantage in overseas markets. If there is no political intervention in the future, Samsung's situation is not optimistic. From the current stage, for those more open markets, the market share of Chinese cell phones exceeded Samsung, for example, the first African market in 2021 is still Chuan Yin, and even for Chinese manufacturers set many barriers to the Indian market, the first place is also Xiaomi.

No. 1 in the world, why no presence in China?

Data source: Counterpoint

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According to Counterpoint, Samsung's share of the Chinese smartphone market, which was once as high as 20 percent in 2014, has fallen to about 1 percent and is now categorized as "other" in the statistics. Still, Samsung is not giving up on the Chinese mobile market and is trying to make a comeback in the country with new launches and brand marketing.

For example, the Galaxy Z series of folding screen phones that are selling well around the world, Samsung also hopes to cut into the Chinese folding phone gap market, so the investment in brand marketing is also very large, not only invited Chen Kun endorsement, in 2021 also title a number of hit variety shows, such as Zhejiang TV "star chaser", Hunan TV "Phi Beta Kappa brother" and so on. Marketing on social networking sites is also not left behind, such as the promotion, review and seeding of Galaxy Z series folding screen phones on B station and Xiaohongshu, which are also endless.

In this year's Winter Olympics, as the official sponsor of the Olympic Games, in addition to the regular sponsorship cooperation, Samsung specifically released the Galaxy Z Flip3 5G Olympic commemorative edition and gave all the nearly 3,000 participating athletes in the Winter Olympics nearly 10,000 yuan of this commemorative edition of folding cell phones and headphones, spending nearly 30 million RMB for this gift alone. During the Olympic Games, Samsung also opened many Samsung offline Olympic experience pavilions in the lively shopping areas of Beijing, hoping to further bring the people closer to the brand.

In addition, Samsung is also trying to make a push in the Chinese market from other angles. According to Caixin, in order to boost its business in China, Samsung Electronics Korea has set up a new China business innovation team within the company, which is mainly responsible for China marketing strategies, including brand building and sales agency strategies. The group, under the direct supervision of Samsung Electronics Korea co-CEO Han Jong-hee, is preparing to compete with local brands in smartphones, TVs, home appliances and other areas by analyzing China's unique business habits and consumer preferences.

In addition, Samsung also signed a "2022 Strategic Cooperation Agreement" with Jingdong. According to the agreement, the two sides will strengthen strategic cooperation in 2022 and accelerate 15 key projects in five categories around the dimensions of product, marketing, user operation, omnichannel and service to improve Samsung's sales, sales and market influence in the domestic cell phone market in all aspects.

Whether it's organizational restructuring, the Olympics, cooperation with Jingdong, and this new Galaxy S22 series release and a series of actions in China, it's clear that Samsung's marketing efforts in China are increasing, and all that points to is Samsung's ambition to return to the Chinese market.

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But the marketing push to return to the Chinese market glory doesn't seem to be going exactly according to the script Samsung was expecting.

After the release of the Galaxy S22 series in February, it seems that apart from the "price is still too high", there are hardly any other points that can be discussed on a large scale by Chinese netizens like Apple or Huawei's new releases. At the same time, Samsung's entire Chinese marketing campaign still seems to be in a state of limbo.

On the eve of the S22 launch, Samsung invited two controversial Jitterbug netizens to cooperate for the S22, which was sprayed by netizens until they finally had to end the farce by officially deleting the microblog. And before inviting Chen Kun to endorse the folding phone, according to the official statement, largely because Chen Kun business elite temperament and public welfare spirit and Samsung brand quite fit, this forced as well as not in the focus of the fit also caused a lot of people's doubts.

On the one hand, Samsung wants more traffic and more topics and attention, which is why it has to invite traffic stars and even controversial net celebrities to cooperate; on the other hand, Samsung insists on emphasizing that it is a high-end brand, from products to prices to marketing to benchmark Apple, so the brand positioning and PR marketing strategies keep swinging between the two options, which leads to the bias of perception and execution for the whole Chinese cell phone market.

Unlike Samsung's self-high-end positioning, in the minds of Chinese consumers, if Apple and Huawei P series and mate series represent the high-end, then Samsung brand power is still a cut short. For example, Samsung has always emphasized the hardware advantage, in the process of integration with software resulting in experience problems, with both Huawei and Apple have a big gap. And often in its new products released soon after high pricing, a very short time will usher in a significant price dive, causing great dissatisfaction among sellers and consumers, but in the end, just can not support the brand's high premium helpless choice.

And the reasons for this result, the industry inside and outside the discussion is also a lot, nothing more than Samsung in the Chinese market policy, positioning, channels, prices and so on involving all aspects of marketing factors, it seems that all aspects are lacking, and marketing is a systematic ability, the final sales results are the presentation of the combined forces, to really want to see a change in sales, the need is to adjust the full range of marketing. Of course, before that, is to clarify their own positioning, know what their real brand image in the minds of Chinese consumers should be, and then to develop the corresponding marketing measures.

In the past few years, Samsung has launched Galaxy S8/10 and other models that have performed well in the world and led the trend of cell phones, but even so, these products are still performing very poorly in the Chinese market. The S22, which is now being relaunched, is also more like a regular iteration of the model, and the attention is not even as much as a few recent low-end models from domestic manufacturers, not to mention the new Apple and Huawei machines, so how much water can it be expected to swoop in the high-end Chinese market occupied by Apple and Huawei?

I have to say, Samsung wants to break the game in the current Chinese market, a long way to go.