Interview: Opening the lid on SanDisk - PC Retail

Interview: Opening the lid on SanDisk

We caught up with SanDisk's Mark Pini to talk about the firms support for resellers and retailers
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PCR talked to Mark Pini, Senior Regional Marketing Manager for Northern Europe at SanDisk, about the storage vendor’s place in the channel and plans for 2013.

How was 2012 for SanDisk?
Overall it’s been very positive. We’ve extended our product portfolio, especially in USB and SSD, to appeal to wider channels, with good gains in market share across the board despite the continuance of a very competitive marketplace. Having said that, we’re very aware of the tough economic conditions out there, but the overall memory market has remained strong.

Perhaps people can’t afford that brand new tablet or PC, but it seems they can afford to upgrade to faster and larger memory to improve their device performance. Of course there has been a consolidation of consumer choice, particularly on the High Street over the course of the year, so naturally there has been a migration across channels. Personally it’s been a very rewarding year, we’ve managed to gain good presence in store and online – while it’s always nice to see our products reaching the end user, it’s even better to see that work aligned to a multi- channel strategy.

Looking ahead, what do you see as growth areas in 2013 for the business?
We’ve got some exciting things coming down the line for sure. We announced C-Fast at Photokina last September and our new Ultra Plus SSD at CES in January. We’re feeling pretty confident we’ll continue to introduce innovative and attractive products this year that will not just sustain but also help develop our partners’ revenues in flash memory.

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What has made USB stand out as an area for growth for you? What can you offer in that area to retailers that other brands can’t?
I think the simple answer is we’ve expanded our range during 2012 so that we now have a portfolio that appeals to a wider number of consumers. For example as well as introducing the USB 3.0 Extreme drive for the performance user, we also introduced the stylish Facet and Pop drives, with more appeal as impulse purchase to a younger demographic.

And we work pretty hard with our resellers to make sure we market these products in an effective way. Whether that’s giving category management support, providing stand out POS, web assets or merchandising support, we believe that value is seen by the end user when they’re making their purchase decision.

Storage is a competitive market. What are the factors that make consumers choose a particular brand?
SanDisk has a really strong heritage in flash memory, it’s what we do and it’s all we do. We’ll be 25 years old as a company later this year. Our CEO Sanjay Mehrotra was also one of our founders, and has 30 years’ memory industry knowledge and insight.

I guess there aren’t too many other companies that have that sort of continuity and vision. We’ve had a strong presence in the UK High Street now for well over a decade. So when you put those factors together you have a known, trusted and reliable brand that ultimately gives consumers confidence.

We’re seeing huge surge in the SSD market these days. Is this a big sector for SanDisk too?
Absolutely. We’ve been very busy last year developing our channel coverage and presence in the SSD market.

We believe the SSD market is gathering momentum from its strong performance in the SMB reseller and e-tail markets right now. SSDs are reaching the more technologically educated and performance demanding users – gamers, early adopters, graphic design, CADCAM and so on. But with the increasing number of consumer devices like ultrabooks and tablets utilising SSD memory on board, it’s only a matter of time before SSD performance benefits are fully understood and demanded by the mainstream consumer market.

When that happens, I’m sure we’ll see even more market demand through retail from users who want to upgrade devices cost effectively. As a manufacturer with strong OEM experience and as a trusted consumer brand, we’re excited by the possibilities.

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What are your thoughts on the camera market and the future of SD?
Imaging cards are where SanDisk and flash memory all really started and we’ve built a strong and very loyal base of professional, enthusiast and occasional photographers.

One of the most significant things at Photokina last September was the increased number of full frame cameras launched, and allied to the growth in DSLR and CSC cameras, consumers are needing faster and higher capacity cards to keep up with all the data being transferred and the higher storage space needed.

Last year we increased the transfer rate of all of our performance SD products and introduced higher capacities – so we’re in a good place right now. SanDisk announced the CFast format at Photokina which will support transfer speeds up to 600mb/sec, and we have 4k devices just around the corner, so that’s opens up new markets like broadcast video, which is really now starting to embrace the convenience and performance of digital media.

The photography market is important for SanDisk. Will Jessops closing down have any impact?
Jessops has been a very good partner for SanDisk over the years and a UK High Street institution, so of course we’re very saddened to hear the news, for all its employees and customers.

How do you support retailers and resellers?
We are fortunate and perhaps a bit different in that we do continue to invest in reseller marketing support activities. We like to work in close partnership with our key partners and we tend to focus on that to develop bespoke activities and campaigns that can work in tandem with their in-store and on-line communications strategies.

Having said that there are a few programmes we run to support channels such as our Official Photo Programme or to provide more generic marketing support, collateral and assets from Channel Portal, and colleague training through our Flash Memory Quiz e-learning programme. You should try it – we’ve worked hard on making it fun as well as informative and people seem to like it. Last year we trained 2,000 store representatives through it.

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