Samsung designed a low key launch for itsnew flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5. The phone was unveiled at Mobile World Congress (MWC) last week with an equally low key message – customers are not interested in whiz-bang technology. How did it work out?
Samsung’s desire to shift the focus away from tech specs to software and services is understandable – it’s a trend. Companies need more services. It’s a major plank of innovation because it will allow Samsung to diversify revenues away from its factories. That in turn creates quite different investment and return profiles for a company.
Samsung has, specifically, tried to direct attention for the S5 towards its health services (S health, a service introduced in the S3, and the heart rate monitor at the back of the phone) as well as the peripherals – the Gear watches and the Gear Fit fit-band, which won “Best Mobile Device” at the MWC.
If Samsung translates this change of focus into recurring revenues rather than just sales it would be a very public and visible transformation of an industry leading, large enterprise. And not many big ones transform successfully.
First though, how successful has the launch been? Before it, I signaled the fact that search interest in the S5 was lower than for the launch of the S4 a year earlier, though this caught up by the 24th February, the day of the unveil.
But these are rough and ready measures of a campaign’s impact so I wanted to follow up with some social media analytics. UK-based Media Measurement (MM) agreed to run the data. MM are a long-standing metrics firm. They were around when media metrics meant counting newspaper articles, but they are now one of the leading agencies for online campaign measurement.
They tracked conversations for me on English language social media platforms for the period from 2nd January 2014 to 2nd March 2014 for the S5, and the equivalent period for the Samsung Galaxy S4, which was 21st January 2013 to 21st March 2014. These represent the start dates of online conversation with a tracking period of two months.
What comes out of it? The first metric is pretty blunt – overall the S5 has created less conversation.
The conversation level around the S5 is 15% below that generated by the S4.
That doesn’t need to be catastrophic for Samsung even if it translates into 15% fewer sales over time. The company has enviable adaptability in its manufacturing options, and can switch low cost components into different devices in the same phone range to compensate for lost revenues on volume.
There is some devil in the detail though. No doubt Samsung is already poring over it to adapt its marketing plans.
The first observation from MM’s Siobhan Rafferty is that the “speculation period” leading up to the launch has been very elongated with the S5. Significant levels of conversation around the S4 began only 17 days before the launch whereas in the case of the S5 it has been closer to 47 days.
“One of the reasons for some of the disappointment surrounding the reveal of the S5 could possibly be attributed to the fact that there were such high levels of speculation for such a prolonged period of time before the reveal, that the model inevitably failed to live up to the expectation that created.”
And Siobhan found that on balance sentiment veered towards disappointment like this quote from CNET:
Despite awesome specs, including a fingerprint scanner and heart rate sensor, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 can’t beat its own hype.
Strange in fact that I saw very little hype around it but I did find the Samsung teases – videos and the invites that suggested an S5 launch but unnecessarily kept it vague – did suggest that there was a big new technology to unveil.
Media Measurement also found that the fingerprint scanner, while being the most talked about technical feature, created privacy concerns because Samsung was likely to make it available to developers (such as PayPal).
The improved camera in the S5 was also a talking point.
Perhaps most disappointing from a service perspective is that only 13% of posts that mentioned a specific feature focused on the heath app S Health.
That adds up to just 5% of all S5 references and of those 5% only 15% were positive – the vast majority were neutral. Maybe that’s to be expected. Few people have had a chance to try it out though it has evolved from the S4 and S3 so it is not a new service.
The good news though is that intent to buy has not changed much since the S4. About 9.6% of the people talking about the S4 expressed an intent to buy. This time around only 52,000 posts, representing a conversation share of about 8.7%, did so.
That slightly intensifies the sense that the S5 is not making such a big impression on buyers. A smaller conversation and a smaller percentage of buying intent but the numbers are not dramatically off. And more of the conversation has taken place in the US, a tough market for Samsung’s high end smartphones.
Still it looks as though Samsung will have to work harder to sell its health concept. The way to do that is to make health a real service – not just a monitored-self app. Just like Apple cooperates with auto-makers to make the iPhone interface into dashboards, Samsung needs to talk to health services to introduce S health into triage and real health monitoring. I am looking forward to that day.