Lenovo is plotting a UK smartphone assault – but will hold off until its brand is better known in this country, European channel boss Neil Berville has revealed.
After activating Russia in December, Lenovo is poised to debut smartphones in a number of European countries during 2013 in a bid to emulate the success it enjoys in its home market of China.
However, a number of preconditions must first be met in each country, Berville (pictured below) told CRN at this year's DISTREE event in Monte Carlo.
"We want to be ambitious in that market but we also have to be realistic about when is the right time to enter those markets," he explained.
"If we are to move out of pure PC, we have to first be strong in PCs – we have to be a brand leader there – and that is a tick in the box for Russia. Once you get into smartphones you need a recognised consumer brand and there is no quick way to do it. Even money doesn't do it. It helps, but it is more about people's perceptions, which come through interaction with the company."
The UK – where brand awareness is still low according to Berville – was one of only three European countries where Lenovo spent brand money last year, with its first ever adverts on national TV airing in August. The vendor has also recently inked partnerships with a slew of national retailers including Dixons, John Lewis, Argos and Amazon.
Lenovo ascended to third place in the overall UK PC market in Q4, while its consumer market share has risen to about six to seven per cent from pretty much a standing start 18 months ago, according to Berville.
Berville said Lenovo would have to reach 15 per cent consumer market share before it even thinks about a smartphone entrance here. This could take years, rather than months, he said.
"We have to get those other ticks in the box but we are well on the way," he added. "I would call us a strong challenger in the top three right now – we need to have a good double-digit share and we need to broaden in consumer."
Berville said Lenovo is already the number-two smartphone player in its native China after just two years on the scene, with 30 per cent market share. China is still the only country where Lenovo has launched all four strands of its "PC-plus" strategy, which encompasses PCs, tablets, smartphones and TVs.
"We are in the value segment through to the premium segment. We have 10-plus different models and are very comprehensive," he said of Lenovo's smartphone line-up.
Berville admitted the battle to win over the UK retailers Lenovo has signed would be hard fought.
"They need you to prove the product sells off the shelf because it is a big expense for them – they place their bets for each season and cannot go back halfway through," he said.
"It is easy to get a foothold but what you then need to work at is building up that relationship and proving yourself on breadth of product."
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