If Mike Fasulo, president and COO of Sony Electronics, has a mantra, it is the phrase “customer experience.” That translates into how customers are treated by retailers and resellers, during and after a sale, whether it is an in-store or online transaction.
Fasulo spearheaded the effort to make “Sony become Sony again,” as the industry dubbed the plan when he took the reins and emphasized innovation and profitability. “When I took over, I immediately said, ‘we are not going to chase market share at any expense,’” the Sony veteran says. “We want to go to the consumer and get credit for who we are, which is premium quality and design.”
This strategy is radical for an industry that for decades valued market share above all else and was embraced by independent resellers including specialists and custom installers. “It has worked extremely well with ProSource-type dealers,” Fasulo says. When he addressed this spring’s ProSource meeting in San Antonio, he outlined a pilot online support and service partnership Sony is planning with independent online retailers.
In May, Sony and specialty retailer Crutchfield, a ProSource member, announced a pilot collaboration to support U.S. sales of certain Sony car stereo and headphone audio products and “to give consumers more options in their purchase journey.” While the pilot is in the implementation phase, the Sony Electronics’ website is being updated to direct customers at the purchasing phase, from Sony’s site to Sony-Crutchfield webpages, while also keeping a link called "Where to Buy" displaying websites of other retailers as well.
If consumers want to share with Sony their experience with the pilot project, data will be shared with Crutchfield. Other product categories and retail partners will also possibly be added down the road, Fasulo says, “once we work out the bugs, and if other retailers can provide the same customer experience that Crutchfield does.”
Fasulo said this Sony program has been “a strategic initiative for some time,” adding that, “the pilot program is something new and innovative in terms of going direct to the consumer.” He is also aware of the costs and the risks. “I opened and closed a lot of brick-and-mortar stores and online (Sony Style) because the costs got too high,” he said.
Sony values independent and specialty retailers, as well as the custom installation channel.
“The custom installation channel is clearly one we win in, and win big in, and want to continue to win big in,” he said. “Custom installers say they desire Sony products more than others to install in customers’ homes.” Fasulo adds, “On the retail side – AV specialists like Starpower or Crutchfield online – we’ve had success with in our transition” to emphasize premium products while maintaining margins.
No matter the reseller channel, the success of those companies aligned with the Sony brand is due to a commitment to “explain the technology and invest the time.
As Fasulo says, “We explain why Sony is quality and why you should consider it.”That’s why Sony continues to consider new and innovative partnerships with independent consumer technology retailers for the profitability of all, and the enjoyment of customers nationwide.