The paradox of Watch — overwhelmingly satisfied, yet not recommending it

Wristly Apple Watch Insider’s Report #51, July 22, 2016

About a year ago we published the first customer satisfaction study for Apple Watch at which time about 800 of the original members of the panel gave it a resounding 97% satisfaction rate. Over the last week, over a thousand of you re-casted your satisfaction level with Apple Watch. This time we went deeper and in addition to satisfaction level also probed on recommendation using the NPS (Net Promoter Score) system.

94% Are Still Satisfied

Positive uptick from WWDC watchOS 3?

Compared to our April satisfaction survey, this month, our quarterly satisfaction rating shows some slight improvements at 94% total satisfied vs 93% previously. We believe that this positive uptick could be due to positive sentiments arising from recent WWDC watchOS 3 announcement. For this month’s survey, we have 50% of the panel stating they are “Very Satisfied” vs 46% last April. Meanwhile, 44% are “Satisfied” vs 47% in April.

But are not recommending it

Over the last decade, the Net Promoter Score system has become an important tool to gauge consumer loyalty that has shown to be correlated to revenue growth. For detailed background info on NPS check here, NPS works by asking a simple question formulated as: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague” with a score from 0 to 10. To calculate the NPS score, one takes the sum of the Promoters (those who gave it a rating of 9 or 10) minus the sum of the “Detractors” (those who gave it a rating from 0 to 6). Obviously NPS measures not just satisfaction but how much that satisfaction translates into word-of-mouth “promotion”.

For the first time, we publish here the NPS for Apple Watch which for its debut comes in at 26. A positive score is good and a score above 50 is excellent. By comparison the NPS of iPhone in 2013 was reported to be a very high 70.

Decomposing the Apple Watch NPS score we assess for an Apple product a relatively low number of Promoters (43%) and a significant number of “Detractors” (17%). In hindsight these results are not so unexpected for a first generation product. As we repeatedly discussed over the last year, while the vast majority of the product owners are satisfied, a large proportion of them also assess that the product in its current form has several limitations that prevent them from recommending it to friends and associates.

Mid term outlook for NPS?

The main question we can ask ourselves is this; “Will this initial somewhat low score for Apple Watch remain or can we expect substantial improvements in the near term?” Let’s look more closely at the structure of the ratings given by those who ended up being “Detractors” to try to understand their reasons.

First, as expected the aggregate satisfaction level of the “Detractors” is just 69% vs 94% for the overall panel. Only 8% of detractors are “Very Satisfied” vs 50% of the overall panel.

We subsequently asked the Detractors to tell us “which one thing could Apple do to have them improve their rating”. This helps us determine what features will move detractors to promoters as Apple unveils new models and upgraded software. Looking at the long list of suggestions, we can group them in three themes — not including “reducing the price”.

  • More speed and better overall performance including battery
  • More utility and various capabilities
  • More independence from iPhone.

To color our analysis here is a representative sample of individual suggestions.

Change the app model, make notifications more powerful, include cellular connectivity
Better battery life and more functionality than notifications.
It’s just too slow. Also, with potentially new hardware around the corner, I recommend waiting until October to make a decision.
For me, the watch is primarily a fitness aid and a notification watch. I’d like to see native apps take a forefront.
Make it a whole lot faster. It’s way to slow to be useful.
From the beginning, I have told people that I love my Apple Watch but I cannot recommend it because it is a first-generation product and is not for everyone. Since Apple Watch was announced almost two years ago, and released over a year ago, a hardware refresh this fall seems likely, so I also cannot recommend that anyone buy Apple Watch prior to the product refresh.
More features, ability to use in the sun, faster processor.
Faster performance, more utility, standalone connectivity.
Deliver on Apple Watch OS 3 and make it the Apple Watch it needs to be.

We can assess a good match of these desires with the new watchOS 3 which once deployed and used should yield improved satisfaction and recommendation. And if we compound this with the expected hardware improvements expected in Apple Watch 2 we should be able to measure a greatly enhanced NPS score in 2017.

In terms of our expectations for hardware improvements, we have to remind ourselves that the current Apple Watch specs were unveiled almost two years ago! And with the pace at which processors and core hardware system components are improving these days we can reasonably expect 25% to 30% higher performance and battery life for the next Apple Watch.

Still being worn most of the time

Our data remains consistent with Tim Cook’s comment on Apple Watch last summer of more than 94% people wearing it daily.

Regardless of the level of satisfaction, the vast majority of Apple Watch owners continue to wear it most of the time day after day. A large 14% state that they even wear it at night to track their sleep or use the gentle taptic alarm. And in this study, only 1% of our respondents have stopped wearing their Apple Watches. Of course we expect the vast majority of our panelists who have stopped wearing Apple Watch have also stopped responding to our survey. But as we reported before, we did a deeper survey last November on the main reasons for dissatisfaction — a report that you can read here.

A year later and 95% are still happy with the condition of their watch

Bandistas galore!

We are very big believers that bands are a key component of the success of Apple Watch and we expect the company to continue to innovate on the topic with more styles, more partners and eventually also introduce new genre of “smartbands”. Since last fall we have begun tracking how fast various segments of Apple Watch owners increase their collection of bands.

Our most recent wave of research on the topic last March revealed that 74% of all Apple Watch owners had purchased at least a second band and that the average across our panel had climbed to 2.6 bands per user up from 2.4 bands in November 2015.

Fast forward to July and we see now at least 78% have purchased a second band and there are an average of 3.4 bands per owner! That’s a 30% increase in about 4 months!

Corroborating 38% of our panelists stated that they bought their last band within the last three months.

The amazing band swapping design

One thing profoundly successful about Apple Watch and which hasn’t made the front page news very often is the band swapping industrial design. It took a tech company to invent a mechanism that most of us could operate without the need to visit a watch service store. When we asked our panel how long it takes them to swap bands, an astounding 81% report less than a minute at a time. In our opinion this is a critical factor to the Bandistas phenomenon that we are seeing.

And here is what some of the panelists say about it…

Brilliant! Once again Apple revolutionizes an industry with something so seemingly simple and leaves everyone else wondering why they didn’t think of it first.
The mechanism for band attachment is very clever and very user friendly.
It’s a paradigmatic Apple design — beautiful, functional and proprietary
Simple and flexible enough to allow a variety of different watch strap styles. The release button can be a little difficult to press.
Genius and unique in the watch band world.
It works great, I swap bands pretty much every day. And I’m a guy.
Love it, makes me wonder why no one thought of making a similar mechanism before Apple Watch

Our own market trend data…

To date, Apple has not released any specific information in terms of volume of Apple Watches sold. Financial and industry analysts have been triangulating data based on the reported “Other” revenue category and a bunch of other assumptions and calculations. As a result and as noted this week by Philip Elmer-DeWitt the variance in quarterly units sold estimates is the widest of all Apple products — with a range from a low of 1M to 4M for the last quarter alone. So instead of second guessing the Apple numbers, we started over 6 months ago to ask our panelists their impression of the number of Apple Watches seen in the “wild” in the previous week.

The trend is very clearly positive with 63% reporting seeing more Watches in July vs 34% last January and if we look at the actual number of “sightings” the trend is even stronger and confirms that regardless of actual shipment volume, Apple Watch continues to sell in somewhat consistent numbers. A simple conservative calculation of the numbers (using only 5 for all of those stating 5 or more) show the average number of sighting growing from 1.7 to 2.4 in six months or a 40% increase.

This concludes our Insights research report. If you own a smartwatch and are keen to participate in future research, you can join here for free. It only takes a couple of minutes to participate every other week and you get to be among the first to receive the results and help the collective understanding of this ground-breaking new product category.

Call for contributors

Besides our ongoing Apple Watch user research, Wristly has recently begun to develop our first product called TiltUp. We are taking the lessons learned over the last year to foster a new wave of instant consumer feedback, that would merge the ease and reach of social with the methodology and process of NPS satisfaction programs.

With TiltUp we imagine consumers voting on their device with a simple thumbs up or down at the relevant “moments of truths” aka those moments that are critical to long term product success. We believe that TiltUp can deliver value to 1) retail type organizations such as Starbucks/McDonald that need to assess hyper local and immediate feedback and 2) app developers seeking increased quantity and quality of app reviews while generating broad product and market feedback.

If you have relevant domain expertise and a bit of time to help we are looking to expand the team of contributors and advisors to the project. Please do not hesitate to get in touch via email (bernard at wristly dot co).

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