Sony ES and the Custom Channel
Sony’s own research indicates that most customers who buy ES products off the shelf or online “don’t really know what they’re buying,” Siegel says.
On average, they enjoy key product features much less than those who buy the same products through a specialist.
And that’s why you won’t see the new Sony ES products (with more to come) for sale at mass-market merchants and all over the Internet. In fact, while Sony will generate awareness online for ES products, the company will no longer allow Internet-based transactions for the line.
“The market for ES is much larger than what we’re getting here” in the mass market, says Siegel. “There’s a customer satisfaction element.”
Calling the ES line “mass aspirational products,” he says, “We can promote to a mass audience that we continue to innovate – that we put products out there that are not available readily, that people have to aspire to.”
For years, the ES brand has been the “jewel in the crown for Sony’s home audio and home video,” says Siegel, noting that ES innovations include DVD, SACD and the first Blu-ray mega-changer.
But somewhere along the way, ES lost its cachet and the line was distributed indiscriminately to retailers whose standard for A/V was anything but elevated. As a result, an exceptional product in many cases became, simply, really good.
Sony is not content for consumers to enjoy ES products merely for “what they are, but what they can be,” Siegel explains. “The way we distribute products today, we’ve been challenged to tell the story about all the great technology included.”
The new custom-only program for the ES line could do wonders for Sony’s standing in the channel. Since 2009, the company has worked hard to win back custom electronics pros who defected when Sony forgot about them for several years previously.
The ES products, says Siegel, proves once again that Sony is “completely committed to the specialty channel.”
This business model, he notes, is occurring at a time when Sony competitors are taking an opposite tack—broadening distribution to include any mass-market channel that will have them.
It’s not just about great products and limited distribution, though. Sony is offering a five-year limited warranty on ES products, which Siegel believes from his research to be “industry leading.”
There’s also a 90-day advanced exchange program (two- to three-day expedited replacement unit) and a dedicated installer support line to Sony’s San Diego-based CEDIA-trained product experts.
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Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.