Designs on the future

PCR speaks to Dell about its customer customisation programme
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Dell recently used the luxurious surroundings of Versailles to highlight its strategy for the future and to unveil its forthcoming range of consumer laptops, which – for now – must remain under wraps.

One thing that was obvious throughout the event was that Dell has a very clear idea of what its customers want and a strong business model for the future. It has spent a great deal of time interacting with its customers, developing its products and building its retail presence to 30,000 footprints in various regions across the globe.

A robust consumer portfolio will support this retail expansion and one of the key features for the future is Dell's Design Studio, allowing customers to personalise the appearance of their device before purchase.

"This is part of our heritage," says Dell's vice president and general manager for EMEA, Phil Bryant. "If you think back to the early nineties, we called it customisation, but it was all about the inside of the box. Frankly, what helped catalyse it for me was the time I spent in Japan, talking to Japanese customers and seeing what was around me in terms of design – and the Japanese were known for their cutting edge designs.

"As mobility became more and more important, the design became a reflection of your personal style, your personal expression, and this move came out of our heritage of giving customers exactly what they want."

"It really is personalisation because it's the outside of the box – what people see you with – and it's the inside of the box," says Dell's EMEA consumer marketing director David Clifton. "It's not just feeds and speeds, it's needs and deeds – meaning it's what people are using it for. So it's really an outgrowing of our DNA and our heritage, something that we can bring uniquely to the market."

EMBRACING THE CLOUD

Another key move for Dell is its commitment to 'embrace the cloud;' its current portfolio includes Remote Access software that allows users to access their personal data from anywhere with an internet connection. Dell clearly thinks that there is a bright future in the cloud.

"Think about the impact it's having now," offers Bryant. "Customers got there before the industry. Look at Facebook, that's your pictures and information out in the cloud, email is just your email client out in the cloud, music can be downloaded out of the cloud, so I think customers figured it out all on their own. There's value to this and the people who do it well are going to win in the marketplace.

"For some of the core stuff though, people aren't quite ready to give it up to the cloud and that's where something like Dell Remote Access stands out, because it allows people to keep their stuff at home but they can still access it from anywhere on a Dell client."

The retail expansion to 30,000 footprints is a huge achievement for a company that had virtually no retail presence five years ago, and is designed to help convey the message about Dell's products directly to the consumer marketplace.

"I guess that's a continuation of what we started two years ago," claims Bryant. "When we set down in the Americas we had several choices but we settled on a segmentation strategy that had us working with a few very large partners that addressed specific segments of the market.

"Since we came to Europe, we've been researching the market, talking to partners and really moving from the UK out. As we've moved across Europe, we've been working in France with Carrefour and now Media World in Italy, so we've been moving east and trying to go bigger with the best partners. That's what we're doing and where we are now – we've tripled our retail footprint in the last four months and we should triple it again this year, that's where we want to be."

"The decision to do this starts with our customers who wanted to touch and feel the products before purchase," interjects Clifton.

"It's been a very methodic plan but quite rapid and, I would say, a really well implemented approach. It started as customers saying they wanted to touch the product, to see it and it's led to us broadening our footprint and broadening our reach to the customer base."

EUROPEAN EXPANSION

One of the aims of the showcase in Versailles had been to entice some of the potential partners for Dell's continued expansion, so what are Dell's aims for the next year or so?

"You know, we're just scratching the surface in Europe," believes Bryant. "We have five per cent share according to IDC, in some markets lower. So getting established in places like Germany, or Italy where we've really never had a presence at all, that's pretty important right now.

"From just a pure route to market standpoint, over the next eight or nine months you'll see a steady adding of partnerships all across the region – that includes Russia, the Middle East, Africa, all of those."

"For me the one word would be presence," adds Clifton. "The next year and on the horizon… it's all about presence. We're here, we're a great brand but we're not present in many places that you would think we are."

"We're the number two global brand and I have yet to meet a partner that says they don't want the brand," continues Bryant. "That's the good thing, I've never met anybody who says 'no, your brand doesn't work here,' and I've been in 25 countries since I got here four months ago."

"It seems that there's a big demand out there for Dell, which is great," concludes Clifton.

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