Eyeing European market, Chinese companies claim main stage at IFA trade fair

Posted on : 2023-09-04 17:03 KST Modified on : 2023-09-04 17:03 KST
With massive exhibition spaces and ads hung at the trade fair’s entrance and exits, Chinese companies appeared intent on making an impression in Berlin
A large advertisement for home electronics maker TCL hangs above the northern entrance to IFA 2023, Europe’s largest consumer electronics trade show, in Berlin. (Ock Kee-won/The Hankyoreh)
A large advertisement for home electronics maker TCL hangs above the northern entrance to IFA 2023, Europe’s largest consumer electronics trade show, in Berlin. (Ock Kee-won/The Hankyoreh)

The theme of the IFA Berlin 2023 trade fair, which kicked off last Friday, echoed concerns that are preoccupying Europe at the moment: the discovery of energy-efficient, sustainable technology.

With Europeans feeling the pinch over rapidly rising prices of electricity, gas, and other energy stemming from the climate crisis and war, the issue of sustainable technology has become inseparable from everyday life.

On Sunday, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics drew attention with a presentation at the Messe Berlin arena showing sustainable technology that moves a step closer to solving that problem.

The LG Electronics exhibit was decked out as a “sustainable village” representing a forest trail scene out of nature. Front and center there was the “LG Smart Cottage”: a compact modular home with a solar-panel roof, smart climate control system, energy storage devices, and various premium appliances boasting high energy efficiency.

The cottage attracted some attention with its “smart home solutions,” in which solar power equipment provides energy to operate the climate control systems and a smartphone app can be used to control energy consumption by appliances.

Speaking with reporters in Berlin on Saturday, LG Electronics H&A division head Ryu Jae-cheol explained that the company plans to “target the European market by expanding the ‘smart home solutions’ sector as a combination of high-efficiency energy and appliance technology.”

Samsung Electronics set up a “sustainability zone” for its exhibit, where it showed off eco-friendly packages across the product life cycle, recycled materials for smartphones, and microplastic-reducing filters for washing machines. It also presented various ways of effectively reducing energy consumption based on SmartThings, including artificial intelligence modes for appliances.

While LG and Samsung sought to present solutions for Europe’s sustainability concerns, Chinese companies used a high-volume strategy in a push to advance in the European market.

Like North America, Europe is a region with a high demand for premium items — and consequently, a necessary market to target for companies hoping to build their brand image. Chinese companies took advantage of major advertising displays and “hot spots” at the fair to show off their technological capabilities with new products including ultra-large televisions.

Chinese home appliance companies TCL and Haier occupied large ads at the north (entrance) and south (exit) gates of Messe Berlin, making them the first thing visitors saw upon entering.

As the main sponsor of the fair, Hisense also embedded its logo on the access passes handed out to visitors. Chinese companies accounted for 1,279 of the more than 2,100 exhibitors at this year’s fair, which is six times as much as the number (220) in 2022.

A large advertisement for Chinese home electronics maker Haier hangs above the south entrance to IFA 2023, Europe’s largest consumer electronics trade show, in Berlin. (Ock Kee-won/The Hankyoreh)
A large advertisement for Chinese home electronics maker Haier hangs above the south entrance to IFA 2023, Europe’s largest consumer electronics trade show, in Berlin. (Ock Kee-won/The Hankyoreh)

Chinese companies also set up large-scale booths in the most prime locations on the exhibition grounds. The space that a company inhabits on the exhibition grounds, as well as the size of their booth, is a measure of the company’s status.

TCL set up a 2,106-square-meter booth right at the entrance to the fair, while Hisense set up a nearly 2,600-square-meter booth in Hall 23, close to the entrance, making the two Chinese brands much more accessible than the showroom of European premium brand Miele (about 3,000 square meters).

“For booths on the outskirts, it costs about 400,000 won (approximately US$300) per booth (9㎡), but it is more than 10 times as expensive the closer you get to the entrance,” a Korean electronics industry insider said. “It would have cost millions of dollars to secure a large booth near the entrance.”

Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics saved face by setting up large exhibition halls of 6,000 and 3,600 square meters, respectively.

A jab at Samsung by Chinese smartphone maker Honor, formerly owned by Huawei, also drew eyes.

In his keynote speech, Honor CEO George Zhao unveiled the Magic V2, which he compared to Samsung’s latest offerings. Saying that at 9.9 millimeters and 231 grams, the Magic V2 is thinner and lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, which is 13.4 millimeters thick and 253 grams, Zhao called Honor’s latest model the world’s thinnest and lightest foldable phone.

“When I walked around the Chinese exhibitors, I felt that the technology from smartphones to televisions and home appliances has developed very quickly,” Selahattin Köksal, head of digital strategy at European home appliance maker Vestel, told the Hankyoreh. “Nowadays, there is a growing awareness that Chinese products are quality, so their influence in the European market is likely to grow.”

By Ock Kee-won, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories