Sony Ericsson draws up CRM plans to boost consumer loyalty

Sony Ericsson has set out plans to improve its direct relationship with consumers, who have traditionally had stronger ties with mobile operators and retailers.

Sony Ericsson: plotting unprecedented CRM strategy
Sony Ericsson: plotting unprecedented CRM strategy

The handset manufacturer is to work with data marketing company Acxiom on overhauling its customer relationship management (CRM) strategy.

The aim is to create an unprecedented level of dialogue with its customers and match the level of loyalty of rival brands such as Apple.

Acxiom will handle the management and interpretation of data as well as CRM campaigns globally.

Tactics being considered to enhance consumer loyalty include bespoke welcome messages when buyers switch on their handset for the first time, plus online video content offering advice on how to get the best from smartphones.

According to Ben Padley, vice-president for digital and global marketing and CRM at Sony Ericsson, the brand is to shift its focus from customer acquisition to customer retention. Padley said that the brand's ambitions to grow market share are dependent on rectifying the fact that it has 'no direct relationship' with customers.

'We want a major step-change for two-way dialogue with consumers,' he added. 'This new approach will be of massive importance in retention. There is growth in mobile as a platform, and we are working with the likes of Google which is using data, and Sony, which will provide a major differential. But we have no direct relationship with customers, which is an issue.'

Sony Ericsson will relaunch its handset offering in April on the back of the roll-out of its Xperia arc smartphone. The company has already secured distribution deals with Vodafone, O2 and Three.

The Xperia arc release will be followed by a phone with a gaming focus, rumoured to be called Xperia Play, which suggests the handset could be compatible with content from Sony's PlayStation consoles.

A focus on entertainment by Sony is also evident in its move into streamed content with the creation of Qriocity, a service for its branded products, that features music, video and gaming content.

According to Nokia's UK head of brand and campaigns Adam Johnson, the brand has previously used some CRM tools to drive loyalty, including a 'Nokia Conversation' blog.

It also uses a text-based 'My Nokia' service that offers customer advice.

Sony Ericsson has yet to announce a replacement for global marketing chief Lennard Hoornik, but has filled posts left vacant when its marketing team completed a move from Farnborough to London in the New Year.

IN MY VIEW - EXPERT COMMENT

Helen Gawor, Managing director, Connect Insight

This strategy follows a model set by the iPhone, which is brand and app-led. Immersing the user in the brand is a good idea for Sony Ericsson. Its consumers are probably a bit more loyal than other brands, and this can be built on.

Research we conducted suggests 25% of users cite mobile as their first choice of medium, so building a relationship through this could add a huge amount of value.

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