Strategy

Learn from Dell and HP how to future-proof a consumer electronics business today

Andreea Pop
Andreea Pop August 31, 2021
Learn from Dell and HP how to future-proof a consumer electronics business today

Ever wondered how to future-proof your business? Learn directly from consumer electronics leaders how to do it in this exclusive roundtable discussion. 

Organized by EICOM and the eCommerce Institute, in partnership with VTEX, Softbank and AWS, the Future-Proof Organization series is an online event aiming to showcase valuable insights about how to future-proof a  business. After tackling the fashion industry back in June 2021, the latest edition analyzed the highly competitive and dynamic consumer electronics sector, with guests Erik Day, SVP of Small Business at Dell, and Vinicius David, Head of Consumer and SMB Digital Services at HP, joining host Mariano Gomide de Faria, Founder and co-CEO of VTEX

Read on for a summary of the event’s main highlights – hiring the best talent, the comeback of the direct-to-consumer  strategy and the importance of culture – or watch the full recording. No matter your choice, you’re in for a lot of wisdom and brutal facts, so buckle up and take notes! 

The art of attracting tech talent 

A lesson that COVID-19 taught us was that technology is going to play a central role in the future of our economy and wellbeing. But for that vision to be successful and sustainable, attracting talent in the tech industry is imperative – and increasingly competitive.

For instance, Erik highlights how technology has evolved  so much with no sign of stopping – indeed, it now has more job openings than any other industry. Yet that’s a problematic aspect, because the next generation of talent, namely Generation Z, is not so quick to jump on a tech career path, despite being avid users of technology for their entire lives. One reason for the status quo is family influence. 

“Young graduates are pursuing banking and consulting not because they wish to, but because of their fathers and mothers. Families are pushing kids towards a non-future-proof career. The digital industry is different and parents still don’t trust it. We need to change that.”

Mariano Gomide de Faria, Founder and co-CEO of VTEX

What’s more, STEM degrees are on a downward trend, while liberal arts degrees are picking up pace. Most companies want the easy way out and only look towards qualified prospects instead of unpolished jewels, willing to endlessly counteroffer each other for a small talent pool. The result? Harsh competition, and an enormous wasted potential in “non-tech” backgrounds. 

So what’s the solution? 

According to our panelists, tech and consumer electronics companies should now be all about university partnerships, internships, graduate programs and unique initiatives like TETRIX. After all, an abundance of talent has been known to reside in academic environments, with a myriad of successful ventures – like HP and Dell and VTEX – born inside universities. 

“Partnering with universities is more important than ever before to attract talent and equip them for a technology career.”

Erik Day, SVP of Small Business at Dell

As for the winning over the more seasoned, experienced talent, Vinicius has three pieces of advice:

  • Hire before you need somebody – when you’re hiring in a reactive way, you might not find the perfect match; 
  • Keep a list of people you want close-by – this way, you can create  a job that fits what they are searching for;
  • Go into the trenches yourself – if you spot a good talent, throw the net yourself, don’t wait for your chief of recruitment. 

The comeback of direct-to-consumer operations

Consumer electronics companies like Dell, HP, SONY, Samsung, Motorola and Whirlpool are at the forefront of the direct-to-consumer (DTC) wave, right there alongside consumer packaged goods businesses. But way before the value chain had become so complex, direct-to-consumer was the way commerce traditionally worked. In truth, we’re not seeing a rise of DTC; we’re seeing a comeback. 

“Back in 1984, Michael Dell’s entire business model was about selling directly to consumers. We lost market share to competitors because we didn’t adapt fast enough to other channels, but it’s ironic how in 2021 we are now talking about the same thing.”

Erik Day, SVP of Small Business at Dell

Nowadays, customers want choices, they want a composable experience: shopping everywhere , paying quickly and easily, picking up in the location that makes sense to them. And in the consumer electronics industry, there’s such a big market demand that there’s room to give those choices to customers and the wonderful thing is that everyone, manufacturer and retailer alike, can win. 

“We now have data to create products and services that offer relevance not only to ourselves, but to resellers and distributors, allowing them to become better in their local geographies.”

Vinicius David, Head of Consumer and SMB Digital Services at HP

One important conclusion we can draw from this is that self-cannibalization, something that many executives fear, should not be a big concern, at least not in the consumer electronics industry. Embodying this philosophy is no other than Apple, a direct-to-consumer master. 

“Apple has taught companies that they shouldn’t be afraid of self-cannibalizing themselves. There’s a reason there’s a new iPhone every 12 months – if you try to stretch your product until the very last day it can give you a profit, that’s an opening for the competitor. But if you’re the one cannibalizing yourself, you can set the pace of the market, just like Apple.”

Vinicius David, Head of Consumer and SMB Digital Services at HP

Culture, the key to being future-proof

We look at tech giants like Facebook and Google and Amazon and we think they’re too big to fail. But if you look close enough, cracks are visible, especially on the grassroots level: employees are leaving and complaining about culture

“If you really want to future-proof your organization, you have to focus on culture. Talent today thinks about what you’re doing for social responsibility, for the environment and for them to do their jobs efficiently.”

Erik Day, SVP of Small Business at Dell

Erik goes on to share his worries about post-COVID-19 times, when another challenge will arise: innovating culture when everybody is looking through the same screen. If culture plateaus, turnover will rise and growth will inevitably fall. 

Building upon this perspective, Mariano notes how more and more companies are not companies anymore; they are communities. And culture plays, once again, a key role in that impression, from top to bottom, from individual to individual. 

“Most often, people don’t want to quit their jobs, they’re quitting their bosses. But culture makes a boss a real leader and a good person, which in turn makes the company a great place to be in. Besides salary, besides the brand, besides the hype, that’s what people really want.”

Vinicius David, Head of Consumer and SMB Digital Services at HP

On a more particular level, despite seeming a bit cliche, executives need to have important conversations about inclusivity, belonging, vulnerability and authenticity. Employees sense when culture is just for show or when words don’t align with actions and they’ll be analyzing the chain of command closely.  

“If you want to future-proof your organization you should be putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to belonging, inclusivity and authenticity, because people feel like they can do everything and anything when they’re in 12 hours a day yet don’t have to hide or be somebody else.”

Erik Day, SVP of Small Business at Dell

For more insights and advice on how to future-proof your business, learn from these consumer electronics specialists by watching the full recording and follow our LinkedIn page to stay updated! Last but not least, be on the lookout for our upcoming roundtable events, we’re just getting started. 

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