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Court battles, a trade war and no 5G phones: How 2019 could get even worse for Apple

Segun Balogun

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Apple chief executive Tim Cook has his work cut out in China this year: the iPhone maker faces the looming threat of a court-ordered sales ban, the uncertain outcome of trade war talks and the roll-out of a new 5G network, where it finds itself behind rivals like Huawei and Samsung.

The complex outlook raises a challenge for Apple as it looks to revive its China fortunes after weakness there sparked a rare drop in its global sales forecast, knocked $75 billion from its market valuation and roiled global markets.

Cook told investors that the main drag on the firm’s performance in China had been a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the country’s economy, exacerbated by the impact of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” he said.

Chinese shoppers told Reuters another element had been key: the high price-tag on Apple’s flagship phones.

Analysts said the firm faced a brewing storm of challenges: an economic slowdown, stronger rivals like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] bringing out a comparable tech at lower prices and bubbling patriotic sentiment amid the trade war.

A Chinese court has also issued a preliminary injunction banning some Apple phones, part of a legal battle with chip maker Qualcomm Inc. This ban, potentially hitting iPhone models from the 6S through the X, has yet to be enforced.

On Thursday a local industry body, the China Anti-Infringement, and Anti-Counterfeit Innovation Strategic Alliance, called on Apple to heed the court order and not “trample the Chinese law by leveraging its super economic power and clout.”

Apple shares plunged over 9 percent earlier this week as Wall Street was rattled by the Silicon Valley giant’s shock revenue warning. The firm said it now anticipates lower revenues of $84 billion

Apple declined to comment on the group’s statement but has previously said it believes its current phones comply with the Chinese court’s order.

“These are tough times for Apple in China,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint, adding the iPhone could see its market share slip to 7 percent this year in the face of stronger local rivals and worry about the sales ban.

Apple’s market share in the third-quarter of 2018 was around 9 percent, and has dipped from above 14 percent in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

A woman in Beijing uses her iPhone today where sales are falling behind rivals Huawei and market leader Samsung

5G STRATEGY

Another question mark for Apple is its 5G strategy in China, where the U.S. firm is not expected to have a 5G-enabled phone until 2020, behind rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi Corp and Samsung Electronics.

China is looking to push ahead with its rollout of a faster 5G network, with a pre-commercial phase this year and a commercial network in 2020.

Some are looking to make an early bet on the technology. Huawei is planning a 5G phone mid-year, while Xiaomi is aiming for the third quarter. Samsung is expected to unveil a 5G phone in the first half of the year.

Industry insiders, however, said Apple would likely hold off until the fall of 2020 to have its own 5G-enabled phone, a strategy that would bypass the untested early period of the technology, but which could mean Chinese shoppers delay iPhone purchases or buy another brand that switched to 5G earlier.

“I’ll definitely be paying attention to 5G functionality when I buy my next phone,” said Wu Chengjun, a graduate student in Beijing who currently uses an iPhone X.

With the exception of Huawei, which makes it own 5G chips, Qualcomm is providing the technology to many of the major phone makers releasing 5G handsets this year.

“If you’re a [phone maker] looking for a ‘super cycle’ [of sales], if you don’t have 5G, your situation won’t get any better,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president, told Reuters in an interview. “The carrier channel is going to be incentivized to start selling 5G phones in the second half” of 2019, he said.

But there are risks integrating 5G too early into high-end smart phones because the technology requires deeply re-designing the devices with multiple new antennas. Given spotty coverage in 2019, gambling on a new design before networks are mature could be more risk than reward, said Darryn Lowe, a Bain & Co partner who works with the wireless industry.

“When you think about 5G, it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than an aluminum strip running around the phone,” he said.

And other shoppers and analysts said Apple’s more cautious approach to 5G made sense and that the firm would not likely lose out too much to rivals by delaying its launch.

Apple’s decision to wait to adopt 4G until after other makers didn’t hurt it. But that was when consumers commonly purchased a phone every two years, a cycle that has elongated and might prompt buyers to want a more “future proof” device, said Glenn Lurie, CEO of Synchronoss Technologies and the former head of AT&T’s wireless unit.

“If you’re going to walk in to make a 30-month decision, the concept that I’ve already got 5G built in, it feels pretty good,” Lurie said.

But buyers such as Li Hongzhuo, 22, a student in Beijing, said he was interested in 5G, but it wouldn’t be the deciding factor and he preferred to wait until the technology was tried and tested.

“Typically my needs for my phone are high speeds for downloading videos or transferring files from chat apps. This will get faster (with 5G), but 4G already satisfies my needs,” said Li.

“I won’t really consider switching my phone until 5G has been operating stably on the market for some time without any bugs – or unless they stop offering 4G.”

Business

Offline Business Promotion Tricks You Should Be Using

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In the digital world, it’s quite hard to find a business that focuses as much on offline business promotion as they do on their online activity. Sure, there are a lot of businesses that still don’t have a website but even they are present on social networks, with some even using their social media profiles as a primary sales platform. All of this makes people neglect, even overlook the importance of offline business marketing that still gives outstanding ROI. With that in mind, there are five methods that you should definitely be using.

1.      Networking

The first thing you need to understand is that in the B2B world, face-to-face meetings are still incredibly relevant, which is why you need to put a stronger emphasis on networking. Therefore, you need to learn how you come across in the business world, how to present your business in a positive light and, overall, how to make a strong first impression. Other than this, you need to understand the nature behind these interactions and make sure that a positive personal relationship has a way of transferring itself into a business world. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect, so don’t expect to make a huge impact on your first convention.

2.      Offer samples for free

The simplest way to get word of mouth endorsement (and positive reviews) is to ensure that some people get your products early on. Now, even those who are interested may be reluctant to be the first one to try (or test) the product, which is why you may want to consider offering some of these products for free. In return, all that you should ask from these lucky recipients is that they endorse the product and spread the word, of course, if they like it.

3.      Promotional materials

Another great idea that you need to explore is the use of promotional products in your campaign in order to create a stronger brand image. This way, you get to spread the brand awareness about your business without actually offering products for free (in any quantity). Also, these promotional materials can be offered to your customers, given to your employees for their loyalty, shipped to your partners or be used in a contest. They can even become an incentive if you decide to include them in the offer. Overall, this is an amazing idea worth some exploration.

4.      Street art

The reason why street art is somewhat more effective than billboards and signs is due to the fact that it works in a much subtler way. You see, when you encounter a billboard, you don’t even have to look at it in order to know that it’s an ad. This means that your defence mechanisms will already be up and you’ll take any message that comes to you this way with a slight dose of doubt, even scepticism. This is a process that every single audience member goes through. With street art, the curiosity might prevail and the message you decide to send may stand a better chance.

5.      Attending an event

An industry-related event is a great place for you to do some networking and display/spread your products, both of which are methods that we’ve already mentioned. However, it’s also a place where your presence may be mandatory. Potential clients may expect you to be there and failing to appear could send a wrong message. You’ll either be seen as not-relevant-enough-to-be-invited or it will be assumed that you aren’t that interested in what you do. This is one of those scenarios where the consequences of not attending may be a more relevant factor than the actual benefits of attending. Therefore,  send your staff at least if you can’t go there in person.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, most of these offline business promotion tricks can be integrated into your digital marketing as well. Street art can be used as guerrilla marketing to enhance your online presence; giveaways can be turned into a social media contest and networking can easily start with an online outreach. As you can see, each of these methods creates a positive ROI in more than one way.

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Business

4 Pivotal Branding Rules That You Should Never Ignore

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When it comes to any field, there are some dos and don’ts that are familiar to every veteran of the industry. Now, while to those who are seasoned enough this may seem like common sense, for a newcomer to the industry these rules are easy to overlook. Sometimes, there is a way to tolerate minor missteps, yet, when it comes to concepts as delicate as branding, there is no such thing as a minor mistake. With that in mind and without further ado, here are four pivotal branding rules that you should never ignore.

1.      Appealing is more important than captivating

Even a complex design may attract some attention from your audience, yet, this might not be the kind of attention that you need. Not being able to discern what your logo stands for might cause some frustration, even anxiety in your audience. Sure, this might be both slight and subconscious but it still pushes the pin from positive to negative customer experience. Therefore, when it comes to designing a logo or developing a website, you need to make sure that it’s appealing first and unique/memorable second. While this may seem intuitive now, you would be surprised at how many people make a mistake of believing that complex means quality.

2.      Consistency is what makes you different

There are so many brands out there who put all their talent, effort and resources into making a great first impression only to fail to deliver on these promises later on. Remember, in order to run a successful business (of any kind) you need to establish a relationship based on trust and this takes time. This means that if you aren’t consistent in your efforts (regardless if it’s content marketing or performance of your business), you’ll start losing your audience.

The best way to ensure consistency is to develop a strategy, which is something that you might need some professional assistance for. Nowadays, you can even find competent local help instead of looking further on. For instance, a Victoria-based business can look for an agency specializing in brand strategy from Melbourne, in order to ensure more successful and fluent collaboration.

3.      Understand what your customers are interested in

Everyone you meet in life is more interested in their own needs, worries and inclinations than what you have to say. This goes for the business world, as well. However, this also gives you a unique opportunity to gain first leads and then loyal customers by addressing topics that your audience is interested in, instead of just talking about yourself. Now, while it is apparent that these people need your services, you may still not have a clear answer to the question of why this is so. What makes them choose you over all the other competitors? Once you have an answer to this question, your branding efforts will become much more efficient.

4.      Be relatable

Most importantly, in the present day and age, people are more likely to do business with organizations they have similar values with. You see, in the past, the market was mostly product-centric, yet, now that the business world is so oversaturated, it’s fairly easy for a customer to look for alternatives elsewhere. This means that an average person now has the privilege of doing business with those they like, instead of just looking for those who satisfy their criteria. This is why you need to become as relatable to your customers as possible. Start from your corporate values, mission and objectives. All of these should be decided after elaborate market research.

Conclusion

Branding is a complex matter only to those who don’t understand what it’s really about. You see, you’re selling an idea. Therefore, your brand is the first thing that pops in the head of your average customer, whenever your business is brought up. Fortunately, this gives you a lot of room to work on your image and make it as appealing as possible. Needless to say, by sticking to the above-listed four rules, your job should become substantially easier.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Outsourcing Your Digital Marketing

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In the hyper-connected world that we live in today, it’s a common occurrence for a smaller business to team up with other agencies in order to provide a full service. This gives them an opportunity to focus on their core tasks and keeps the business model quite simple. One of the most outsourced tasks (alongside IT, HR and customer support) is digital marketing. Now, digital marketing is an umbrella term, which means that you can still outsource a part of your marketing-related tasks while performing other tasks on your own. Regardless of what choice you make, there are advantages and downsides. Here are some of them.

1.      Advantage: Getting the results much faster

The first thing you should understand about your digital marketing is the fact that you’ll be getting the results much faster than if you were to make an in-house team. The latter may take a long time to pull off, due to the fact that you need to hire staff, buy hardware and pay for software licenses, organize the team and draft a strategy on your own. Keep in mind that this is how long it takes without you waiting for the team to become experienced enough. Once you add this into the mix and realize that time is, indeed, a finite resource, you’ll realize that outsourcing gets you results much faster.

2.      Disadvantage: Losing touch with your brand

The problem with outsourcing is that you’re losing personal touch with what your brand is all about. Sure, you know the starting point and you’re aware of the direction you want your brand to take, but you can never really know how your business is going to evolve over the course of time. Therefore, it wouldn’t be impossible for you to lose touch with your brand. In time, you might have trouble understanding what your organization is all about, which is about as bad as it gets.

3.      Advantage: Experts perform specialized tasks

Some aspects of your digital marketing are fairly simple and easy to pull off as a DIY project. Others, nonetheless, may require skill, experience and technical prowess in the field. Add to this the need for specialized tools and years of experience using it and you might just get the full picture. Sometimes, it’s not just about the fact that you couldn’t do it. It’s about the fact that you couldn’t do it as effectively as an expert could. A perfect example of this is the art of social media analytics, which lays as the basis of your future digital marketing strategy. A slight misinterpretation here could lose you a small fortune in the future, which is why it’s best left to experts.

4.      Disadvantage: Changing partners

Even if you’re happy with the choice that you’ve made when outsourcing, not a lot of partnerships go the distance. You might soon be forced to change partners for several reasons. For instance, even though you’re satisfied with the service they’re providing, your business has ever-growing digital marketing needs that they can’t keep up with. Other than this, a mistake (a partnership ending one), could happen on both ends, which is why they might be the ones to cancel the collaboration. Either way, switching to a new partner might be an occurrence that your business, your brand and your public image might come to suffer for.

advantage

5.      Advantage: Simplicity

The last thing you need to understand is the fact that the simplicity of your business operation plays a huge factor when it comes to your chance of success. This is especially true for inexperienced or first-time entrepreneurs. The more complex your business structure is, the bigger the chance is that something will go horribly wrong.

Moreover, by outsourcing tasks that you’re ill-equipped to handle, you’ll get your hands free to focus on those tasks that you do know quite a bit about. Let’s be realistic, all the areas that are usually outsourced are additions to your business but your ability to provide a service or sell a product serve as a core of your business model. Put simply, outsourcing will help you set your priorities straight.

Conclusion

As you can see, some of the above-listed advantages and disadvantages are universally true for outsourcing, in general, regardless if it’s digital marketing that we’re talking about. On the other hand, it’s also one of the areas of your business that you’re the most likely to outsource, which is why we felt obliged to go into the specifics, where it was necessary. The choice is up to you but now, at least, you know what you’re up against.

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