Oppo's sales grow as tech war escalates

Oppo's sales grow as tech war escalates

B100m marketing budget for flagship

Mr Chanon, here with the new Reno series, says branding is crucial for premium smartphones.
Mr Chanon, here with the new Reno series, says branding is crucial for premium smartphones.

The Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo says it sees no negative impact from the US-Chinese tech war, citing growing sales after increased US sanctions against Huawei.

Oppo is spending 100 million baht, its largest marketing investment yet in Thailand, to build a new premium flagship Reno Series to compete with high-end players Samsung, Apple and Huawei, which dominate the price segment.

"Our Thai sales have not been affected by the tense US-China trade war," said Chanon Jirayukul, executive vice-president of Oppo Thailand. "We actually gained acceptance based on our increased sales."

Citing research firm Canalys, he said Oppo maintained market leadership in terms of units sold in Thailand for two straight quarters in the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, with respective market share of 22.2% and 20.8%.

"We gained success in entry-level and mid-priced smartphones, but still have a lower share in premium phones -- in the over-20,000-baht price range," Mr Chanon said.

After launching high-end models last year, Oppo has a share in the premium segment of just 7%, but this year it expects to grab more than 10% of the market.

Premium smartphones account for 10% of the 19-million-unit smartphone market, worth 150 billion baht in terms of value. Thailand's premium smartphones in the 20,000-baht price range sell at a rate of 100,000 units a month or 1.2 million units a year.

Oppo is preparing to spend 100 million baht on marketing to launch its latest flagship Reno Series. This excludes R&D costs of US$1.5 billion (47 billion baht).

Mr Chanon said that when marketing premium smartphones, companies need to spend time on brand image, not just technical specifications and pricing as in other segments.

The new Reno 10x Zoom is equipped with a 6.6-inch display and a camera with the ability to zoom 10 times, which includes a hidden front-end camera. The Oppo Reno 10x Zoom retails for 28,990 baht and the Oppo Reno for 16,990 baht, becoming available June 15.

"Reno's camera will differentiate itself for consumers as not being just for selfies, but for more professional-looking photos with a powerful zoom," Mr Chanon said.

Oppo will open two or three flagship stores in prime locations in Bangkok, which will stand out from the existing 150 Oppo shops.

Overall, the local smartphone market is expected to remain flat. The new flagship might attract consumers after the market in the first quarter contracted 5% in terms of units sold and total value contracted 15%, according to Canalys.

Opas Cherdphan, managing director of M Vision Plc, the organiser of Thailand Mobile Expo, said at a recent event that smartphone sales were still lower than expected, below 2.5 billion baht, because of a sluggish economy and lack of new flagship smartphones, as well as waning consumer confidence in Huawei.

"The US-China trade war has not affected the Thai market much," he said. "We're only seeing a slowdown of Huawei phones, while the best-selling models are flagships that slashed prices by up to 5,000 baht from Apple, Samsung and even the Huawei Mate 20 and P20."

Consumers are still purchasing Chinese brands like Oppo, One Plus and Xiaomi, Mr Opas said, and these makes are gobbling up market share from Apple and Samsung.

The best-selling products are mobile accessories, particularly headsets, he said.


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