The Big Interview: Craig Booth on what Acer has up its sleeve for consumer, education and B2B

In amongst global concerns over CPU shortages, Britain’s Brexit-induced economic concerns, and the on-going challenges both online and high street retailers are facing, it would be easy to assume most tech manufacturers
would be proceeding with caution when selling to consumers and businesses.

Considering the numerous retail reports of late suggesting non-essential items are struggling to shift, many brands are being more reserved when it comes to releasing new products.

The British Retail Consortium reported the biggest decline on record throughout May, with non-food items declining 2.7% on both a total and like-for-like basis. Away from retail, KPMG found that optimism in the UK tech sector dropped to a 10-year low in Q1, with firms reporting that “Brexit-related uncertainty and a subdued global economy” had dampened corporate spending.

However, not one to follow the crowd, since the beginning of 2019, Acer has massively bolstered its tech offerings across a wide array of segments – and the bold move appears to be paying off. Despite CPU shortages continuing to impact on the brand’s core business operations throughout the first quarter, Acer’s gaming line still managed to maintain its strong momentum, with a 37% growth in revenue YoY.

For year-to-May, the gaming line revenues grew by 18.7% YoY, while gadgets, server businesses and a number of subsidiaries achieved double-digit revenue growth YoY.

Acer has been present at all the big tech shows – CES, BETT, Computex, E3 and so on – proving that despite industry cautions, the demand for new products is still strong, and there’s a lot to come from the brand.

To name but a few new launches, within the first six months of the year, Acer has unveiled new 4K Predator gaming laptops, a number of new Chromebooks – including its first ever 12-inch model, Ryzen-powered Nitro 5 and Swift 3 notebooks, and the Predator Thronos gaming chair.

With an 8th Gen Intel Core i processor, apps load faster, graphics run faster and many tasks can be run simultaneously without lag. This makes the Chromebook 714 ideal for heavy processing tasks like big spreadsheets and video transcoding

Earlier this year, PCR went along to Acer’s Back To School event, which showcased a number of these products to its retail partners. The event reaffirmed just how seriously Acer is taking its gaming and education ranges, with a detailed history of Chromebooks, an impressive stand showing how advanced and feature-packed its “thin and light” products have managed to get, and an array of Predator and Nitro gaming PCs, notebooks, monitors and accessories covering every price point and gaming need required from casual gamers to esports enthusiasts.

As well as getting to sit in the insanely extravagant Predator Thronos gaming chair, we caught up with Acer’s UK country manager, Craig Booth, to find out more about its biggest products across its gaming, consumers and education sectors, and what the company has up its sleeve for the rest of the year and beyond.

Tell us a bit about your role at Acer

I’ve been at Acer for two years and I’ve been the UK country manager for around one year of that time. My role is to look after the entire UK operation. I have accountability for the whole UK team, the product, marketing, sales, after-sales and P&L performance.

With regards to the UK channel, what has Acer been focusing on over the past year or so?

We are focused on driving our premium gaming (with the Predator and Nitro brands) as well as our thin and light (with the Swift range] product propositions.

The gaming segment of the PC market continues to be one of our main focuses, as we continue to bring more Predator devices and accessories, and new Nitro notebooks for casual gamers, to market. Our aim is to be the brand offering the most comprehensive gaming line-up that features PCs, monitors and accessories for both hard-core and casual gamers. These markets also underpin our brand aspirations to build Acer ever-more into a premium brand offering.

Another area of focus is the continued development of thin and light and lifestyle products in 2019.

What are the biggest products in those areas?

The thin and light area is very exciting from a Windows PC offering point of view, because that’s where the market is going. The days of buying heavy notebooks with mechanical drives are really in the past, and thin and light – sub 1.8kg with SSD – is where things are heading because it genuinely gives the consumer a better experience with more reliability, quicker to switch on, more power performance and a much longer, sustainable all-day battery life. So that’s exciting, and our Swift range of product has all these great features the end user wants.

With Nvidia launching its latest generation of GPUs this year, the growth in gaming and creation devices has been incredible. The projection is that that will continue to grow, and that’s very exciting because we’ve invested a lot in our product road-map and Nitro and Predator brands.

Then we have Chrome. Google are an unbelievable organisation with a laser-focus vision for where they want to take Chrome. The way Google is delivering the message and educating consumers about the proposition is leading to huge growth year-on-year. Chrome is around 8-10% of the overall PC market now and Google is looking to push even further with that this year and next. Acer sees much growth potential for Chromebooks; today we offer the most complete Chromebook portfolio for the different needs of consumers, schools and businesses, including multiple screen sizes, touch screen, convertibles form factors, long battery life, and robust designs using all-metal housings military-grade for education construction. These designs and technologies are also in keeping with what future consumers demand. It’s a very exciting time for these products.

How important is the education sector for Acer?

I’m moving more of my attention to the commercial markets – and the education sector specifically. We already have an incredible presence in education, with some great partnerships with Microsoft and Google. Our intention is to take this to the next level and increase our footprint further. The Acer for Education ecosystem brings together hardware, software, and aims to offer a best in class service and a partnership network. Our plan in 2019 is to continue to develop these programs to engage our partners, education and B2B organisations further.

Our big focus is our aftercare. We have a very good story about our ability to provide reliable products and support those products through their life cycle. What we haven’t done particularly well up until now is tell that story, so that will be our primary focus for the coming months.

Over the next 12-24 months we will evangelise our reliability and our ability to respond and support if something does go wrong. That’s really important because downtime has a big impact on productivity for any organisation. So the vast majority of the time, when people are buying devices with which they intend to do work, a big part of their consideration is how reliable the device is going to be and, if things do go wrong, how confident they can be that the manufacturer is going to quickly help fix the problem. So, we’re putting a lot of investment into making our partners and customers aware of our capability here.

At just 890g, the Swift 7 is unbelievably light, yet has a durable design ideal for an on-the-go lifestyle. Its magnesium alloy chassis is lighter and stronger than aluminium at the same thickness

How are you supporting your retailer and reseller partners?

As a 100% channel-focused business, our retailer and reseller partners are intrinsic to our ability to deliver our message. A lot of our success over the last year has been about enabling our partners to deliver the message on our behalf and that will continue to be the case going forwards.

The vast majority of my time over the last 24 months – and the greatest majority of my time over the next 24 months – will actually be spent discussing that point with all of our partners, asking them how we can deliver our message on their platforms in the best way.

What plans does Acer have for the rest of the year?

We are a year into a five-year plan that aims to build our brand presence in the UK, build the perception of our brand as a premium IT manufacturer and to have valued partners in both the consumer and commercial marketplace.

This year is also about maintaining the value of our product and selling more of it to more people. We want to essentially see great growth in the amount of business we do in the commercial and education market. This growth will be underpinned by our product and partnering propositions, as well as our aftercare service.

Our main focus is to talk about credibility and be a credible business in the eyes of our end-users and our partners, and genuinely bring value to what everybody does.

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