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Samsonite rejuvenates its brand image with new products, CX experience and marketing

Samsonite’s general manager of Hong Kong Thomas Lui talks about the “changes” of the brand – from products to the customer experience to its marketing approach – which has led to the growth of sales in Hong Kong.

As the world’s largest luggage maker, Samsonite has been around for more than a century. While some may think the brand is getting “old”, it has been making efforts to rejuvenate and refresh its brand image.

In a bid to put a stylish spin on its new evolutionary luggage line Evoa, the brand launched a campaign aiming to capture the attention of the city state’s savvy business travellers by highlighting the product’s modern minimalist aesthetics design, while featuring Samsonite’s signature durable and innovative Aero­Trac™ suspension wheel technology.

As part of the campaign, it launched a pop-­up store for the Evoa line in July which included a leather passport wallet workshop and monogram service to bring a personalised customer experience.

The approach echoes the group’s strategy to expand its direct-­to-­consumer channel. Thomas Lui says the efforts paid off as the Evoa line broke the top record of sales mix, and gained HK$6.5 million in media value.

Teamwork: Thomas Lui, general manager of Hong Kong and Macau (left); and Subrata Dutta, Samsonite’s Asia Pacific president (right).

He believes being customer­-centric is the key to success for a marketing campaign. The brand emphasises on the interaction between its store staff and customers. The question is how to interact with customers to generate better conversions. He says training for staff on communication with customers is crucial, which the brand started doing last year.

“We used to adopt a passive approach – when the customers come in, we serve them. But now we proactively talk to the customers to generate demand,” he says.

He says the brand plans to invest in customer relationship management (CRM) to explore how to properly connect with customers.

“As an international brand, we are a bit late to invest in CRM. But it is better late than never. We are catching up.”

The brand was also quick to identify changing consumer needs and started producing luggage that was durable, yet light. Its Cosmolite series, which features Curv® materials, is the top-­seller.

The pop-­up store for the Evoa line

To bolster its customer outreach, the brand leverages on a balanced mix of integrated marketing communications efforts.

“It is a norm that most of the international brands switch from traditional marketing to digital marketing and social media by engaging KOLs. We need to get into this boat of prevalence.”

He explains the brand has to reach younger demographics such as the early 30s age group, which is its targeted customers, to understand what kind of products or services they desire.

While many brands are leveraging collaborations with celebrities or other renowned brands to co-­create limited edition products, Lui believes this kind of collaboration is only a one­-off sales­-boosting tactic. You may not see Samsonite using this strategy for the time being.

However, collaboration with charities works wonders for Samsonite. The luggage maker teamed up with The Salvation Army to launch a trade­-in programme. Customers traded in their pre­-loved luggage to Samsonite. That luggage was either given away or resold for less than HK$200 to low income groups.

To amplify the campaign, Samsonite invited several KOLs such as author Daisy Wong (王迪詩), founder of 100Most Roy Tsui (林日曦), and CEO of Toast Communications Tsui Yuen(徐緣), to share their personal stories related to travel.

“In the past, we used to do the trade­-in for the sake of doing it, without any marketing angle. We are amazed that the results of this year’s campaign with The Salvation Army were very good,” he says. “It was unexpected that there was such a high demand for luggage among the lower income groups.”

He says this year’s programme boosted growth by 30% compared with the 2017 trade­in.

The pop-up store included a monogram service to bring a personalised customer experience.

In the face of rising competition from companies such as RIMOWA, Samsonite has managed to perform well. According to the group’s financial report 2018, Samsonite International lifted sales by 12.9% in the first half of this year to US$1.849 billion.

The Asia sales across the group’s entire brand portfolio grew 14.4 % year on year, behind Latin America’s 17%, but ahead of Europe’s 11.4%. In Hong Kong, net sales increased by 28.3%, driven by net sales of the Tumi, Samsonite and American Tourister brands.

Lui says Samsonite has applied improved systematic merchandise allocation and planning which echoes the sales objective and help sales grow.

The brand not only creates innovative luggage, but has also introduced more non-­travel products such as a backpack and travel accessories.

“People always think we are a luggage company. But we are more than that. We are delivering travel solutions to customers.” He says Samsonite’s backpack is well-­loved by customers.

Since providing a seamless online-­to-­offline shopping experience is the trend, Samsonite will open a concept store which looks to be an omni-­channel retail platform.

Customers will be able to access the brand’s full e-­commerce catalogue through the in-­store interactive tablet so that they can see and experience a curated collection of thousands of products at the store, breaking the restriction of limited physical space to showcase luggage.

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