Sennheiser Pop-up Store in NYC: German Engineering in the American Soundscape
Take a ride on the Tube, U-Bahn, or the Subway. Whether in London, Berlin, New York or any other major city, there is one accessory commuters cannot travel without nowadays: their earphones and headphones.
The global earphones and headphones market is booming with a forecasted annual growth rate at around 5% and worth roughly $15 billion by 2024. With the high smartphone penetration, increasing data speed and multiple streaming services, every one of us is carrying around a potent multimedia device, resulting in an explosion in on-the-go media consumption and communication and a subsequent demand for better listening experiences. One of the audio companies that have taken note of this developing market segment is Sennheiser, the iconic audio brand from Germany.
Meeting Demand for Better Sound
As Director Trade Marketing Americas at Sennheiser in the US, Stefanie Reichert is well aware of the changing demands in the market and one of Sennheiser’s key consumer markets is the US, which holds a great potential for increasing market shares: “The US is one of the largest headphone markets in the world. Over the past years we have seen a substantial increase in sales of higher priced headphones. The US consumers have become more discerning when it comes to their audio needs and this represents an opportunity for Sennheiser. With a demand for better listening experience comes an acceptance of higher price points in headphones, as well as an overall increase in headphone use among consumers for their work and travel. Given these market trends we see an opportunity to bring our brand and product benefits to a wider audience.”
Sennheiser has traditionally been very strong in the audiophile market segment in the US but little known to the general headphone buyer. Stefanie Reichert elaborates: “– Sennheiser is relatively unknown among the broad US population while it’s known as one of the leading brands in the premium audio space in the US. The brand is particularly well known among audiophiles and professionals who work in media, sound and the arts and we have always targeted very specifically those who valued precision in sound reproduction.” For this reason, Sennheiser has embarked on a strategy that will make its products more accessible to consumers via physical experiences, recognizing product trial as a key component in the consumer understanding the benefits which the products will bring the user”.
Innovation and Family Go Hand in Hand
Under the name ‘Labor W’, Sennheiser was founded in 1945 in an old farmhouse near Hannover, Germany. Founded in the wake of a devastating Second World War, Sennheiser was in many ways an original “start-up”, built on a culture of innovation as they spearheaded the development and manufacturing of new technology in microphones, amplifiers and transformers among other products. In 1968, the German company sparked a proper headphone boom worldwide when they introduced the first open-type headphone, the HD 414. In 1991, Sennheiser engineers created the Orpheus, a headphone so sublime that it quickly became legendary and remained the benchmark for audiophile listening until the company launched its successor, the HE1, in 2015.
Since 2013, the company has been headed by Co-CEOs Daniel and Andreas Sennheiser, the third generation of the Sennheiser family to manage the family-owned company, maintaining the cultural pillars of innovation while Sennheiser continues its global growth. During her more than 14 years at Sennheiser, Stefanie Reichert has experienced the advantages that the family ownership brings with it when you compete in an industry where innovation is paramount: “– Being a family-owned company is the foundation for the way we work at Sennheiser. Our independence allows us to focus on the future and on creating the best product for our customers. We don’t have to worry as much about short-term trends or only being able to think from one quarter to the next to please the markets.”
Sennheiser is a heritage brand with more than 70 years of experience in the field of audio engineering and production and an innate ability to remain a defining factor in the industry. Its engineers were the inventors of technology that is used today across the entire premium headphone segment, such as the Open-Air technology. “– Overall, Sennheiser stands out as a brand that has been setting standards in the industry and to this date we offer the most premium German engineering and craftsmanship that you will find. We really understand the entire single path from recording to reproduction of sound. With that we are unique in the space”, Stefanie Reichert says without doubts that Sennheiser has a great deal to offer in the US headphone market now and beyond.
Sound Experiences in Soho
Following the decision to make its products more accessible to consumers via physical experiences, in fall 2016, Sennheiser launched two pop-up shops in New York City in Soho and in the spectacular indoor space by the World Trade Center, called Oculus. “– We wanted to make the brand accessible physically through product trials and related events and educational content. These two spaces in Soho and Oculus were essential in providing a true brand experience to the consumer,” says Stefanie Reichert.
The pop-up shop in Soho is located among trendy boutique shops and international chain store outlets. As you enter the doors at 134 Prince Street you are welcomed by a “sound tunnel” as you walk in. If you walk down the tunnel you will feel a literally deafening silence creeping on you as the soundproof tunnel narrows until you reach the end of it marked by the iconic Sennheiser logo. A first testament to Sennheiser’s commitment to sound that the Soho pop-up shop experience will emphasize again and again to its visitors. Besides showcasing a broad range of Sennheiser’s products, the pop-up shop also serves as a venue for various events focused on sound experiences, such as numerous music concerts hosted in the adjacent space downstairs. “– All of our events are curated to address cultural passion points of our audience. They are a crucial tactic in making us as a brand relevant to new customers,” says Stefanie Reichert.
The shop lets people listen and feel a wide range of Sennheiser’s products but the real treasure is a soundproofed 9.1 surround sound listening room in the back of the pop-up shop. There, visitors are able to experience Sennheiser’ AMBEO 3D Audio Technology as well as the legendary HE1 headphone. With a price tag at around $55,000, this headphone is packed with the very best that Sennheiser’s engineers can do – and that is a lot, according to Stefanie Reichert “– This headphone system transforms music from something you listen to into something you experience – and this is exactly what we want to create for our customers. It’s hard to describe and that’s why we’ve created this opportunity for our customers to truly experience the Sennheiser sound.”
Boosting the Brand on Social Media
Social media is very important for Sennheiser when it comes to driving brand awareness and foot traffic to the stores. “– Deploying social media campaigns is always an iterative approach. You’ve got to test, learn and optimize accordingly,” says Brian Reilly, Team Lead for Social Media at Sennheiser. “– Many visitors tell us that they’ve learned about the brand’s store presence through ads on Facebook and in this way Facebook has been a great way to spread the word about our physical presence and engage people both online and offline.”
The great reception that the company has witnessed from the New York consumers is something that Sennheiser is looking to build on to gain an even bigger recognition in the US headphone market in the years to come, Stefanie Reichert ensures: “– New York is a very important city due to its global relevance and its diverse culture. It’s the gateway for Sennheiser on the East Coast, but San Francisco and Los Angeles are equally important cities to us as a brand when it comes to bringing our products closer to the consumers through physical experiences. We’ve seen great success in New York and we will continue the strategy of making our products more accessible to consumers via physical experiences and will expand this approach beyond NYC,” Stefanie Reichert ensures us.
This blog post is an adapted version of an article that featured in Leverate Media’s company magazine ‘Leverate ONE‘.