Stock Smart, Not Up: A Wireless Retailer’s Guide to a Successful Phone Launch

By: Jonna Connolly, Lean Process Analyst at Brightstar Omaha

Blog post originally shared on the Brightstar’s Accessories Academy website, which is managed by our U.S. accessories team headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska (U.S.). Check the site regularly for news and insights from our accessories experts.

You have a limited amount of space and a limited amount of cash, and with a few major phone launches on the horizon you need to maximize the potential of each one of these resources. Many retailers will resort to following a pattern of what they have ordered in the past and end up with the same result: missed opportunities and dead stock. You would think the answer would be to stock up on EVERYTHING. From Lime Green to Hot Pink, if there’s a color out there, you need it, right? Wrong! Here are a few tips on how to maximize your results on the upcoming releases.

Plan for the space and cash the new devices will require

By now it’s no secret as to when the big manufacturers will be updating last year’s model. Use this to your advantage. Put stock on sale well in advance, use every opportunity to move through what you have on hand, and avoid having to liquidate or return once the device has reached end of life. You’ll want to devote as much store space as possible to the latest and greatest, so don’t tie it up with a dying model.

Forecast, forecast, forecast

The sooner you can let your distributors know what you’ll need for new stock, the better. A good starting point here is to look at how many devices you plan on ordering or possibly how many devices you’ve been allocated by the carrier. Chances are that until you are fully stocked on phones, you won’t need 15 unique accessory options per device.

Remember the Universal Items to Complete Every Sale

Bluetooth, wireless charging, and wearables are hot right now. The best part about universal items is that they cross the lines of every carrier and every device. Your customer base is endless in this category.

Focus your Brands and Sales Force

You’ll see a greater return on sales representatives that have full knowledge and training on 4-7 brands rather than 20 different options. Yes, you may have a customer who is looking for a specific brand or specific color, but chances are in your selective line-up you have something that meets their end goal. Is it protection they are after? Fashion? Slim? Sell the customer on what you have in your store through your expansive brand knowledge, don’t throw your hands up and say you don’t carry that. You probably do.

There’s Power in Knowledge

There’s also greater margins and better results. Ask your distributor the tough questions and utilize them for the resource they are. Many distributors (like Brightstar) offer inventory and even analytics programs that can give you the competitive edge you’re after.

Your overall goal is to focus on the product that yields the greatest results with the least amount of risk and investment. Keep your product fresh with fast turns and avoid overstock whenever possible. Your distributor is likely only a ship day or two away, so if you run out of a certain item or color, you can get to more of what you need and quickly. The key to a successful launch is being prepared with the right product at the right time. So plan in advance, allocate your resources wisely, and the results will follow.

Train Your Team

Make sure your sales team is knowledgeable BEFORE a new device launches at your store. When your customers come in asking about device features and accessory options, ensure that your team knows how to answer correctly. At Accessories Academy, we provide a variety of online sales training courses to help grow and guide your team to their full potential. Are you interested in learning more about our online and onsite training?

Contact us for further details!

Ensure Your Handset Protection Program is Fully Compliant

By Stephen Bracy, eSecuritel

Consumers use their wireless device as their computer and their single device for communications, photos, music, banking and much more. Personal information is more embedded than ever before, and the value of that content is driving more dollars around protection.

And there’s room for growth. Only a quarter of smartphone owners are covered by some form of device insurance, and attachment rates are estimated to reach 29 percent in 2016, according to Frost & Sullivan.

While this represents an opportunity for wireless operators, it does have challenges. Not all protection programs offered by wireless operators are compliant with all required laws, and non-compliant programs can leave both operators and their consumers exposed. A non-compliant program presents significant risk to a carrier’s bottom line and reputation, with fines reaching up to $25,000 per violation and $50,000 in aggregate in the U.S. Regulatory oversight varies from country to country, and state to state. Below is an overview of the statutes regulating the handset protection programs in the U.S.

Portable Electronics Insurance Statutes

In the early days of wireless, multiple variations of handset protection programs evolved in the marketplace– with some deliberately structured in a manner that attempted to avoid insurance regulation. States responded with increased regulation to the point that Portable Electronics Insurance (PEI) statues have passed in 48 U.S. states.

PEI statutes are designed to regulate programs that include coverage for loss or theft. In comparison, a service contract typically protects against mechanical failure, malfunction and, sometimes, accidental damage from handling.

PEI statutes typically require a vendor, (such as a wireless carrier or retailer), to hold a “limited lines” insurance license before it can lawfully offer and sell comprehensive programs covering lost or stolen devices. While these statutes vary from state to state, they generally require that the wireless carrier or retailer to:

  • Obtain a limited lines license;
  • Distribute point of sale brochures containing required disclosures
  • Provide specified training on the handset insurance offering to all employees and authorized representatives of the vendor directly engaged in selling services; and
  • Adhere to cancellation and refund requirements when subscribers wish to terminate their coverage.

Non-compliant offerings may result in:

  • Regulatory fines and penalties up to $25,000 per violation;
  • Cease-and-desist orders issued by regulators or courts;
  • Individual and class-action lawsuits; and
  • Damage to reputation.

“3+2” Programs and Other Expertise

Many carriers are partnering with experts who can design, implement and manage all aspects of a program – including marketing, training and regulatory oversight.

Fully-compliant “3+2” programs are particularly attractive. In these programs, the lost, stolen and damage perils (“3”) are covered under an insurance policy, and the electrical/mechanical and defect beyond the manufacturer’s warranty perils (“2”) are covered under a service contract.

In choosing an expert provider, first verify their 3-peril insurance program has been filed and approved in all required states and all necessary limited lines licenses will be obtained. Further, their 2-peril service contract program must also be filed, approved and licensed in all required states and be fully compliant.

By using a program that bundles the insurance and service contact offerings together, carriers can enjoy the peace of mind that their device protection program is compliant throughout its footprint. Equally important, this type of program offers consumers the maximum amount of flexibility and coverage possible, which can be a key competitive advantage over other limited offerings.

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Stephen Bracy is Vice President, Legal, Compliance & Risk Management, for eSecuritel, a Brightstar Corp. company that provides wireless carriers, dealers, and resellers with cell phone protection and replacement programs. He is responsible for ensuring ongoing compliance of eSecuritel’s insurance, service contact and other client solutions.

Five U.S. Wireless Retail Trends for 2015

Retailers, dealers and carriers will see challenges and opportunities in 2015 as the U.S. industry continues to evolve. From Brightstar’s vantage point as the largest specialized wireless distributor in the world and a leader in innovation and services for the wireless industry, we see changes emerging that are transforming day-to-day business operations. Here are five U.S. retail trends to look out for in 2015.

1. Enhanced device protection on the rise

As consumers rely on high-end smartphones for almost everything, the need is even greater to protect the device and its content, and to ensure the value of the phone for future trade-in. Personal information is more embedded than ever before, and the value of that content will drive more dollars around protection.

Installment billing and leasing also helps consumers get a smartphone with zero money down, freeing up cash for accessories, enhanced products, insurance adoption and other mobile security applications. We expect to see more convergence and bundling of service add-ons with insurance and accessories to provide a unique and holistic experience in 2015.

2. Lines between prepaid and postpaid continue to blur

It’s no longer one or the other. The lines between prepaid and postpaid will continue to blur in 2015 with offers becoming less differentiated across carriers and MVNOs. High-end smartphones are increasingly integrated into the prepaid portfolio and postpaid plans are more competitive. Additionally, unless a customer buys their phone outright, pay-as-you-go propositions require commitment to a device financing or equipment installment contract. Subscribers are able to pay off their device contract and leave at any time, but this option still behaves like a “traditional contract.”

We’ll also see retail staffing models evolve to adjust to the different needs of prepaid and postpaid lineups. But overall, consumers will have significantly more affordable options for mobile devices and networks than ever before as the value propositions become increasingly similar.

3. Retailers riding the wave of high-end accessories

Companion high-end accessories and enhanced products, are proliferating as consumers see them enhancing their personal lifestyles, lending to a greater share of wallet. And this demand has come at the right time as retailers, dealers and carriers face reduction in revenue from fierce voice/data price competition and other industry pressures.

It’s important for U.S. retailers that sell and activate handsets to get both protective and high-end accessory sales at the point of activation. In 2015, we’ll see a change in perspective of selling accessories to include increased focus on training, virtual inventory, stock balancing and bundled product promotions to increase sales of high-end accessories and enhanced products in-store.

4. Certified pre-owned growing up

As high-end handsets become more innovative, and costly, the demand for the “cream of the crop” of used devices will continue to grow. A segment of consumers are increasingly showing they will purchase a used device, as long as it’s cosmetically perfect and functions properly over a less advanced, but new phone. We expect this trend to continue as U.S. as consumers look for ways to reduce high smartphone costs, free up cash for accessories and services, and upgrade to newer models early and often.

5. Less subsidies, more financial solutions

Less subsidies equals more sticker shock as more consumers move to a no-contract model and realize the true unsubsidized cost of their phones, which generally hasn’t been apparent in the U.S. market. Financial solutions will be more important than ever as device and accessory installment billing programs and leasing will continue to be fine-tuned as they mature in 2015.

Sales reps will need greater training and tools to fully embrace these programs and not lose subscribers to other carriers, stores or ecommerce sites. Preventing customer churn will continue to be a key performance indicator eyed by senior management and Wall Street in 2015, which will make the industry look very closely at financial solutions and leasing programs.