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 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.
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.”
7 SEO Improvements that Your E-commerce Website Needs
Increasing the visibility of your e-commerce website also means boosting its appeal to your audience. You see, it’s not just about how many people see you in the search engine results, it’s about how many people click and how they form their first opinion of your brand. All of these factors are affected by your SEO. According to numerous surveys, about 33 percent of all search engine searches end with people just clicking on the first result. Why? Well, because it’s the easiest thing to do and because people believe that rank represents credibility. There is some truth to this, of course. So, here are seven tips to improve the SEO of your e-commerce website.
1. Optimization of category products
The key thing to improving navigation on your e-commerce website lies in optimizing your category pages properly. Why? Well, because it enables people to effortlessly find what they’re looking for. If they know exactly where they need to go, chances are that they’ll avoid aimlessly roaming across your domain. While this roam may not seem like that bad of a thing, remember that it increases the bounce rate and decreases the average duration on your pages. Both of these things affect your SEO rank in a negative way.
2. Organize site structure
Another goal you should set is making your website easy to navigate. The simplest way to achieve this is through a well-organized site structure. First of all, your home page needs to link to all the top categories. Non-top categories should also be reachable from here. When it comes to backtracking your steps, your audience should have the option to jump as many steps back as they want with a single click. This way, they can avoid having to spam the back button (which increases the bounce rate) or returning to the home page and retracing their search from there. In other words, you need to make the structure and navigation more intuitive and pragmatic.
3. User reviews and testimonials
One of the simplest ways to increase the CTR on your e-commerce website, thus increasing the engagement rate, as well, is to include user recommendations and reviews. Despite what some may think, an average user has an easy job of telling between a genuine user review and one left by a marketer. Corporate jargon is not that easy to conceal, which is why you should always go for the real deal. Other than this, user recommendations are probably the single best way to get people to spend more time on your website.
4. Improve speed
When it comes to making a good first impression, speed is paramount. A non-responsive website looks amateurish, which is a much larger problem in e-commerce than it usually is. Think about it, it is one of the industries with the lowest average conversion rates. Why? Well, because the competition is so numerous that they can just look up an item that they’re interested in someplace else. A greater speed gives them more confidence to buy from you and even helps them make that impulse purchase, that definitely goes in your favor. Other than boosting speed, you should probably explore other tools to help boost your conversion rate, as well.
5. Create a blog
Amongst the most effective and organic ways to imbue your online store, there’s definitely the idea of making a blog to support it. How does this help you? Well, first of all, by making a blog that’s relevant to your industry, you will organically attract your target audience. Then, if you link towards relevant items in your store, you will increase the number of qualified leads arriving at your website. Remember, these people are already potential customers seeing as how they’re already A) interested in the product and topic discussed and B) invested in your brand as blog visitors.
6. Authoritative link building
While link-building for your online store and blog, you need to understand the importance of quality over quantity. When submitting posts to various blogs, you need to insist on high domain authority (DA) instead of just looking for easy submission. This will help you establish your own authority both in the eyes of your audience and search engines, which will result in a stronger SEO position and higher SEO rank. All in all, taking your time to establish a solid online presence is definitely worth your while.
7. Focus on the product
Finally, when building your e-store, you need to put an emphasis on the product itself. First of all, you need to write a unique and descriptive product description and upload a flattering product image. Product photography is an art of its own, and there are many techniques that you might want to try out in order to get better results. As for the description, try being brief and to the point. Most important of all is that you use the language of your audience and that you look at the product from the perspective of a potential customer.
In the end, there are also some honorable mentions like performing regular keyword audits, increasing your SEO investments and managing your online reviews. The key thing to remember, however, is that this is not a one-time project but a continuous process. You need to treat it as such.
NCDMB: The agency providing funding, incubation and mentorship opportunities for technology startups and innovators
Win up to $10,000 Seed Funding in the NCDMB Oil & Gas Technology Hackathon
The Nigerian Oil and Gas Technology (NOGTECH) programme is the first ever Oil and Gas hackathon with the primary aim of fostering innovations in the oil and gas industry as well as creating a platform for the proliferation of local content. The programme is headlined by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) with partnership from Learners Support Consultancy and BrentHub.
NOGTECH aims to address the challenges faced by the nation’s oil and gas industry and its linkage sectors by ideating, developing and prototyping digital technology solutions that solve these pertinent problems. The programme is promoting innovation by offering seed funding, business mentorship and incubation to the winning ideas.
Call for Submissions
The Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote, disclosed that “five teams will get $10,000 equity-free grants each”.
In a webinar session titled “Innovating for the future of Nigeria’s Oil & Gas Industry and its Linkage Sectors.”, Engr. Wabote revealed that submissions into the programme will be scrutinised based on several factors.
”Participants must be a team/company of at least two or more members with at least 75 percent of the founding team as Nigerians. The team/company must be a registered, or intending to register as a profit/business entity. The solution described in response to the challenge must be driven by digital technology – Software, Hardware or both.”
He also disclosed that “the solution must either be at the ideation stage, prototype level or a launched solution that hasn’t gained commercial traction. The team must be available to participate in a three-day hackathon as well as a three-month incubation programme, if selected.”
Solving the Industry’s Toughest Challenges
NCDMB is determined to unearth scalable solutions to the industry’s biggest challenges. Some of the identified problem areas include the rising problem of pipeline vandalism, increase in cyber-physical risk, widening skill gap, supply chain and logistics inefficiency, rising carbon footprint and issues surrounding transparency, accountability and civic engagement.
Innovators are encouraged to proffer sustainable and scalable solutions to these biggest challenges faced by industry stakeholders.
Pitching to Investors
Ultimately, the winning teams will have an opportunity to pitch their prototypes to investors. But before then, the NOGTECH programme is taking place over several weeks with the selected ideas advancing on a stage by stage basis.
The first stage is the call for submissions where teams and startups are encouraged to submit their ideas. Shortlisted teams in each of the challenge areas will first be invited to present online to a team of experienced entrepreneurs and industry professionals. The most promising teams will then be selected to participate in an all-expense paid 3-day hackathon. Submit your ideas here
During this time, shortlisted participants will have a couple of days to collaborate and build their prototypes or fine-tune existing prototypes with guidance from industry stakeholders, experts and mentors. At the end of the bootcamp, teams will revalidate their solutions and have the opportunity to pitch to a panel of judges.
Prizes for Winning Teams
The winning five teams will undergo a 3-month incubation program where each team will get a $10,000 equity-free grant, a work-space, expert mentors, global partners and unprecedented market access over three-months, ensuring they become commercial and investor-ready.
At the end of the incubation, the teams will participate in a showcase day to demonstrate their progress. This showcase will aim to connect them with investors and industry stakeholders where they can further amplify their market access.
So if you are an innovator seeking opportunities, identifying them and seizing the ones that then match, then you have to apply to NOGTECH.
In order to participate in the hackathon, innovators, teams and startups can get started here.
Blue Ridge Enhances Machine Learning Capabilities for Price Optimization
Blue Ridge announced today enhancements to its suite of next-gen cloud-based Price Optimization solutions, which leverage machine learning to quickly identify opportunities and simulate pricing strategies for peak margin, profits, revenues and sales. The pricing suite supports end-to-end pricing transformations, a strategy proven to minimize disruption and drive significant earnings expansion for distributors and retailers.
Blue Ridge’s Price Optimization solution quickly identifies both overpriced and underpriced products while providing accurate recommendations for aligning prices across products, channels and price points including wholesale, list and customer segment. The solution provides daily alerts on competitive price changes to react quickly in price-transparent ecommerce channels, as well as make recommendations on reducing excess inventory to create significant value and profit margin improvement.
“Today’s enterprises and brands have seen the impact when supply chains and demand signals disrupt markets,” said Ray Wang, Principal Analyst & CEO, Constellation Research, Inc. “Those leaders who had the right price optimization tools were able to respond with agility, resiliency, and speed to account for new signal intelligence and ensure that customers were satisfied, margins were met, and supply chains were not disrupted.”
A report by McKinsey & Company illustrated the latent benefits of intelligent pricing, estimating that “A one-percent price increase would yield 22 percent increase in EBITDA margins, and a 25 percent uplift in stock price. Moreover, pricing has a disproportionate impact on a distributor’s enterprise value, with an increase of 20 percent for a one-percent increase in price.”
“The highly competitive and increasingly digital landscape of consumer buying today requires that distributors and retailers analyze things like minimum advertised price, psychological price points, willingness-to-pay measurement, and even list and net pricing, as well as macroeconomic influences before setting prices,” said Cliff Isaacson, Blue Ridge Executive Vice President of Product Strategy. “Machine learning-based pricing tools allow our customers to make those decisions swiftly and confidently, so they can always operate at max-profit point.”
Blue Ridge Price Optimization uses machine learning capabilities to continually optimize pricing across all products (not just top-tier items), segment and perfect pricing for each customer, and give distributors the upper-hand in supplier negotiations:
- Comprehensive Pricing Strategy: Simulate different pricing scenarios and predict the impact of a price change before implementing it.
- Competitive Positioning: Respond immediately to price changes from competitors, as well as supplier rules, segmentation, positioning and price change frequency.
- Intelligent Analytics: Purpose-built for the distribution and retail industries, Price Optimization’s intelligent science learns from price changes and results over time to steadily improve price recommendations.
- Customer Segmentation: Identifies customer performance, discounting and pricing opportunities based on willingness-to-pay and past performance.
- Rapid Results: In under 90 days, businesses can have intelligent Price Optimization recommendations for achieving both short-term and long-term S&OP goals, continually refined year after year.
Price Optimization joins Blue Ridge’s suite of Supply Chain Planning solutions, which help customers increase forecast accuracy, improve customer satisfaction, and assure product availability to customers without creating a costly inventory surplus.
“Price Optimization combined with Supply Chain Planning solutions creates a huge financial game-changer for retailers, distributors and manufacturers in today’s volatile market,” said Jim Byrnes, Blue Ridge Chief Executive Officer. “It uniquely blends science and synchronization to solve our customers’ biggest problem – what they don’t know. With Price Optimization, our customers have the insight to pivot quickly and grab significant near-term savings; shape and align longer-range S&OP processes; and consistently deliver pricing that’s both competitive and profitable.”