Strategy and businesses
Audiological Care business
Our Audiological Care business makes Sonova the worldʼs second-largest provider of hearing care, with the potential, capability, and determination to achieve further significant profitable growth. Our omni-channel strategy gives us early, direct, and intimate understanding of our consumersʼ needs. Our recognized audiological expertise and access to the full range of Sonova products and solutions offers an excellent consumer proposition at every stage from first contact to specialist medical treatment. Our consistent yet flexible market approach keeps our sales process efficient and productive, and our dedication to continuous improvement frees up resources for the strategic expansion of our network.
Audiological Careʼs global platform comprises around 3,200 points of sale, employing over 6,500 employees in 20 key markets. In each country, we operate through single recognized store brands, but we implement consistent and integrated business practices and systems worldwide. Our close connection with Sonovaʼs other businesses and shared systematic approach provides us – and them – with valuable insights and tools to deepen consumer contact, expand into new markets, and drive further consumer-relevant innovation.
A comprehensive omni-channel strategy
The hearing care market is influenced by a wide range of evolving consumer needs: for ever-better hearing performance, for ease-of-use, for expert services, for medical solutions, and also for value, convenience, and choice. Our omni-channel strategy offers a multitude of possible contact points on the way to satisfying those consumer needs: from building awareness on social media, through apps and websites, to call centers, in-store consultation, and home visits. This gives us the flexibility to fulfill rapidly evolving requirements; for instance, during the COVID pandemic we were able to pivot swiftly from safely distanced in-store support to online consultation and back again as user preferences changed. It also gives us a rich, detailed knowledge of changing consumer behavior which we can apply to generating further leads and informing Sonovaʼs product development.
To make full use of this knowledge, we launched in late 2019 the Lead Generation Factory in Berlin: an independent hub with the goal of building in-house expertise in digital lead generation, increasing revenue at a lower cost per lead, and serving younger, more affluent consumers through our omni-channel proposition. The results have fully fulfilled our high expectations, generating tens of thousands of new leads, significant revenue growth, and higher average sales prices. We are now expanding this capability to the whole of the EU and expect to roll it out worldwide over time.
Entering China, accelerating eCommerce
Healthcare is among the fastest-growing consumer needs in China, and the size of the market is only matched by its complexity: there is no one-size approach. We have therefore committed to implementing our full omni-channel strategy in this market. As a starting point for further expansion, and based on the established habits of Chinese consumers, we have launched our presence on Tencent Health, part of the WeChat platform used daily by more than 1.3 billion Chinese people, and on Alibaba Health, part of the largest B2C eCommerce platform in the country. Through these channels, Chinese consumers can find information about hearing care, conduct a digital hearing self-test, and book an appointment with one of the retail networks, totaling more than 300 stores, with which we have established partnerships through our Hearing Instruments wholesale business.
Our own eCommerce activity in multiple markets has also significantly and rapidly accelerated, both through our own branded eShops and through the acquisition in 2019 of the French company Audilo; we are now present in 13 countries. The success of Audilo is clearly reflected by its performance, with sales doubling in 2020. The overall mission for eCommerce is to increase consumer awareness, expand the sales value generated per customer with ancillary products and services, reach new consumers in our existing markets, and enter new markets where we do not yet have a physical presence.
World of Hearing
We have been using the market knowledge gained through our own multiple channels and shared from other Sonova businesses to configure our store network to best reflect consumer needs and optimize operating return. This involves adjusting location density to provide more even coverage and reduce average consumer journey time; providing different store formats, including remote fitting centers to support our omni-channel proposition; and opening more of our flagship World of Hearing stores as regional hubs of expertise, to which other stores can send referrals.
Launched in 2018 and with 10 stores opened by the end of the financial year in four markets, our World of Hearing store concept establishes our differentiation through deep audiological expertise. Sonova stands for a premium level of hearing performance, features, and solutions; World of Hearing gives these a physical market presence, offering consumers direct contact with the full solution spectrum from simple hearing protection to tailored, “medicalized” treatments. The results have been very encouraging, including a 20% reduction in lead time, younger customers, and a higher share of premium products sold. We are now building one World of Hearing store every month and intend to have rolled out the concept globally in the near future.