Retailers are gearing up for a holiday season unlike any other as the pandemic, distance learning and the transition to working from home (opens in new tab) will all likely drive significant purchasing decisions this year. Many consumers have also turned away from shopping in person and will now buy most of their gifts online. At the same time though, suppliers are scrambling to meet shifting calendar plans while also dealing with supply shortages.
In order to learn more about the trends retailers are keeping a close eye on this holiday season as well as how the rise of the prosumer will affect sales, TechRadar Pro spoke with HP’s chief commercial officer Christoph Schell.
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Can you tell us a bit more about the rise of the prosumer and how they’re driving purchasing decisions this year?
The pandemic, along with advanced digitization of products and services, gave rise to the empowered “prosumer” customer. A combination of “producer” and “consumer,” prosumer describes how this segment is increasingly influencing not only how technology is used, but how it’s designed.
This year, the clear demand is in the work from home and remote learning (opens in new tab) categories. Parents buying a new PC for their child to access online classes represent a large emerging segment of customers, who now have to take into account features such as battery life, processor speed and webcam quality for video conferencing (opens in new tab), which they hadn’t previously considered.
These factors will continue to be important, even beyond the pandemic, so we must recognize the purchasing power of these customers and how their preferences will directly influence the design of future PCs.
How has the shift to remote working affected your sales strategy going forward?
The shift to remote work catalyzed a trend that was already underway: social selling. Our sales teams are used to being on the ground with customers and partners, but the adjustment to digital-only customer relationship building has actually helped develop more authentic relationships and changed our overall strategy.
The rapid move to remote working and learning has directly impacted our product roadmap, and we are seeing a big shift from transactional sales to recurring subscriptions, and a demand for personalized experiences. In July, we announced HP Amplify, our new global partner program which provides the digital tools partners need to succeed at social selling and in building long-term customer relationships.
We are also investing heavily in digital capabilities, enhanced collaboration and greater performance metrics to support our global sales strategy and partners, which has only accelerated since the start of the pandemic.
How has HP’s product lineup changed and are you now selling more SMB and gaming laptops compared to enterprise/pure B2C?
We’ve expanded our portfolio to help people work from anywhere and to meet increases in demand for certain categories with innovations that keep them connected, collaborative and secure. In the third quarter of our fiscal year, consumer revenue was up 42 percent year-over-year and notebook revenue was up 30 percent year-over-year. These changes were a direct response to the increase in remote working and learning, and these segments did show stronger growth than our commercial business, where office closures have impacted demand.
Some of the new products we introduced to support remote work and gaming include the ZBook Firefly (opens in new tab), the world’s lightest and smallest mobile workstation, the ProBook 635 Aero G7, a business laptop with a starting weight of under one kilogram, the OMEN 15 (opens in new tab), the world’s smallest 15” gaming laptop, and the E14 G4 Portable Monitor that makes the kitchen, patio or couch a productive workspace.
We also introduced the world’s most sustainable PC portfolio, as HP remains committed to creating a positive, lasting impact on our planet, people and community.
How are portable workstations evolving now that many gaming laptops are positioned as “creative’ devices?
We are focusing on workstations that are built for work and play. For example, Z by HP Workstations have continued to evolve and deliver the powerhouse performance necessary for both creators and gamers. In April, we announced the world’s smallest 15” notebook PC for gaming and creating, the ZBook Create (opens in new tab). As the first Z device with NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics, the ZBook Create is built for every step of the development process, from design and render to test and play.
Additionally, HP ZCentral (opens in new tab), the world’s first single sourced remote workstation solution, enables power users to connect and seamlessly tackle their demanding, graphics-intensive projects from remote locations anywhere, any time. HP ZCentral Remote Boost allows users to access workstation-level performance from any home PC or mobile device with no extra remote hardware or software required.
Before the global pandemic, HP ZCentral Remote Boost was advancing the state of the art of television by enabling editors, artists and other creative professionals to work remotely, improving collaboration, creativity, productivity and efficiency. Since the pandemic, ZCentral Remote Boost has enabled TV productions around the world to make it to air, despite teams being confined to home.
Has remote working led to an increase of people printing at home?
Yes, at HP we’ve seen through demand the important role printing is playing for families who are now working and learning from home. HP conducted a study (opens in new tab) in April with 1,000 parents in the U.S. and found that one in four parents either bought a printer due to physical distancing needs or were planning to buy one. Of households with printers, 69 percent of families are printing more often, and 66 percent of parents said they are using printers for educational and school related materials.
Not only are we experiencing a sharp increase in demand for home printers (opens in new tab), we are also seeing a strong increase in subscriptions to HP Instant Ink, now with 8 million subscribers, which is a replenishment service where your printer connects to the cloud and customers choose a certain page amount based on their printing needs. When your ink cartridges reach a certain level, the service automatically sends a new cartridge to your home, so you never have to worry about running out of ink.
With so many families staying home, printing will continue to be a central resource that allows for increased mobility, easier and more efficient management of print jobs and enables family members to print from virtually anywhere at any time.
Browsing through HP’s retail platform (HP.com) we noticed that many items are currently out of stock - is there a reason for this and will stock be replenished before the holiday season?
While some products are currently out of stock, we have many great alternative offerings across business and home PCs, laptops, printers and accessories. We’re also listening closely to our customers to understand their needs so we can make recommendations and provide the best possible solutions in the interim. We are working with our global supply chain and channel partners to meet the change in demand – which has increased in some customer segments and decreased in others – and have adjusted our forecast accordingly for the holiday season and beyond.
What are your company’s plans to reach more consumers this holiday season?
We are working with our global network of HP partners to scale digital offerings and ensure that consumers have a seamless online experience. While we do sell direct through HP.com, around 87 percent of our sales go through our partner community. We are continuing to adjust our strategy to ensure families, students, business and individuals have access to the technology they want and need this year.
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