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Strategic Management - Amazon, LV and Cisco

Strategic Management - case of Amazon, Louis Vuitton and Cisco

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Strategic Management - Amazon, LV and Cisco

  1. 1. 1. Table of Contents 1. Amazon.com...........................................................................................3 1.1 Introduction and Background ........................................................................................... 3 1.2 Main Products, Services and Business Level Strategy .................................................... 4 1.2.1 The Mission and Vision............................................................................................ 4 1.2.2 Products and Services ............................................................................................... 4 1.2.3 Evaluation of the Business Level Strategy ............................................................... 6 1.2.4 Critique...................................................................................................................... 8 1.2.5 Summary................................................................................................................... 9 1.3 Corporate Level Strategy ............................................................................................... 10 1.3.1 Financial strategy.................................................................................................... 10 1.3.2 Products and services diversification strategy ........................................................ 10 1.3.3 Globalization and Horizontal integration................................................................ 11 1.4 Competitive Advantages ................................................................................................ 11 1.4.1 Overall Cost Leadership.......................................................................................... 11 1.4.2 Wide Products Range.............................................................................................. 12 1.4.3 Technology differentiation – e-Commerce system, Kindle device and AWS ........ 12 1.4.4 Global Presence....................................................................................................... 12 2. Louis Vuitton........................................................................................13 2.1 Introduction and Background ......................................................................................... 13 2.2 Main Products, Services, and Business Level Strategy ................................................. 14 2.2.1 Evaluation of the Business Level Strategy ............................................................. 14 2.2.2 Critique.................................................................................................................... 16 2.2.3 Summary................................................................................................................. 18 2.3 Corporate Level Strategy ............................................................................................... 18 2.3.1 Vertical Integration................................................................................................. 18 2.4 Competitive Advantages ................................................................................................ 19 2.4.1 Strong Brand Positioning........................................................................................ 19 2.4.2 Rich History and Absolute Quality......................................................................... 20 2.4.3 Differentiation and Marketing Know-How ............................................................ 20 3. Cisco.....................................................................................................21 3.1 Introduction and Background ......................................................................................... 21 3.2 Main Products, Services, and Business Level Strategy ................................................. 22 3.2.1 Evaluation of the Business Level Strategy ............................................................. 22 3.2.2 Vision and Mission ................................................................................................. 22 3.2.3 Focused Differentiation Strategy ............................................................................ 23 3.2.4 Critique.................................................................................................................... 24 3.2.5 Summary................................................................................................................. 25 3.3 Corporate Level Strategy ............................................................................................... 26 3.3.1 Inorganic Growth through Acquisition................................................................... 26 3.3.2 Challenges through Acquisition Strategy ............................................................... 27 3.4 Competitive Advantages ................................................................................................ 27 3.4.1 Robust Inorganic Growth Strategy ......................................................................... 27 3.4.2 Wide Array of Products and Innovation ................................................................. 28
  2. 2. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 2 3.4.3 Superior Service Differentiation ............................................................................. 28 3.4.4 Strong Organization Structure, Culture and Leadership Team............................... 28 References...................................................................................................29
  3. 3. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 3 1. Amazon.com - The smile that goes from A to Z tells that the company is willing to deliver any product, anywhere in the world. 1.1 Introduction and Background “I knew it was big, but I had no idea how big”. This is the response given by one of fellow OUM- MM students when asked about Amazon.com, the pioneer of e-commerce firm. Amazon is one of the largest global online retailers alongside eBay, Hastings Entertainment, Wal-Mart Stores, Target Corporation, Sony Corporation and Barnes & Noble. According to Hudspeth (2015) from the MarketLine, reported that Amazon recorded revenues of $88,988 million in the financial year ended December 2014. Amazon is much bigger in size than its closest competitor eBay, recorded revenues of $17,902 million in the same fiscal year. The founder and CEO of Amazon is Jeff Bezos, one of the best performing CEOs in the world today. Jeff Bezos graduated from Princeton University with two Bachelor of Science degrees in electrical engineering and computer science in 1986. He then spent eight years at Wall Street before moved to Seattle and setting up his own company in his tiny garage in 1994. Bezos chose Seattle as the company headquarters because of its large high-tech workforce and its proximity to a large distribution center in Oregon. Bezos and few others then began building a website that would sell books. Initial vision Bezos had in his mind was an online bookstore that could offer millions more books to millions more customers than a typical bricks-and-mortar bookstore. Amazon debuted as an e-commerce site, Amazon.com, in July 1995 and became the exclusive book retailer on the Netscape and America Online websites. In the first month of its operation, sold books to customers in 50 states and in 45 countries. The business model then expanded into CDs, DVDs, toys, apparel and other goods (McGinn, 2015), (Hudspeth, 2015). Last year, in 2015, Amazon.com was ranked among top 100 of America’s largest corporations and it was also featured among top 10 global brands in the top 500 global brands
  4. 4. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 4 2015, and was also ranked among the top three US retail brands in the top 50 US retail brands 2015 list released by multiple sources include Fortune 500, Forbes and Millward Brown. Today, the market valuation of the company is worth $204 billion, with an approximately of 154,100 full- time and part-time employees. (Marketshare, They, & Be, 2015), (Amazon.com SWOT, 2015), (Amazon.com Annual Report, 2014), (Amazon, 2014), (Millward Brown “2015 Top 100 Brand”, 2015). 1.2 Main Products, Services and Business Level Strategy As one of Internet commerce pioneers in the 1990s, the company strived to set the standard for web businesses to compete with thousands more dot-com companies across the globe. With that, Bezos’s strategic planning was to develop a web site as customer friendly as possible and innovative through the use of technology to all types of customers. The main approach adopted by Bezos is overall cost-leadership strategy alongside technology differentiation and customer orientation. (Amazon.com Annual Report, 2014), (Amazon.com “Encyclopedia”, 2004). 1.2.1 The Mission and Vision The mission of the Amazon is “To be earth’s most customer centric company’ to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online” and the vision is “To leverage technology and the expertise of our invaluable employees to provide our customers with the best shopping experience on the Internet”. The customer is almost everything to Bezos and therefore he keeps the company focused on providing exceptional service to customers. 1.2.2 Products and Services In 1999, due to heavy competition and price wars with two other main competitors, namely Barnes & Noble and Borders, Bezos expanded the business to sell other kinds of products using the backbone of his website and the company. (Amazon.com “Encyclopedia”, 2004). Bezos could see another online business that could make an impact was music CDs. He knew that books and CDs were a good fit with each other, so in the same year, he announced his company’s intention to become the “earth’s biggest book and music store”. According to Hill and Jones (2009), the
  5. 5. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 5 company used its IT competencies to widen its product line by selling music CDs and this strategy works well, and Bezos continues to expand his product range since then. 1.2.2.1 Amazon Kindle One of the popular products ever produced by Amazon is Kindle e-reader device. The concept behind the product was to make the user read the books in a completely new way and the user can use this handy device to read books of any size instead of carrying bulky books. It was launched in 2007 in the US market. Within hours, all units were sold out and remain out of stock for six months. The Kindle e-reader is Amazon’s portable reader that wirelessly downloads books, blogs, magazines and newspapers to a high-resolution electronic paper display that looks like real paper. The reading materials are downloadable from its store called Kindle Store. (Hudspeth, 2015). Figure 1.0 exhibits the products and services rendered by Amazon. Figure 1.0 – Amazon Products and Services 1.2.2.2 Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud computing has become one of the most discussed IT paradigms of recent years. One of the differentiation strategies applied by Amazon is through technological differentiation. According
  6. 6. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 6 to Amazon annual report (2014), they had spent over a decade and millions of dollars building and managing the large-scale, reliable, and efficient IT infrastructure that powered one of the world’s largest online retail platforms. Amazon launched Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2006 so that other organizations could benefit from Amazon’s experience and investment in running a large- scale distributed, transactional IT infrastructure. Today, the company runs a global web platform serving millions of customers and managing billions of dollars’ worth of commerce every year. Figure 1.1 exhibits the AWS infrastructure. Figure 1.1 – AWS platform 1.2.3 Evaluation of the Business Level Strategy An article titled “Business Level Strategy” wrote by Alan S. Gutterman (2011), supported the notion about Amazon operates based on hybrid strategy, low-cost and technology differentiated strategy. The firm is competing in a large target market, regardless of demographic differences as long as they are connected to the Internet.
  7. 7. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 7 1.2.3.1 Low-cost and Differentiation Gutterman (2011), added that Amazon’s strategy of selling books over the internet simultaneously created a differentiated and low-cost competitive advantages that has significantly challenged the existing bookstores in the market. Taking Kindle store as an example, more than 60% of the 1,000,000 books are offered at a fixed price of $9.99 or less and Amazon even offers several books free to read on Kindle devices. (Amazon.com “Company Profile”, 2015). From the differentiation strategy perspective, Amazon’s online catalog of literally every available book in the English language provides choices for customers that could not be matched by even the most specialized book store. In addition, Amazon used its elaborate and innovative IT structure to dramatically reduce costs associated with procurement, marketing and distribution of books and at the same time created opportunities for customers to obtain the same discounted pricing offered by bookstores along with the convenience of shopping from their home or office with “prompt delivery”. “Prompt delivery” here means, the book or reading material can be read from the e-reader, the Kindle upon purchase confirmation. (Alan S. Gutterman, 2011). 1.2.3.2 Market Development China and India are the two big growth markets today. As reported in the Amazon Annual Report (2014), Amazon made a debut in India on June 2013 and China in 2004 through acquisition of local company, Joyo.com. With a huge population and increasingly web-connected shoppers from these countries, Amazon.com took the challenge and enter the market especially in India. On the first day of operations, Amazon.com received nearly 10,000 orders and the site offers over 15 million products for India market today. By invading India, the e-commerce giant has become the largest marketplace in the country. However, Amazon is struggling in China as the market share is strongly dominated by Alibaba, the local company and the direct competitor of Amazon. 1.2.3.3 Organization Structure, Culture and Leadership As cited in many business journal articles, the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos is the man who shaped Amazon.com’s culture. Former Amazonians would describe Bezos as hardly the dream boss,
  8. 8. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 8 uncomfortable and adversarial (Business Journal, 2013), but at the end of the day, the bottom line is more important to him. In the Amazon culture, there is always a better way to do things. Bezos is a believer of small teams, the “Two Pizza Rule”; if a team cannot feed with two pizzas, and it’s too large. With him, independent thought should prevail over groupthink. In the Amazon, team members are limited to five or seven members only, depending on the task. Jeff believes, small team is more efficient to generate more ideas in line with its differentiation strategy. Another behavior of Bezos is he is not a fan of complacency and also does not tolerate with incompetency. Amazon promotes open communication and transparency within the organization which also drives the competitive advantages, especially in the customer experience area. Amazon promotes a strong leadership style led by the CEO, also has a strict organizational culture and a lean organizational structure to support the business level strategies. It sounds like Amazon employed a rigid way of managing an organization, but it has been proven to be successful in any ways they do their business. 1.2.4 Critique In a book wrote by Michael Porter “Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance” (1985), mentioned that powerful competitive approach in the market is to be low- cost producer as many buyers are price-sensitive. Lower cost is used as a basis to either underpricing competitors and gaining market share or earning a higher profit margin selling at the lowest price. This strategy, however, has a drawback as cited in the Business Insider article, “Former Amazon Employee Explains How the Company’s Business Model Really Works”, (2013). The author stressed out that Amazon is profitable in its retail operations, but losing money overall because it’s investing heavily in another area to expand the business globally and to strengthen the e-commerce technology differentiation which has been the bread and butter for the company. This statement is also supported by many market analysts including the recent company profile prepared by MarketLine where Amazon was running at a loss in the first decade of its operation. (Amazon.com “Company Profile”, 2015).
  9. 9. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 9 In terms of its differentiation strategy through design, quality and the use of technology and e-commerce system, the risk associated to it is inability to keep with rapid technology changes as well as avoiding e-commerce service failure. Many empirical studies include (Parkhurst, 2013) and (Tan et al, 2016) used none other than Amazon.com e-commerce failures as an example of how bad the business impact resulted from such failures. On August 19, 2013, Amazon.com was down for mere forty minutes, which causing the online retail giant lost sales of $4.72 million. The research further elaborated that shoppers who encountered any form of e-commerce service failure will no longer purchase from the faulty website, some would switch to a traditional retailer and others will notify friends and family of the negative experience. Due to such experience, customers may be reluctant to engage in future online transactions and the firm unable to attract new customers. As such, it is imperative for responsible business units covering R&D and engineering teams to be more proactive rather than reactive in ensuring the system is operating perfectly. The given example is just one example, focusing on system failure. Online system should be available 24x7 and any downtime in between will jeopardize the brand image as well as the business competitive advantages. 1.2.5 Summary In summary, Amazon’s strategy is in-line with the corporate goal where customer experience is utmost important to the firm. Amazon believes by selling items at a lower price would make the firm generate more income as they would continue selling items and increase sales volume. The use of advanced technology is indeed improves the customer online shopping experience as well as customer’s satisfaction with the overall service provided by Amazon. The company delivers as what they promised “Premium Products at Non Premium Prices”.
  10. 10. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 10 1.3 Corporate Level Strategy 1.3.1 Financial strategy It was never an easy ride for Amazon to be what they are today. The firm did not make any profits until early 2000s when the firm had finally become profitable. The outcome was already forecasted by the CEO of the firm when he mentioned that he did not expect his company to become profitable for several years. (Hill & Jones, 2009). Due to the fact that Amazon was the first major dot-com retailer, the firm received a huge amount of free national publicity. Book sales quickly picked up and Amazon became a model for other dot-com companies. Within six months, he had to search for additional capital to fund his growing venture. As book sales skyrocketed, the CEO decided the best way to raise more capital would be to take the company public and issue stock. As a result, on May 1997, Amazon.com’s stock began trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange. (Hill & Jones, 2009), (Amazon.com “Company Profile”, 2015). (Amazon.com Annual Report, 2014). 1.3.2 Products and services diversification strategy The Amazon Associates program is one of the key growth strategy created by Amazon. Any business or person that operates a website can become affiliated with Amazon by putting an official hyperlink to Amazon’s website on its own website. The associate will receive a commission from Amazon if a referral results in a sale. The program generated large hits to the Amazon website and has increased sales volume. Today, millions of associates signed up with Amazon and the program itself has been replicated by many other dot-com companies. (Hill & Jones, 2009). In 1999, Amazon had a major competition in the industry with bricks-and-mortar bookstores where they began a price war that resulted in falling book prices. This was the moment when Amazon realized the current resource and technology infrastructure could do more than just selling books online – it could be used to sell other kinds of products. Amazon started products diversification strategy by selling music CDs. The strategy was well accepted by customers as they now have an option to music CDs instead of just books. (Hill & Jones, 2009). From year 2000 on, Amazon expanded their storefronts and began to sell a wider range of electronic and other products such as cameras, DVD players, MP3 players, clothing, apparels, software, toys, baby products, jewelry, beauty products, watches and the list go on.
  11. 11. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 11 1.3.3 Globalization and Horizontal integration Amazon was again made full use of its core competency - technology to go a step further by going global. In 1996, the first overseas virtual company was established after Amazon acquired a strong local company called Bookpages.com and renamed it as Amazon.co.uk. Soon after that, Amazon Australia, New Zealand, India, Germany, France, Canada, China and Japan. In Germany, the same strategy was used like in the UK. It acquired a new online venture called ABC Bucherdienst/Telebuch.de and created Amazon.de in 1998. (Hill & Jones, 2009). According to Hill and Jones (2009), the strategy, then expanded by acquiring many smaller companies to further strengthen its distinctive competencies in IT and to develop more kinds of web-based IT commercial services that it could sell to both brick-and-mortar and online companies. As an example, in 1998 Amazon bought a free service Internet Movie Database (www.IMDb.com). Amazon transformed the site into a commercial venture by adding features like search function to find DVDs and make related suggestions to encourage additional purchases. Other examples of other companies acquired by Amazon are Exchange.com, specialized in hard- to-to-find book titles, hard-to-find music titles at MusicFile.com, PlanetAll.com, Junglee.com, A9.com, a search engine company and many more. (Hill & Jones, 2009), (Amazon.com “Company Profile”, 2015). (Amazon.com Annual Report, 2014). 1.4 Competitive Advantages Based on the above justification, we may conclude that Amazon is successful due to several competitive advantages as follows: 1.4.1 Overall Cost Leadership As cited by Gutterman (2011), Amazon has successfully executed a low-cost strategy in many aspects of its business model. As a result, Amazon is charging extremely low price to its customers. Low prices have become the main competitive advantage of the company. The strategy of selling books via the Internet is the easiest example of how Amazon is implementing a low cost strategy as compared to the typical bricks-and-mortar bookstores.
  12. 12. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 12 1.4.2 Wide Products Range In the latest company profile prepared by MarketLine (Amazon.com “Company Profile”, 2015), reported that Amazon delivers the most extensive product range amongst other online retailers. Amazon India, for example, offers 20 million products from over 21,000 sellers. 1.4.3 Technology differentiation – e-Commerce system, Kindle device and AWS Amazon, is known to be the pioneer of e-commerce system in the dot-com era. The website and the e-commerce system (such as 1-Click system) provided by Amazon is convenient, user friendly, secured and reliable. Customers perform online shopping via Amazon.com with peace of mind and always return to do next purchase. The Amazon e-reader, Kindle device is one of the greatest inventions of Amazon. Apart from the series of products, the AWS service, including cloud computing service has served thousands of online entrepreneurs and businesses. AWS operates from twelve geographical regions across the world. (Amazon.com “Company Profile”, 2015). 1.4.4 Global Presence Today, under the international business segment, Amazon is available in twelve different countries across the world through UK, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, China, Spain, Brazil, India, Australia, Mexico and The Netherlands. Amazon sees higher potential to grow the company in the international segment and therefore they invested more in this segment.
  13. 13. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 13 2. Louis Vuitton 2.1 Introduction and Background Some usually associate LV brand with luxury leather bags, the iconic Monogram Canvas of “Speedy”, “Neverfull”, “Galliera” and “Alma” are the famous design to name a few. Matter of fact, LV is more than just selling leather bags. The brand is famous with its LV monogram which is featured on most of its products ranging from luxury trunks, leather goods, ready-to-wear, shoes, watches, jewelry, sunglasses and accessories. LV is a French fashion house founded by Louis Vuitton in the eighteenth century who is originally a luggage maker or malletier. In 1858, Louis Vuitton introduced a modern luggage which is flat-bottom trunks that could be stacked as opposed to the rounded trunks that were popular at the time. The innovation went frenzy all over France and other luggage makers, started to imitate Louis Vuitton’s design. The invention is the key point of success for the LV brand today. (LVMH “Company Profile”, 2015). The parent company of LV, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton is led by Bernard Arnault, the CEO of the firm. It is headquartered in Paris and primarily operates in Europe, Asia and the US. The firm was established in 1987 after a successful merger between Moet Hennessy and Louis Vuitton. The firm is worth an estimate $24.7 billion and has been named as the most valuable brand in the luxury sector as recently announced by the research group Millward Brown and WPP. The firm has dominated the luxury sector for many years since 2006 and ranked 34th in brand value across all industries. (Millward Brown “2015 Top 100 Brand”, 2015).
  14. 14. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 14 2.2 Main Products, Services, and Business Level Strategy The LVMH group comprises of multiple brands in six different products and services; 1) fashion and leather goods, 2) selective retailing, 3) wines and spirits, 4) perfumes and cosmetics, 5) watches and jewelry, and 6) other activities and holding companies. LV brand is the leading name in the “Fashion and Leather Goods” category. This category includes trendy clothing and luxury accessories typically refer to products such as handbags, wallets, shoes, and belts made out of high quality leather. The brand’s products frequently display its highly-recognizable LV monogram. LV is famous for its handbags collection. The well-known design includes “Speedy” and “Neverfull”. LV also offers services like repair and restoration, and customization orders like personalization of the handbag by hot stamping initials, engraving, and so on. This small service has made the brand for appealing to the customer in regards to its lifetime repair guarantee (LVMH, 2015). Apart from the outstanding LV brand, the business group is also dealing with at least seventy other famous brands including TAG Heuer, Bulgari, Donna Karan, Loewe, Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior, Fendi, Kenzo and many more. (LVMH “Company Profile”, 2015). 2.2.1 Evaluation of the Business Level Strategy 2.2.1.1 Focused Differentiation Strategy LV celebrated its 160th anniversary in 2014 and one of the key success factors for the firm championing its high reputation in the segment is because of its focused differentiation strategy. The strategy refers to an action plan developed by LV to produce goods and services for a specific group, in this case for LV is medium to high income customers that perceive as being unique in ways that are important to them. Theoretically, the strategy employed by LV is quite challenging, but as the leader and long history of success, LV manages to sustain growth via its strong differentiation strategy and competitive advantages to outperform other competitors in the market. 2.2.1.2 Product and Pricing LV emphasizes highly on product quality which provides customers with superior quality, prestige and exclusivity. In the marketplace example, there are many handbags made of leather with design,
  15. 15. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 15 look and feel are matched with ones produced by LV. But why customers in the target market prefers LV over other products is merely because LV never compromised its product quality. Therefore, LV able to price the LV brand at a premium price. In a different perspective, LV has a strong belief in prohibiting bargain sales, never marked down, ever. (Nagasawa, 2009). Throughout a long history, LV has not held a bargain sale. The simple reason is because LV commitment to “absolute quality” and “attention to fine detail”. These elements answer the question of the premium pricing policy applied by LV. 2.2.1.3 Differentiation Apart from product quality, materials used, professional labor to make up its product differentiation strategy, LV offers custom-made or personalization request as part of its service offering. As cited in many business magazines and celebrity magazines, many celebrities and personalities ordered custom-made handbags and other leather goods from LV. On one occasion where LV translates the service into an opportunity by commercializing one of the custom-orders by an actress into LV’s product lines. Over time, due to wear-and-tear, the leather goods require servicing, cleaning or repairs. LV provides repair and restoration service to its customer. The LV products' value will not degrade significantly and can be re-sell as “used” items. Using Japan as an example, there are second-hand shops selling branded items including LV products at reasonable price. Customer may opt to keep or sell their collection to these shops after refurbished. According to Nagasawa (2009), LV’s repair service is famously renowned as a service which wins over the trust of customers and provides a sense of stability to the brand strength. The example of service differentiation strategy given above has increased customer satisfaction as well as increased brand loyalty. Customers will not switch brands, but will return to buy more LV which eventually adding up statistic of loyal customers. Another key differentiation is its distribution channel strategy where LV only offers a limited distribution strategy. The typical business strategy would create broad distribution channels, but LV prefers its customers to feel that LV is such a valuable product by limiting the number of its stores to only in the luxury shopping areas. On top of that, LV has 100% control
  16. 16. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 16 over all its distribution channels in almost all geographies to ensure the management is updated on every detail of company activities from product creation, marketing, sales and so on. 2.2.1.4 Organization Structure, Culture and Leadership LV employs a unique culture internally to complement their business strategy. Unlike other MNCs, LV hires local people to lead the branch where they operated. They don’t assign French to manage a shop in Japan, where he or she has less cultural knowledge about the host country. Another example of unique culture is LV encourage leavers to rejoin the company, simply put, to learn from the market competition and come back. (Shipilov and Godart, 2015). Such culture improves differentiation in term of customer service as well as better understanding of local culture improves the revenue growth as local managers know when to launch aggressive marketing strategy and so forth. 2.2.2 Critique The apparent risks associated with premium pricing and “absolute quality” differentiation are threats of substitutes, rivalry and imitation. However, LV is not impacted by the first two threats due to strong customer brand loyalty. The customer is less sensitive to price as long as the product can satisfy their needs. Referring to Porter’s generic strategies (1985), the key success factor in differentiation strategy is to make the product either very difficult or very expensive for rivals to replicate the product. He mentioned that when a product is deemed to be very high in quality added with aesthetic element for its contemporary design (difficult and expensive), companies can confidently command a premium price in the market they are competing and at the same time it increases buyers loyalty index based on the product offerings. In a study on “crisis impact on luxury product in Japan” conducted by (Tamura et al, 2012), concluded that the post crisis of March 2011, the terrible earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophes, it took only a few months for Japanese consumers to back to their normal “luxury” and “stylish” life. Japan is known for its street fashion and has been recognized by the world for its sense of style and avant-garde. The study indicated that there are many factors contributing to
  17. 17. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 17 the comeback, but one of the reasons is “trust and confident” of the product which is highly regarded to brand loyalty. Due to LV’s expensive price tag, absolute quality, strong brand image and so forth, the biggest risk in pursuing differentiation strategy is counterfeit goods or imitation. This issue affects the sales of LV products badly and tarnishes the brand image. Low on quality could hurt customer loyalty when they buy such products by mistake. According to Nagasawa (2009), “Excellent goods are being counterfeited”. LV does not neglect the care and upkeep needed to protect its brands. In fighting the counterfeiting issue, LV has listed out number of policies and principles to keep the issue at bay. Some of the principles are 1) Enlighten campaigns – by conducting seminar and symposium related to intellectual property (IP), 2) Distribution of Warning Notices – to companies like Rakuten the Japan largest e-commerce site, eBay, Amazon and so on, 3) Registration of Trademark and Designs, 4) Appraisals of authenticity at second-hand store, 4) Mass media awareness – “genuine or fake, spot the difference”, 5) Product identification through serial numbers with a name affixed to it and many more. It shows that LV is serious in combating counterfeit issue mainly to protect its brand image and revenue growth. Figure 2.1 distinguishes fake and real LV handbag. Figure 2.1 Fake and Real LV has to put a significant amount of efforts and resources to combat counterfeit LV products thus protecting the brand image. Asia is known to be the highest counterfeit product issue. As a
  18. 18. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 18 mitigation to the risk, LV opened up boutiques in China, Japan and India, at the same time leveraging Asia’s large market. (Nagasawa, 2009), (LV “Company Profile”, 2015). 2.2.3 Summary In summary, LV is taking advantage of their own creativity and brand identity to form its competitive advantages and confidently position its brand in luxury and premium segment. Avoiding price wars are part of the firm’s policy, strict pricing policy which indirectly giving a strong message to customers that LV products is an “absolute quality” as the primary competitive advantage. The overall strategy is seen to be as effective as its target market attracted to the strategy and LV has proven by championing the luxury and leather goods segment for many years. 2.3 Corporate Level Strategy The main corporate level strategy employed by LV, in dominating the luxury and leather goods segment is via vertical integration. According to Delpal (2014), a company is said to be vertically integrated when it is present at several successive stages of the production process of a product. The strategy was initiated by former CEO of LV, Yves Carcelle. According to Vanessa Friedman (2014), the greatest contribution of the late LV’s CEO, in the industry was identifying the value of “extreme verticalization” and control to a luxury brand. It was the biggest strategy for LV of owning their manufacturing and all their stores – total control of everything. 2.3.1 Vertical Integration By implementing vertical integration strategy, the firm has extraordinary information about its customers or “big data”, being the buzzword today. The strategy also enables the firm to shape its image and inventory. The strategy drives the brand exclusivity and positioning as for an example given earlier, where LV products never went on sale and never sold “in airports” to maintain premium and luxury status.
  19. 19. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 19 2.3.1.1 Backward and Forward Vertical Integration An academia and French economist, Franck Delpal (2014) wrote in his journal titled “Vertical Integration in Luxury Companies” mentioned that LV is the leader in the vertical integration movement. Achievements made by the firm are adding new tannery in Belgium, controlling the manufacture of leather good in more than twenty production plants in France, Spain, USA and Italy. The primary reason for backward vertical integration employed by LV is to serve fast- growing demand and to maintain “absolute quality” especially leather goods – handbags and shoes. The strategy is even more obvious in forward vertical integration. Managing and controlling all distribution activities are much more thorough. The explanation for this strategy is to secure the firm’s good execution at the production stage is also replicated at the distribution stage. Delpal (2014) states that one of the objectives of this strategy is to guarantee of the best service during and after-sales, and for a better knowledge of customers. The vertical integration movement led by Yves Carcelle has also seen as rapid expansion of the firm. In the 1990s, the firm started acquisitions spree. The firm added new tannery in Belgium, controlling the manufacture of leather goods in more than 20 production plants in France, Spain, US and Italy. Between 2003 and 2010, more than 100 new stores, including one in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Today, the late CEO is remembered as “the Christopher Columbus of luxury”. 2.4 Competitive Advantages Based on the above justification, LV has a number of competitive advantages which can be summarized as follows: 2.4.1 Strong Brand Positioning LV is the best among the best as reported by Millward Brown “BrandZ” ranking. The brand has been dominated the luxury category since a decade ago. LV has an established identity and value perception. Despite economy downturn, LV still able to sell their products without mark downs to boost up sales due to its strong brand position. The brand image is valued as being prestigious,
  20. 20. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 20 exclusive and unique by its loyal customers and supporters. The strong base of LV brand positioning, lead to other opportunities, it enables the firm to penetrate quickly into new markets. Asia market for instance Japan, China and India have been a major success story. 2.4.2 Rich History and Absolute Quality LV has been in the luxury segment for more than 160 years. It is one of the oldest fashion houses in the world. The product is easy to recognize by its famous initials, LV and monogram canvas. The leather goods are “absolute quality”, added by innovation, craftsmanship, association with art and architecture made up a perfect combination to constantly champion the premium and luxury segment. Furthermore, The LV products have been the flagship brand among all other businesses run by the LVMH group. 2.4.3 Differentiation and Marketing Know-How Product and service differentiation distinguish LV from its competitors. The key success has been mentioned a few times earlier from its high quality of raw materials use, repairs and restore, custom-orders services and the firm’s innovation in its marketing know-how further strengthens the brand position in the market. Deploying total-control strategy of its business operations by not relying on third party gives another competitive advantage to the firm as the management holds the “big data” from the manufacturing stage up to its clientele activities.
  21. 21. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 21 3. Cisco San Francisco “Golden Gate Bridge” 3.1 Introduction and Background Cisco Systems is a global leader in data networking for the Internet, but some may wonder what and where Cisco is originated. Cisco is not an acronym, but it is an abbreviation of the city name, San Francisco. Ironically, the logo is also based on the design of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. According to John Morgridge, the 34th employee of Cisco when he joined as President and CEO in 1988, the founders decided on the name and the logo while driving to Sacramento to register the company. They saw the Golden Gate Bridge framed in the sunlight and that is how Cisco logo was born. (Cisco Blog, 2012). December 1984, two former computer scientists Leonard Bosack and his wife Sander Lerner founded Cisco Systems. Both of them were in charge of the Stanford University computer science department. They started off the wrong way by stealing the university’s multiple protocol router software which they used to experiment with building their own router. They managed to build exact replicas of Standford’s router named “Blue Box”. In July 1986, Bosack and his new collaborator Kirk Loughheed were forced to resign from Standford on charges on copyright violation and theft. It was not a show-stopper for them when they created their own Cisco IOS and steadily making sales nearly 2 million a month in 1987. This seminal breakthrough, played a major role in fueling the growth of the Internet. In 1990, the firm went public as Cisco Systems, Inc. The firm operates worldwide global presence in America, Europe and Asia Pacific supported by more than 74,000 employees. In the fiscal year 2014, the firm recorded revenues of $ 47 million. The achievements are resulted from the firm’s robust inorganic growth strategy through acquisitions. Today, Cisco is the leading supplier of networking systems, products and services, as well as the leading network solution provider in the world. (Cisco “Company Profile”, 2015).
  22. 22. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 22 3.2 Main Products, Services, and Business Level Strategy The primary product of Cisco from the beginning is the internetworking router, a hardware device incorporating software that automatically selects the most effective route for data to flow between networks. The firm rapidly evolved and the profile today includes designs and sells lines of networking products, provides consultation services and delivers integrated solutions to develop networks around the world primarily building the Internet. Cisco groups its products and services in various categories; 1) Switching, 2) Next- Generation Network (NGN) Routing, 3) Collaboration, 4) Service Provider Video 5) Data Center 6) Wireless, 7) Security and 8) Other Products and Services. In addition to Cisco’s product offerings, it provides a range of service offerings, including technical support services and advanced services like cloud computing, mobility and analytics. Cisco switching and routing products are the largest and most profitable segments within the industry, carrying flagship products like “Catalyst Series”, “7000 Series”, “2000 Series” and many more from various sub-category. Under collaboration portfolio, the firm integrates voice, video, data and mobile applications on fixed and mobile networks. Service Provider Video provides end-to-end digital video systems and digital interactive. Under services, the firm provides technical support services which help customers to ensure Cisco products operate efficiently, remain available and benefit from the most up-to-date system software, and help customers protect their network investments and minimize downtime for systems running critical applications. (Cisco “Company Profile”, 2015). 3.2.1 Evaluation of the Business Level Strategy 3.2.2 Vision and Mission The vision of the firm is “At Cisco, our vision is to change the way people work, live, play and learn” and the mission is “to enable people to make powerful connections-whether in business, education, philanthropy, or creativity.
  23. 23. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 23 3.2.3 Focused Differentiation Strategy The history of the early days of the firm prompted the primary strategy of the firm – differentiation strategy. The invention of the first multiprotocol router and its ability to support more network protocols were the key differentiation advantage over other router manufacturers. The niche market focused on universities, aerospace industries, high-end corporate network and government agencies or can be divided into three main segments; 1) Enterprise, 2) Service Providers, 3) Small/medium business. 3.2.3.1 Product Leadership The firm maintains as a key player in each segment is through innovative activities by Cisco’s R&D teams, engineering teams, and complemented by alliances and customers. Cisco preferred to use its internal R&D teams for product development and the majority of its products developed by its internal R&D teams. However, due to rapidly changing markets, the firm understood that the firm is not able to cope with the demand and therefore the firm decided to go ahead with the partnership or through acquisition (Bower, 2001), (Paulson, 2001) which will be discussed further in corporate level strategy. Through all the efforts and investment the firm allocated in this area, Cisco products have been the key source of the firm’s competitive advantages to stay ahead of its competitors in all segments they are competing. 3.2.3.2 Service Differentiation As the business grows, the customer database is also expanding rapidly. Let’s put aside the technical service differentiation which is already proven to be best in the market. In a different perspective, Cisco provides top-notch customer service experience. Cisco has not only sold products, but provides end-to-end service from design stage, implementation and customer support. The firm takes full advantage of data collected through social media and customer application to provide personalized experienced in a variety interactive formats. Cisco builds alliance thru Cisco partners to ensure customer service is well taken care of and to stimulate consistency among the partners, Cisco values their partners by giving a service excellence award. This shows Cisco is not only money making company by selling, but also provide the best customer service support. (Cisco “Company Profile”, 2015).
  24. 24. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 24 3.2.3.3 Organization Structure, Culture and Leadership As mentioned by Gutterman (2011), there are correlation between organizational structure, values and culture, and leadership style with the business strategy. In June, 2015, Cisco announced the new leadership team. As cited in Business Insider (2015), the new CEO, Chuck Robbins said the team will move to a flatter leadership team designed for the speed, innovation and execution that is required of them over the next decade. The structure is seen to be more suitable in support of the business strategies. The other important values and culture emphasized and championed by former CEO, John Chambers is the introduction of “culture badge”. Each employee must carry his or her culture badge at all times while working. This card tangibly emphasizes the commitment of senior management and the company as a whole to the values that have led to their phenomenal success and a reminder that the ultimate goal is customer success. Again, it is in line with the differentiation strategy employed by the firm. (Stefanek, 2004). Figure 3.1 – Culture Badge 3.2.4 Critique Competitors in this segment would gauge Cisco and will try as much as they could to beat Cisco. It’s not easy but nothing is impossible. Primarily banking on differentiation strategy for a technology company like Cisco won’t guarantee sustainability if the business units responsible for R&D and engineering do not keep a close watch on the latest trend and customer’s needs. Technology becomes obsolete overnight and therefore, it is imperative for Cisco to continuously
  25. 25. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 25 invest in product development and innovation activities. The situation is more a less the same like Amazon.com who is also applying the same technology differentiation strategy. Competitors can easily replace Cisco if they able to produce new product with better features, functionality, and at a cheaper price. Being a Networker myself and a big fan of Cisco, the introduction of Huawei (China) networking products which has similar qualities, features and functionality with lower price has indirectly impacted my purchasing decision. Other customers who have the same interest would do and think the same thing. Huawei, in the early days of their existence, is already sending a signal to all players in the industry that a low-cost company can make a big difference too. In an article written by Morehouse, O’Meara, Hagen & Huseby (2008), Huawei Technologies, a little-known Chinese start-up entered the networking industry in 1998 with a goal to match Cisco products quality and performance. Operating in a cheap labor country together with strong support from the Chinese government, they launched their products with seventy percent reduced cost compared to Cisco. Huawei’s business strategy is a low-cost strategy, but at the same time producing feature-rich network equipment. Since its debut, it has cut Cisco’s market share in China to less than forty percent. The Huawei snippet was a wake-up call for Cisco, even a high-tech firm with strong brand identities are not safe from low-cost rivals. Low-cost competitors like Huawei exploits their cheap labor advantage, inexpensive technologies (product) and partnerships (e.g. customer support) to break down the barriers and rewrite the rules of competition. 3.2.5 Summary As depicted in Figure 3.2, the firm is supported by its strong internal business function in the value chain to maintain as market leader in the industry. According to Stefanek (2004), their key success of the firm lies in its strong global communication capabilities between internal departments, suppliers, partners worldwide and customers. The success is also supported by strong and vocal leadership team together with strong internal culture as briefly discussed earlier.
  26. 26. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 26 Figure 3.2 – Cisco Value Chain Telecommunication Network Equipment Industry Value Chain Research And Development Sales and Distribution CustomersEngineering Production and Manufacturing Marketing 3.3 Corporate Level Strategy Cisco is considered to be the best-in-class acquirer of high-tech companies by industry experts as well as corporate strategy practitioners. According to Toppenberg et Al (2015), acquisitions have been an integral component of Cisco’s corporate strategy. After three decades, the firm has grown by 70,000 employees and revenues of $47 billion. The growth has been achieved through the acquisition and integration of 179 business units. (Cisco “Acquisitions”, 2016). 3.3.1 Inorganic Growth through Acquisition According to Toppenberg et al (2015), the aggressive acquisition activity started in 1993 through 1999 during the early Internet era and the growing popularity of corporate in-house intranets. The demand for a complex variety of networking solutions skyrocketing and the firm realized that they would not able to cope internally all technologies needed, which resorted Cisco to external sourcing and the relentless pace of acquisitions. Cisco announced the first acquisition of Crescendo Communications, the switching company in 1993. Cisco leveraged the company they just acquired and made $500 million revenue just eighteen months after acquisition. Based on this successful first experience, Cisco acquisition strategy focused mostly on small acquisitions only believing that larger, and more mature companies are difficult to integrate. From one acquisition in 1993 and three in 1994, Cisco increased the pace of deals to complete ten acquisitions in 1995 and 1996. The largest of which was StrataCom, Inc. Over time, the acquisition process rendered by Cisco becomes matured and recent larger acquisitions include Scientific-Atlanta ($6.9 billion), WebEx ($3.2 billion), Tandberg ($3.3
  27. 27. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 27 billion) and NDS Group ($5.0 billion). Former CEO of Cisco mentioned that Cisco typically makes acquisitions to gain access to complementary products or to innovative technologies and associated capabilities. He added that it is clear the role of acquisition integration is to drive growth in the company. (Toppenberg et al, 2015). 3.3.2 Challenges through Acquisition Strategy Post-acquisition is one of the well-known issues faced by Cisco. Using StrataCom acquisition experience, two major challenges were encountered. The first one was integrating the existing product line with the one from acquiring firm. In this example, Cisco had to discontinue its existing ATM product which had upset the existing customers and demoted the Cisco employees of the division developing these products. The second challenge was the sales compensation schemes mismatch between Cisco and StrataCom sales team, which resulting the departure of several key members of the StrataCom sales team. (Bunnel, 2000). It was a good lesson learned by Cisco in its growth and expansion experiences. In spite of the small glitch, Cisco continued its blistering acquisition pace in 1997 and 1998, announcing fourteen more deals. In 1999 it became more acquisitive by snapping up 18 more companies and the list goes on. 3.4 Competitive Advantages Based on the above justification, we can conclude Cisco has multiple competitive advantages. 3.4.1 Robust Inorganic Growth Strategy Cisco has a very good reputation when comes to acquisition strategy. It’s not only the networking leader, but also expert in acquisition strategy as many IT leaders and other market frequently seek Cisco’s advice on acquisition integration. (Cisco “Acquisitions”, 2016). The firm has made hundreds of acquisitions from 1993. Through past experiences, the firm acknowledged that the most critical and important challenge to successful acquisition is integration. The firm has a long history of integration, achieving best practices through continuous learning and deep experience.
  28. 28. BMST5103 - Assignment – Amazon, LV and Cisco Nor Helmee Bin Abd Halim 28 3.4.2 Wide Array of Products and Innovation As cited by Business Insider (2015), the new CEO, Chuck Robbins is repeatedly highlighting that Cisco has eighteen different product categories. It could be an indication that the new CEO might look to trim or consolidate the wide array of the products. The firm is ranked in the top 20 of valuable brand under technology category shows that the firm is offering a reliable product. Switching segment is the flagship business of Cisco which contributed almost one third of the firm’s revenue. ((Millward Brown “2015 Top 100 Brand”, 2015). Furthermore, the former CEO of the firm, John Chambers highlighted that innovation is what drives all markets and transforms industries. Therefore, the firm invested heavily in product development and innovation to be a competitive advantage. 3.4.3 Superior Service Differentiation Cisco provides end-to-end service and not just only selling hardware. As mentioned earlier, one of the key success factors of the firm has been the ability to keep the customer experience always at the highest level. This behavior was inherited from the first president and CEO of the firm, John Morgridge. As the first CEO, he ran the business with an emphasis on strong customer focus. Listening carefully to the customer is also one of the core values underlying Cisco’s success. 3.4.4 Strong Organization Structure, Culture and Leadership Team Many times the former and incumbent CEO were mentioned in this paper. It is because the contribution of the former CEOs in shaping up the firm to what it is today is priceless. Each CEO has their own unique ways of managing the firm but the ultimate goal is always the same – to meet the bottom line. The leadership team is very sensitive to the dynamic of the market change and demand, they act and adapt changes accordingly to ensure the firm is still competitive and stay ahead of their competitors in each segment they competing. [Word counter - 8558]
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