Sennheiser’s high-end headphones and microphones are coveted by audiophiles and discerning buyers around the world – and China is no exception. The German, family-owned company – whose global revenue now exceeds EUR 660m – established a subsidiary there over 10 years ago. Since then, Greater China has become a key growth market. Pierre Eloy, MD for Sennheiser Greater China, spoke to us about how the heritage brand is succeeding at luring modern Chinese consumers.
How is Sennheiser’s Chinese customer different from its international customers?
I don’t think there is a big difference between our Chinese and international customers. A Chinese Sennheiser customer is educated, and sophisticated and purchases high-end products. For example, China is the biggest market for our legendary product, the HE1 headphone, which costs more than RMB 400,000 (over EUR 52,000).
In general, Chinese consumers are cautious. They research, analyse, and compare options before making a purchase decision, and they tend to seek advice and recommendations online or on social media.
Chinese consumers are said to be “fickle” in their preferences. Would you agree?
It’s true to a certain extent and understandable because Chinese customers are now offered such a variety of products, so many new things! But we also see brand loyalty here. Trends can change, but great sound quality will always remain great. Chinese customers increasingly recognise us as a leader in the industry, and our online sales and fanbase on social media are developing at a steady pace.
What has been your experience in channel management?
Chinese consumers are buying everything online. It’s no wonder that online channels are our primary growth engine in China. But retail here is quickly becoming an omni channel world, where online and offline coexist and support each other; where a dealer has an online store and two brick-and-mortar stores. We are adapting to this environment by focusing less on a strict channel separation or channel-specific sales strategies, and more on a holistic approach to customer experience at all touch points – social and traditional media, online and offline.
What are the main challenges in consolidating your brand in Greater China?
China’s digital landscape is so advanced that you have to act like a pioneer. We are constantly trying out and adopting new methods of personal engagement with our customers. This challenge is a fantastic opportunity for our China business, but also for our global business development plans.
Has the profile of competitors changed in recent years, and how do you stay ahead?
Not really. We compete in China more or less against the same international brands as in other markets, and we do it by focusing on our strategy and our goals, keeping our customer at the heart of all our decisions, and constantly creating premium sound experiences.
Are China’s macroeconomic challenges affecting Sennheiser’s market outlook?
With a GDP growth of 6%, China remains a promising market for us, like all of Asia to be honest. And looking at the lineup of amazing new products we are launching this year, I am very confident that we will break another sales record!