What’s Xiaomi Up to with its Latest 5X Model?

摘要: Today the smartphone industry lacks innovations. And it should be noted that system customized for specific use cases tends to attract male users while female users don’t really pay attention to interactive experience. Luo Yonghao continues to develop and improve customized system because 73% of Smartisan’s users are male.

(Chinese Version)

At the launch conference of Xiaomi 5X, Xiaomi’s CEO Lei Jun didn’t spend much time talking about the design of the phone like he used to do, but instead gave more time to Wu Yifan’s performance. He even expressed that he would like to keep up with the trend and ignited the crowd by shouting at scene: “where are my fans?”

Xiaomi, a company known for technological innovations and its user loyalty, seems to be undergoing major changes in its voice. What happened? Perhaps this is correlated to Lei Jun’s observation this year.

To be specific, Lei Jun has listed out a task chain that comprised of different paths, based on the shipment volume goal.

Xiaomi’s shipment goal is not merely made for the tech company’s comeback in the smartphone industry, but also to generate an image. “No smartphone company around the world is able to turn the tide when its sales volume starts to decline,” Lei Jun once said. “But Xiaomi is able to achieve it!”

In fact, Xiaomi is not the only exception like what Lei Jun says to be. In 2012, Nokia had a global shipment volume of 35.1 million, which dropped to 29.16 million in 2013. But the Finnish phone maker was able to achieve a shipment volume of 41.3 million in 2014. This is a typical case of turning decline to growth.

Lei Jun only said so to leave an impression.

To reach the shipment volume goal, Lei Jun realized that Xiaomi must shake off Huawei Honor’s chase and start competing with oppo and vivo offline as soon as possible. To do this, Xiaomi has to perform three improvements.

1. Software innovation

When Xiaomi was having a hard time, Lei Jun focused more on the development of technologies. It’s a choice of action that builds a firmer foundation while driving growth potential. However, it’s easy to tell from 5X and MIUI9 that Xiaomi is emphasizing on the optimization of user experience elements such as software and system. It’s not only making prettier UI, but also learning from Smartisan’s system design. At the launch conference on July 26th, MIUI9’s design director spent one third of his speech time talking about the new system’s features, such as quick find, information assistant etc.

2. Female users

According to Baidu’s index, only 30% of Xiaomi’s smartphone users are female, a gender gap only second to Smartisan. TouTiao’s 2016 Smartphone User Big Data Report shows that 43% of the users oppo and vivo took away from Xiaomi are female between 18 and 23 years old who live in small towns and pay more attention to entertainment features.

3. The next hit product

Lei Jun has learned what kind of target audience Xiaomi needs to work on, and therefore Xiaomi 5X is fused with features for female users. That’s why Lei Jun only made a short introduction of the phone’s specs, and put more efforts and time in explaining the phone’s camera and beautifying  and photo-editing features.

But Xiaomi 5X has several important drawbacks in product voice being a strategic product for new retail.

1. What’s the core of new retail? Geek gene or female-catering features?

Lei Jun had also tried to utilize young stars’ influence to promote its products. Liu Haoran, a Justin-Bieber-like young star in China, had shot commercials for Red Mi. Liu is famous for its intelligence and talent, which fits right into the voice Red Mi wants to convey to its target audience. However, Liu Yifan is different.

I am not talking about Wu Yifan’s scandals here, but some part of Wu’s image that contradicts Xiaomi 5X’s voice.

TouTiao has previously made a report on Wu Yifan based on big data, giving an analysis on this pop star.

From the perspective of the fan base, Wu Yifan has two advantages that Xiaomi needs to compete with its rivals:

a. The number of his female fans is three times larger than that of male fans.

b. His fans are generally between 18 and 30 years old. Most of his fans are actually between 18 and 23 years old.

Unfortunately, these are the only advantages Wu Yifan can give Xiaomi. Looking from consumer preference, Xiaomi’s fans are different from Wu Yifan’s fans.

a. Wu’s fans generally prefer luxury brands. They pay close attention to taste when it comes to consumption.

b. Most of Wu’s fans live in first and second-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Suzhou etc. In other words, they are girls from big cities.

From these two perspectives, this group of users is not what Xiaomi 5X targets or the group that Lei Jun wants to win over from oppo and vivo.

2. Confusions in product positioning

Lei Jun has emphasized that Xiaomi 5X is a strategic product for new retail, rolled out to directly compete with oppo and vivo. This shows Xiaomi’s team has done thorough demand research. However, there are contradictions.

1. The pricing

At the launch conference, oppo R11 and vivo X9S were showed to compared with Xiaomi 5X, which is quite surprising since R11 is priced at ¥2,999 and X9S is priced at ¥2,699. That said, Xiaomi 6 is a more suitable product to compete with these two phones in terms of similar pricing.

This shows that Lei Jun is trying to win over the ladies by emphasizing on cost performance like he did years ago to win over male geek users. This is very confusing.

According to GFK’s estimates, the ASP (average selling price) of smartphones in China had risen to ¥1,868 last year. In Q1 this year, the ASP has even risen to ¥1,987. At present, oppo and vivo’s smartphones on the market are priced at over ¥2,500. Xiaomi 5X’s ordinary specs and affordable price don’t really cater to ladies who prefer luxury brands.

Chinese smartphones brands are developing toward a high-end direction due to the explosion of high-end demand and a profound shift in identity and the snob effect. Consumers might not need others to teach them how to spend their money wisely.

2. Weird channels

Currently, there are 149 Mi Homes in the country. Lei Jun has planned to make the number soar to 1000 in the future three years so as to achieve an annual volume of 70 billion. Mi Homes are mainly targeting first, second and third-tier cities in China.

Let’s take Jiangsu, a developed province in China for example. In accordance with Xiaomi’s official information, there are seven Mi Homes in Jiangsu. Besides the provincial capital Nanjing, Mi Homes are also operating in second-tier cities like Suzhou, Changzhou, Wuxi and Xuzhou. There is also one Mi Home in Kunshan, but everybody knows Xiaomi targets the nearby megacity Shanghai.

Wu Yifan’s fans are mostly from first and second-tier cities, so it’s logical for Xiaomi to make Mi Homes a sales channel for Xiaomi 5X. However, it just appears to be weird to sell smartphones priced at ¥1,499 to luxury-loving ladies at a fancy commercial space.

This will also generate a weird phenomenon.

On the other hand, oppo and vivo’s 200,000 outlets are mainly based in small cities that haven’t even made it into the third-tier. They usually sell products that are over ¥2000. See what’s strange about this now? Mi Homes are based in first and second-tier cities, and they sell cheaper products, as cheap as ¥1,500.

So it’s very likely for Xiaomi 5X to rely on sales channels like Xiaomi’s authorized outlets. Xiaomi’s outlets cover small cities like Yancheng and Suqian etc. But, oppo and vivo have more experience in operating in cities like these.

When news reports on Xiaomi 5X appeared, oppo immediately released a cheap version of R11, naming it as A77, priced at ¥2,199. It still sets itself apart from Xiaomi 5X, which positions itself with affordable price and high performance.

3. Trying to win over immature consumers with immature products

Xiaomi 5X doesn’t really qualify as the strategic product that Lei Jun claims to be. It’s positioning is more of an exploration. Hit products that have the potential to beat oppo and vivo should be able to do the following three things

1. Eliminating oppo and vivo’s added value opportunity

Lei Jun has always believed that oppo and vivo utilized the time when users in small cities started to purchase a new smartphone. That’s why he is dedicated to eliminating this opportunity for added value.

2. Turning imaginations into real products

Lei Jun has realized that Xiaomi should provide products that satisfy fans’ imaginations. In this sense, Xiaomi 5X is not successful. Whether it’s Wu Yifan, or the product appearance design, they both fail to appeal to these ladies to make their purchase. 

3. Providing user cases fitted for the target audience.

Lei Jun is hoping to use MIUI9’s software and system optimization to boost Xiaomi 5X’s performance as the phone model doesn’t have fancy specs. This sounds like a great idea, but might fail to achieve its ultimate goal when competing with oppo and vivo.

Today the smartphone industry lacks innovations. And it should be noted that system customized for specific use cases tends to attract male users while female users don’t really pay attention to interactive experience. Luo Yonghao continues to develop and improve customized system because 73% of Smartisan’s users are male.

Anyhow, Xiaomi, who has been in a cat fight with Huawei’s Honor is now stepping into the arena of oppo and vivo. But it remains unknown whether Xiaomi 5X will succeed and surpass them in the future.

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The article is published with authorization from the author @Chong'Er, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

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

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