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Lenovo to enter retail market in Canada

Computer maker also develops a new branding and marketing campaign

Quebec City – Lenovo Canada, in an attempt to strengthen its channel sales, will enter the retail space in Canada this summer.

David Stephens, director of sales for the reseller channel, of Toronto-based Lenovo told the audience at the TechSelect conference, held here by Tech Data Canada, that it will have special products for retailers and will have these products featured in newspaper flyers. “We don’t want you (the solution provider channel in Canada) to justify who we are in the market place,” Stephens said.

He added that the situation with resellers dealing with small businesses is that they have to explain who Lenovo is and that makes their job difficult especially when they have to sell customers on their own value add. “We want to make it simpler for solution providers in telling the Lenovo story. We will go into retail to help them,” Stephens said that Lenovo product will be segmented for retail and commercial to ensure the premium perception of Lenovo in the channel is maintained. “We are going to protect that premium with our Think and Idea brands and they will have features in both that will make it a premium product. For example, we meet eight military specs in the U.S. and other brands can’t deliver that. We still have quality and reliability that helps us keep that premium perception,” he added.

Wade Ball, a partner from GrayCon of Calgary, called Lenovo’s decision to enter the retail market in Canada an interesting move. “We still have a battle on the business side getting that message out to clients on who Lenovo is. Lenovo shifting into the retail market sounds like they want to be bigger and get their message out quicker with the business community. We still today tell our customers that Lenovo is the former IBM. Customers don’t know who they are and going into retail may help,” Ball said.

He added that sometimes buyers don’t really care who the brand is. Ball added that he tells the customer who the product vendor is but so long as the price is right and it solves the business problem they really don’t care. “That’s what they rely on us for; for us to be that trusted provider.”

According to Stephens, 60 per cent of the addressable market in Canada do not know who Lenovo is.

The opportunity for Lenovo is in small business which makes up about 59 per cent of the market. Currently Lenovo plays well in the education, public sector and large business segments in Canada.

“Not a lot of people know who we are,” Stephens told the group at TechSelect. The company is embarking on a marketing campaign called DO! “We want to grow the number of small business customers and 60 per cent of that market does not know who Lenovo is,” he said.

The DO! campaign is a three part effort. The first is a declaration of who we are. The second is about products and the third is called people proof, which is aimed at showing the marketplace what people can do utilizing Lenovo products.This three stage DO! campaign will start sometime this month, but mostly in the U.S. with spill-over in Canada, Stephens said.

The other aspect of the marketing campaign is for Lenovo to come out with its own ID. Stephens said that no PC manufacturer has come out with their own ID except for Apple who has an ID on style.

The company’s target with the DO! marketing campaign is to net a 90 per cent improvement in market knowledge for Lenovo.

In terms of new products, the X1 will be out in Canada in the next 60 days. However, the Q45 Series desktops will not be in Canada. They will be staying just in China.

Lenovo will have some new features for its products such as a fast charging battery that can charge 80 per cent of the battery in 30 minutes. Other products will feature Gorilla Glass from Corning. Gorilla Glass is extra resistant to scratches and is harder than normal glass. Lenovo will also come out with a backlit keyboard.

For those interesting in tablets, Lenovo will be releasing ThinkPad and two other IdeaPad slates sometime in July.

These products will be both Android and Windows 7 based and will have a pen for hand recognition. Another differentiator is its 10.1-inch screen. Stephens said this large screen will make Lenovo one of the larger screens in the market, but weighing only 750 grams it will not be the heaviest.

Stephens also announced some tweaks to the company’s channel strategy.

Lenovo Canada will get more aggressive with pricing and volume discounts that will reach eight per cent margins. It was previously at four per cent.

Additional marketing support will be part of the channel strategy going forward. This will consist of a demo program and more market development funds and partner rewards. Partner bonus will now be based on brand instead of products.