It’s no secret that smartphones are popular. In fact, popular is an understatement. They are freaking ubiquitous! Everyone and their mother seems to own one. In 2016 alone, 1.5 billion smartphones were sold around the world. Those are huge sales!
While we could easily fall into a never-ending conversation about the smartphone market, I’d like to instead focus on the child market of mobile phone accessories, a market which too has been experiencing tremendous growth in correlation with rising global smartphone sales.
According to Allied Market Research, the industry growth will be driven by a rise in demand for accessories, increased adoption of smartphones (especially among lower income nations), and growth of personal disposable income.
The market growth is also related to increased urbanization and the maturation of e-commerce.
Credence Research states, “Increasing movement of people from rural to urban areas, rising disposable income of households and changing lifestyles especially in Asian countries such as China, India and Indonesia is anticipated to impel the growth of global mobile phone accessories market between 2016 and 2023.”
Regarding the role of e-commerce in this market, PRNewswire writes, “Moreover, the online channels are also contributing towards the growth of the market as consumers prefer to shop mobile accessories from online stores rather than local stores as it offers ease of convenience to the customers along with various discounts.”
Entrepreneurs Considering the Space
Given the insane growth forecasts for this market, many entrepreneurs will likely attempt to enter the space.
But before you jump in yourself there a few caveats in which to be aware.
Firstly, there is a high demand for low-price products in mobile phone accessories. For the most part, people don’t want to spend a lot on their cell phone case or dock station, etc. This is especially true in Asian markets.
Mobile phone accessories have also proved particularly susceptible to piracy. Again, this is especially true in China and India. If you Google “knock off mobile phone accessories,” you’ll find tons of fake cases and other products imitating other brands. These cases often sell for less than a dollar.
So how does one create a new brand in this space that’s profitable and less susceptible to piracy?
Let’s take a look at the top winning strategies for mobile phone accessory brands and see how companies are succeeding.
According to a study by Allied Market Research, the top winning strategies include: Expansion (Partnerships), Technology Enhancement and Product Innovation (Product Launch), and Technology Enhancement (Research and Development). The top winning strategy is product innovation.
This makes sense, as the company who innovates on a product type, will often hold a temporary monopoly on the innovation until another company incorporates the innovation into their product line, which takes time.
Carved: Mobile Phone Accessories Done Right
Let me begin this section by stating clearly, I currently have no relationship with Carved. They are not a client of my agency and never have been.
But when it comes to mobile phone accessories, Carved is doing things right and should serve as an example for any entrepreneur considering the space.
Where Carved Succeeds
Carved is a business that has its finger on the market’s pulse.
While they started selling wooden cell phone cases, they now offer a diverse and constantly evolving line of mobile phone accessories. All of their products are designed and produced in-house and have a hip artisanal feel to them.
They certainly innovated on cell phone cases, but not in the typical way. They chose pursue aesthetic innovation over solely functional innovation. They capitalized on the idea that people would choose to express their personalities through their cell phone case if given the option. But instead of simply creating another plastic case with a picture of celebrity on it, they created an all-natural alternative that appeals to people tired of the same old plastic case.
Carved’s cases have an artistic appeal. It’s something you buy, not because you have to for phone protection, but because you want to! Many of their cases feature graphics of nature carved into wood, which are simply beautiful.
They also let customers upload their own custom art, which they will carve into a custom case for you.
You might expect something like this to be costly, but it’s really not. Their new line of iPhone X cases range from $29-$55, which falls in line with other brands, such as Otterbox and Apple cases.
So, aside from offering a better more-customizable product for the same price as their competitors, what else led to Carved’s success?
Well, they’re constantly evolving and expanding product line sure does help. In addition to cell phone cases, they also sell dock stations + amplifiers, powerbanks, Bluetooth speakers, and wallets – all made from wood and in line with their brand aesthetic. Plus, they continue to develop lines of cases for new phones in a timely manner, which keeps them constantly relevant.
Another key part of their success is their excellent e-commerce strategy and online presence. This should come as no surprise as their founder, John Webber, comes from an e-commerce background.
A cursory review of their website will reveal a friendly customer-focused tone, hip and enthusiastic staff, free shipping in U.S. and $3.99 international shipping, customer testimonials, excellent visual and written content, quick load speeds, and easy as pie navigation. They also run targeted ads through Google, re-targeting ads, and have a very active social media presence as well.
In short, Carved is killing it.
Checklist: Tips for Entrepreneurs Starting Mobile Phone Accessory Brand
- Create your own niche, e.g., wooden cases, and expand while respecting brand identity
- Innovate on a given accessory, whether the innovation is pragmatic or aesthetic
- Embrace e-commerce as your sales and distribution model (allows you to reach developing markets)
- Develop a beautiful and easy to use website
- Create awesome visual and written content on site
- Foster brand community through social media
- Create a unique product that’s difficult to pirate or forge
- Create a product that allows customers to express their personalities
Interview with John Webber, Founder of Carved
To help you learn a little more about the mobile phone accessory market, I spoke with John Webber, Founder of Carved, who was kind enough to share his insights and expertise
Q: Part of Carved's appeal over other accessory makers is the artisanal quality of your products. You're not getting some generic piece of plastic but a work of art. What first inspired you make such high quality cases in a market that typically goes for low-price accessories and plastic products?
Webber: We wanted to create a more unique phone case in a market that largely just mass-produces the same thing, over and over. Our Satellite collection is completely unique from piece to piece.
Q: Have you noticed an increase in orders from developing markets, like India, China, and Brazil?
Webber: Yes we have been seeing more and more interest in our products from those markets. Brazil not so much, but definitely India, Japan and other south Asian countries.
Q: Your product line is constantly evolving to include cases for new phone models, as well as other in-demand accessories, such as Bluetooth speakers, docks, and power banks. How important has adaptability and product evolution been to your success?
Webber: Our ability to very quickly adapt and respond to the changing market has been huge. We are putting even more focus in 2018 on R&D of new product development. Our goal is not to spend millions trying to develop some crazy new piece of technology though. What we want to do is give you the ability to put a natural, unique, personal touch on the devices we use every single day.
Q: Given you come from a background in e-commerce, it's no surprise that you have a well-developed online presence. How important has e-commerce and digital marketing been to your brand's success? Do you see this increasing in the future?
Webber: Ecommerce and direct to consumer sales has been the core and strength of the business since day 1. Our goal is to be that cool little company doing something different and unique, not just another me-too phone case brand.
We do a lot of craft fairs throughout the year and our staff runs them. So not only are we making each case ourselves, those same people are interacting and talking directly with our customers. Even though we are an ecommerce brand, we try to be really approachable and personal in all our interactions. You can call our shop during business hours, live chat with us or email, and you'll get a response from a real person who is working in our shop. We aren't just a logistics company reshipping boxes out to you. We are working with and touching everything that goes out our door.
There are plenty of phone case companies out there who are just slapping some random brand name on a product and just shipping it right back out to the customer. Very few are actually doing any level of production at all themselves. That is what makes us different, makes our products awesome and gives us something to be proud of each day.