Samsung TVs have been having a HUGE sales year, nearly besting Irvine’s Vizio as the top seller of LCD TVs nationwide last quarter. Back then, analysts said Samsung’s growth is because the company integrated the brighter, newer LED technology into TVs faster than the competition.
But another reason surfaced today: More salespeople at major electronics stores recommend Samsung LCD TVs.
J.D. Power and Associates, which rates companies based on consumer surveys, sent 1,500 mystery shoppers to major electronics stores like Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics and Ken Crane’s. Store salespeople recommended a Samsung LCD TV nearly 2-to-1 over second-place Sony (see chart on right).
The report, from the J.D. Power and Associates and Market Force Information 2009 Television Retail Insights Report, said the gap between first and second place widened this year as Samsung pumped up its LCD TV marketing campaign.
“In the last six months, Samsung made a remarkable shift to the point where they’re being recommended as a premium brand based on quality and features. Samsung is being portrayed as a Sony,” said Chris Denove, J.D. Power’s vice president of operational research.
Denove doesn’t suspect that Samsung is covertly paying salespeople to promote the brand even as 58 percent recommend a Samsung compared to 21 percent for Sony. Rather, he believes Samsung’s new status is rightly deserved. Samsung, previously considered a value brand by salespeople, has done a great job marketing its LCD TVs, he said. And its LCD TVs were not only among some of the first available, but they have won awards.
That’s good news for Samsung, but terrible news for Sony, which has relied on its aging credentials as a premium brand.
“These numbers suggest that Sony is in real danger of losing that cachet and that’s especially concerning given that TVs are now in a completely different technology,” Denove said.
Other TV brands barely registered among salespeople. According to the report, brands like LG and Sharp were recommended only a couple percentage points each. About 1 in 10 salespeople didn’t give a recommendation, even when pressed.
Denove was surprised at how often salespeople recommend TVs based on personal preference. Mystery shoppers reported that salespeople told them, “I’d really go with Brand X because I bought one and it’s been great,” or, “My mother recently bought one and I’m surprised at how good it was,” or “We’ve sold many of these and I haven’t heard anything but good from customers.”
“Most manufacturers haven’t done a good job of arming salespeople with those 1 to 3 clearly communicable nuggets of what differentiates their television,” Denove said. “It’s certainly the job of the major electronics store salesperson to know this but the manufacturer who cuts through the clutter and gives the customer the ‘aha’ moment will find it pays dividends.”
Vizio, meanwhile, is surprisingly missing from this year’s mix of recommended brands. Vizio, based in Irvine, was the third most recommended brand last year and this year became the nation’s top selling LCD TV company.
But Denove said Vizio is different because it sells TVs in mass market stores, like Costco, Wal-Mart and Target. These stores may not always have expert salespeople who know the differences between TV brands. In fact, he added, some shoppers said it was difficult to even find someone to help them. Shoppers at these stores must come prepared with their own TV research. For those reasons, J.D. Powers stopped tracking mass-market retailers this year. Vizio, apparently, figured out how to succeed without those salespeople.
“Vizio has done a great job communicating its brand, like on its boxes,” Denove said. “They understand the realities of where their TVs are sold.”
Close to home, Samsung has its monitor, printer and other tech divisions in Irvine, while Sony has a large electronics unit in San Diego.
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