Skype Upgrades Retail Activity

Two announcements this week tell of changes to Skype’s retail distribution strategy as they bring on new, but experienced, channel partners to assist with getting Skype hardware moving through more traditional retail channels.

First, here at CeBit 2007 in Hannover, Skype hardware vendor In Store Solutions announced a partnership with distributor Think Extra of Milan, Italy with representation in all major European countries. This partnership will bring Skype products to over 700 retailers in 26 European countries. From the press release:

“Our retail channels are selling vast amounts of Skype Certified products, but there is a clear need to further developing the channel,” said Riccardo Bologna, General Manager, TX – Think Xtra. “This joint initiative enables retailers to implement a rich portfolio of Skype Certified products quickly, and Skype‘s brand recognition will certainly attract shoppers. It’s exactly what our customers are looking for.”

Think Xtra and In Store Solutions are exhibiting a complete range of Skype branded products here at CeBit 2007 with significant amount of traffic and interest. The key to their offering is a range of starter kits which provide the Skype beginner with all the hardware required to get started with Skype, including ear buds with microphone and a basic 640 x 480 webcam for €29.99. Three keys to getting started such that new Skypers are recruited through a store display:

  • Skype is easy to install
  • Have all the hardware in one kit.
  • Position the product as a Skype starter kit at a "no brainer" price.

Think Xtra is focusing on not only selling complete Skype solutions for end users but also providing all the tools for retailers to display and promote Skype products at their individual retail locations. These displays have been designed to generate Skype awareness directly at the retail site; using the packaging and display stands as a "sell piece" is critical to their success in this marketplace. It is felt that once users have experienced Skype through these starter kits, they will come back for premium products such as higher resolution webcams and stereo headsets.

In a second announcement, Skype North America has announced a relaunch of the Skype U.S. Store, using Digital River as the e-commerce provider and fulfillment house. From the press release:

Skype has teamed up with Digital River, Inc. (NASDAQ: DRIV), a global leader in e-commerce outsourcing, to create a fresh new look and feel for the Skype Shop, which now features the ability to search by product or to browse by category. Digital River is also providing order management and fulfillment and 24×7 customer service for the new online store.

Skype and Digital River are banking on providing a broader range of Skype Certified hardware products, free shipping for orders over $80 and some initial special offerings to build sales volumes. However, the final results will probably be determined by how well Skype awareness is built up within North America. (Canadians beware – the pricing is all in US$, so add 20% to 25% for C$ pricing.)

Two different approaches to building Skype’s retail presence: one involving physical retail locations, the other a virtual store via an e-commerce solution. One solution supported by a team of distribution channel account managers interacting daily with the channel, the other relying largely on direct promotion of Skype at largely a viral level. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of these approaches.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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  1. In Store Solutions: Building Worldwide Distribution for Skype Hardware | Voice on the Web - August 12, 2009

    […] years ago at CeBit I was introduced to In Store Solutions as a distributor of Skype Certified hardware. Having had over 20 years experience working with PC […]

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