Photo Gallery 021: An Ordinary Chinese Offline Smartphone Store

摘要: Why offline smartphone stores are opening one after another? Are they earning money? Who are still buying smartphones from offline channels? What’s their concerns?

(Chinese Version)

Editor’s Note:

There are altogether 10 residential communities and 1 urban village around Shuangqiao Road of Chaoyang District, Beijing. At the same time, there are as many as 32 smartphone stores on Shuangqiao Road, which is only 600-meter long. However, it is said that these stores are owned by the same crowd of bosses. “As long as there’s opportunity, someone would step in and open another store,” a person who’s been working in the industry for a decade told TMTpost. He recalled that there was only two or three smartphone stores back in 2010, but that number began to rise insanely since 2013.

However, such phenomenon was not a single case in Beijing, and Shuangqiao Road was definitely not the only road fraught with so many smartphone stores. Why did smartphone stores spring up one after another while traditional smartphone retailing industry was under huge competition from e-commerce platforms? Are they making much profit? Who’s still buying smartphones from offline stores? In TMTpost Photo Gallery 021, we’d love to focus our attention on a tiny smartphone store on Shuangqiao Road and keep a rough record of an ordinary day in an offline smartphone store.

The smartphone store, covering over 65 square meters, was inside Guotai Mall. It was April, 9th, around 260 customers went into the store, among them 8 customers bought new smartphones, 2 replaced their screens, and 3 signed up for contract numbers. To be more specific, 5 of them bought an iPhone, 2 bought Huawei, and 1 bought vivo. By the way, 4 of them bought their new smartphone on installment (3 for iPhone and 1 for Huawei).  There are 49 types of smartphone models on display in this tiny smartphone store, and the brand ranges from Apple, Huawei, Samsung to OPPO, VIVO and Xiaomi, etc.

The smartphone store, covering over 65 square meters, was inside Guotai Mall. It was April, 9th, around 260 customers went into the store, among them 8 customers bought new smartphones, 2 replaced their screens, and 3 signed up for contract numbers. To be more specific, 5 of them bought an iPhone, 2 bought Huawei, and 1 bought vivo. By the way, 4 of them bought their new smartphone on installment (3 for iPhone and 1 for Huawei). There are 49 types of smartphone models on display in this tiny smartphone store, and the brand ranges from Apple, Huawei, Samsung to OPPO, VIVO and Xiaomi, etc.

In addition, this tiny store also repair smartphones, sells smartphone parts and provide services related to mobile carriers. All the 6 employees in the store work on shift from 09L00 AM to 10:00 PM.

In addition, this tiny store also repairs smartphones, sells smartphone parts and provides services related to mobile carriers. All the 6 employees in the store work on shift from 09:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

It was 11:00, April, 9th. A customer was taking photos so as to purchase an iPhone on installment. This smartphone store cooperated with 4 companies that provided installment purchase service, and all of them sent their employees in the store.

It was 11:00, April, 9th. A customer was taking photos so as to purchase an iPhone on installment. This smartphone store cooperated with 4 companies that provided installment purchase service, and all of them sent their employees in the store.

For customers who don’t have abundant money at hand, buying smartphones on installment is a great alternative. “Customers can pay only 10% first when buying a product worthy of less than 3,000, and pay 20% first when buying a product worthy of over 3,000, which brought so much convenience to customers.”

For customers who don’t have abundant money at hand, buying smartphones on installment is a great alternative. “Customers can pay only 10% first when buying a product worthy of less than 3,000, and pay 20% first when buying a product worthy of over 3,000, which brought so much convenience to customers.”

It was 0:35 PM. Two aged customers went into the smartphone store for help. They clicked the ad when playing mobile games, and don’t know how to close the ad. In addition, they want the employee at the store to teach them how to use WeChat to call others and send voice messages.

It was 0:35 PM. Two aged customers went into the smartphone store for help. They clicked the ad when playing mobile games, and don’t know how to close the ad. In addition, they want the employee at the store to teach them how to use WeChat to call others and send voice messages.

It was 3:30 PM. A young guy (possibly born in the 1990s) came to the store to buy an OPPO, yet she was uncertain which model to buy. After comparing two models for several minutes, she chose to buy neither of them at last. “What a mistake! I should have given her just one model for customers as hesitant as her,” the salesman who’s had 8 years of experience, “A few years ago, people would come and ask salesmen in smartphone stores to grab them the smartphone model with the largest screen and best performance because there were so many brands then, today, however, people would come to stores to buy a specific model or smartphones of a specific price.”

It was 3:30 PM. A young guy (possibly born in the 1990s) came to the store to buy an OPPO, yet she was uncertain which model to buy. After comparing two models for several minutes, she chose to buy neither of them at last. “What a mistake! I should have given her just one model for customers as hesitant as her,” the salesman who’s had 8 years of experience, “A few years ago, people would come and ask salesmen in smartphone stores to grab them the smartphone model with the largest screen and best performance because there were so many brands then, today, however, people would come to stores to buy a specific model or smartphones of a specific price.”

It was 6:40 PM. This family came to the store and bought an iPhone.

It was 6:40 PM. This family came to the store and bought an iPhone.

Three construction workers came into the store and asked the salesman to recommend a smartphone model priced at around RMB 1,500, and the salesman recommended them a VIVO model. They left the store after failing to make a bargain and buy the smartphone for RMB 1,000, but came to the store for the second time after half an hour and bought the smartphone. The first thing they did after buying the smartphone was asking the salesman to download an APP where they could watch CCTV live.

Three construction workers came into the store and asked the salesman to recommend a smartphone model priced at around RMB 1,500, and the salesman recommended them a VIVO model. They left the store after failing to make a bargain and buy the smartphone for RMB 1,000, but came to the store for the second time after half an hour and bought the smartphone. The first thing they did after buying the smartphone was asking the salesman to download an APP where they could watch CCTV live.

It was 7:40 PM. Ynag Wei, sales manager of the store, was changing the iPhone screen for a customer. He changed screens for two iPhones today.

It was 7:40 PM. Ynag Wei, sales manager of the store, was changing the iPhone screen for a customer. He changed screens for two iPhones today.

Smartphone parts were also sold in the smartphone store, yet they didn’t sell any of them today.

Smartphone parts were also sold in the smartphone store, yet they didn’t sell any of them today.

It was April, 9th. Around 260 customers went into the smartphone store to ask for advices or to buy smartphones. “The traffic is the highest at weekends. On average, we can sell 100 smartphones every month, and we only manage to make ends meet,” Mr. Yang said, “there are lots of streets similar to Shuangqiao Road in Beijing, so the market is already saturated. Our bosses made a fortune a few years ago bying doing smartphone business, but everybody is struggling to survive right now, since only those who survived can laugh the last.”

It was April, 9th. Around 260 customers went into the smartphone store to ask for advices or to buy smartphones. “The traffic is the highest at weekends. On average, we can sell 100 smartphones every month, and we only manage to make ends meet,” Mr. Yang said, “there are lots of streets similar to Shuangqiao Road in Beijing, so the market is already saturated. Our bosses made a fortune a few years ago bying doing smartphone business, but everybody is struggling to survive right now, since only those who survived can laugh the last.”

It was 9:50 PM, and time to get off work. The salesmen have begun to do some cleaning in the store. “We can earn less than RMB 2,000, and selling 8 smartphones as well as providing other services were together good business for us. Different from outlets in shopping malls, we attract customers by selling smartphones at lower price. But how shall we still earn money? For example, when we sell a smartphone at 3,000 instead of 5,000, how can we make profit? Well, we ask our customers to join expensive mobile carrier plans, for example, a RMB 199 plan, and the customers will receive RMB 80 or 90 back to theirs account, when they still need to pay RMB 100 every month. In reality, however, they could have received RMB 199 to their account, but we intercepted. In this case, we can manage to make ends meet buy selling two or three smartphones every day,” explained Mr. Yang.

It was 9:50 PM, and time to get off work. The salesmen have begun to do some cleaning in the store. “We can earn less than RMB 2,000, and selling 8 smartphones as well as providing other services were together good business for us. Different from outlets in shopping malls, we attract customers by selling smartphones at lower price. But how shall we still earn money? For example, when we sell a smartphone at 3,000 instead of 5,000, how can we make profit? Well, we ask our customers to join expensive mobile carrier plans, for example, a RMB 199 plan, and the customers will receive RMB 80 or 90 back to theirs account, when they still need to pay RMB 100 every month. In reality, however, they could have received RMB 199 to their account, but we intercepted. In this case, we can manage to make ends meet buy selling two or three smartphones every day,” explained Mr. Yang.

It was 10:00 PM, and the salesmen clocked off to go home. Mr. Yang has been working in the industry for over a decade, and he didn’t think there was no room for offline smartphone stores in face of the booming e-commerce industry. “Smartphone makers are very strict on the price of their smartphones now, so the price of a smartphone model in online and offline channel is almost the same. In addition, it also cost e-commerce platform owners a lot to operate. Except for people who are accustomed to shopping online, there remains lots of people who prefer to shop in offline stores, where they could touch a real smartphone before buying it. Moreover, they are more confident about aftersales service in offline stores,” explained Mr. Yang.

It was 10:00 PM, and the salesmen clocked off to go home. Mr. Yang has been working in the industry for over a decade, and he didn’t think there was no room for offline smartphone stores in face of the booming e-commerce industry. “Smartphone makers are very strict on the price of their smartphones now, so the price of a smartphone model in online and offline channel is almost the same. In addition, it also cost e-commerce platform owners a lot to operate. Except for people who are accustomed to shopping online, there remains lots of people who prefer to shop in offline stores, where they could touch a real smartphone before buying it. Moreover, they are more confident about aftersales service in offline stores,” explained Mr. Yang.

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @fliesslaughterhouse, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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