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INTERVIEWS
By 1 February 2018 | Categories: interviews

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One of the more highly regarded consumer technology brands in the country, LG still has its sights set on gaining an even higher status across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. This was the message from yesterday's LG InnoFest 2018 in Cape Town, as the South Korean company outlined how it aims to reach its lofty goals for the year. 

Showcasing a range of home electronics and appliances at InnoFest, it appears as if LG’s focus will be on high-end products, as well as consistent and reliable after-sales service. 

To gain a better understanding of how the company will deliver on those two aspects during 2018, we sat down with LG's MD for South Africa, Cy Kim, and sales director for consumer sales, Tony Dos Santos, who unpacked the brand's strategy.

TS: During InnoFest, LG has mentioned the importance of premium products in ensuring customer satisfaction. Can you explain why you think that will be an effective strategy?

Tony Dos Santos: Well we spend a lot of time researching the demands and areas for potential growth in all of our subsidiaries, South Africa included, and while the country is not yet mature in terms of data and connectivity compared to other countries yet, there is an opportunity in the premium end of the market. 

To that end, we have a range called the Signature collection, which we've already launched in the States, and it's performing very well. Along with being high-end, these devices also differentiate themselves from the rest of the industry by their level of innovation. That is why you won't find these kinds of products anywhere else except at the InnoFest. 

As our industry evolves, it is important that we distinguish ourselves, and we're able to do that by asking how we can make products that enrich consumers' lives that our competitors cannot? That means that LG is not in the business of copying products, we're in the business of innovation.   

TS: LG has some devices in the TV and smart speaker space touting Google Assistant. Will South Africa be receiving both product lineups in 2018?

TDS: Right now the focus will be on TVs with Google Assistant for 2018. As far as smart speakers go, we will be taking a phased approach, so there should be devices coming into the country during the next 12 to 15 months, but for the moment TVs are the primary focus.

One of the main products in that regard is the W8 wallpaper TV (AI OLED TV). We brought the demo model into the country sometime in December last year, and as you can see one of the main features of its design is the thinness, which is roughly the same as four credit cards.   

TS: One of the big announcements at CES 2018 was the ThinkQ AI and Deep ThinQ platform. Can you explain them in a bit more detail and what they mean for local consumers?

TDS: It's a basically a convergence of creating a language between the product and consumer. Our research has shown that consumers are looking for downloads and software that enable different aspects of their devices. 

Our washing machines for example, have Google-aided programs for different types of washes, as well as downloads for self-diagnosis. This means that if your machine goes faulty you can already begin to troubleshoot it with your smartphone.  

The market is already demanding smart devices, and above that products that are data-enabled. This is something that LG is acutely aware of because our research and development has been done for the past five years.  

TechSmart: There are a number of new products on show here. Can you confirm which of them will be arriving in South Africa, and when?

Cy Kim: Most of the products here (LG InnoFest 2018) will be coming to South Africa, but it will be dependant on timing, as well as getting approval from local regulators. Products like the washing machine take roughly six months to get into the country, so we should be selling them in the second half of 2018. 

Other products like the the InstaView refrigerator will be available from April onwards. The new OLED and Super UHD televisions are also subject to the regulatory process, but are likely to come in Q3 or Q4 of 2018.   

TS: Lastly LG has outlined an emphasis on digital in terms of customer engagement. Can you explain why it has focused on this area?

TDS: Online engagement, and sales in particularly has been a significant area for LG in recent years. During Black Friday last year for example, the take up was huge. Another important aspect to online are search engines, and we have placed a substantial focus on ensuring that the LG brand appears frequently on those platforms.  

In conjunction with that is video, which means that we're investing a lot in terms of content marketing. Added to this is quality, as it's not just enough to have vast amounts of content, but it also needs to be at a certain level to ensure true customer engagement. 

LG wants to create attachment to our brand, and video platforms can play a significant role in that. It's part of the reason why we live-streamed today's InnoFest event on Facebook, as it allows our customers to experience an aspect of LG that they otherwise would not be able to.  

CK: It's important to have a merged experience for our consumers, one that is a mix of online and offline. Most customers are searching for products online before making their purchase at a physical retail store. 

In the future I think a lot of focus will be placed on experience. When a customer comes into a store they want to touch and feel the product, and something like virtual reality can help do that. 

As such, I believe that in coming years, customers can come to an offline store and experience the products online through VR and AR (augmented reality), and get a better understanding of the innovation behind the product before making their purchase.

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