In the current competitive business environment, companies are keen on attracting and maintaining a pool of loyal customers through the delivery of quality products and services to their customers. Sarkar (2019) explains that in a market where customers can choose from various providers, brand plays a major role in defining their decision. Apple Inc. finds itself in such a highly competitive business environment. Founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the company has registered impressive growth over the years to come one of the dominant players in the global electronics market (Schegg & Stangl, 2017). The firm offers a wide range of products in different markets such as computer software and hardware, consumer electronics, cloud computing, semiconductors, digital distribution, artificial intelligence, and financial technology (Brooks & Dunn, 2018). One of its most successful products is the iPhone. In the mobile phones market, Samsung is its main competitor.
The company also must fight for the market share against other rivals such as LG, Huawei, Oppo, and Motorola (Luiz, 2016). However, this firm has been able to stay ahead of the rest of its market rivals because of the uniqueness of its smartphones. Since the introduction of the iPhone 2G in June 2007, the firm has consistently embraced creativity and innovation with the primary goal of understanding emerging market needs and meeting them in the best way possible. Currently, iPhone 11 is its most recent product and has received massive acceptance in the global market. Jarvis and Palmes (2018) explain that the company has developed a tradition of introducing a new model of iPhone in the market each year, which means that the company may introduce the iPhone 12 at any time within this year. The approach is to ensure that the firm constantly provides customers with products that meet their changing needs and expectations.
The level of competition in the electronics market is getting increasingly stiff as new firms enter the industry and the existing ones continue to grow in size. Apple Inc has been successful in ensuring that its iPhone offers premium quality to its customers and is considered the most prestigious smartphone in the global market. However, other global brands such as Samsung and Huawei gaining market share, which makes it necessary for this company to ensure that it protects its market share. Sarkar (2019) notes that in such a highly competitive environment, the success of a firm narrows down to its performance in customer satisfaction. Understanding this company’s performance in customer satisfaction is important because it will help in determining its ability to maintain its current market leaders. Customers will only remain loyal if they believe that the corporation is offering products meeting their needs. The current level of customer satisfaction defines their ability to continue purchasing the company’s products despite the existence of other brands. The study seeks to investigate how Apple Inc performs in customer satisfaction through its iPhones.
The rationale for the Research/Scope
The primary goal of this study is to evaluate Apple Inc’s performance in customer satisfaction through its iPhones. The researcher considered the need for this company to maintain its competitiveness in the market. As Schegg and Stangl (2017) observe, a firm’s ability to create a large pool of loyal customers depends on its ability to maintain high performance in terms of meeting customers’ expectations. Evaluating the past and present performance may help in predicting its future capacity to meet the expectations. This study is related to the larger issue of managing competition in the market. The electronics industry has become very competitive because of the emergence of different players. Customer satisfaction is one of the ways through which a firm can manage the competitive business environment (Luiz, 2016). As such, this study is justified because it offers this company an opportunity to maintain its current lead in the market through a continued satisfaction of customers’ needs. The report will be particularly important to the marketing department of Apple Inc because it will explain what the firm needs to do to understand emerging customers’ needs. The department will benefit by understanding how to monitor market trends, understand evolving technologies and actions of its rivals, and ways of maintaining customers’ expectations.
Statement of the Research Objectives
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the customer satisfaction of iPhone users. The researcher will investigate the perceived value of the product and the perception of customers towards the approach that the company uses to deliver it to them. As Schegg and Stangl (2017) observe, having high-quality commodities that meet customers’ expectations is just one step towards customer satisfaction. They also pay attention to customer service factors and public relations policies. The following are the objectives that the researcher seeks to achieve through the study:
- To investigate the current popularity of iPhones among local users
- To investigate strategies that this company uses to ensure that its products reach its customers
- To assess the level of satisfaction of iPhone users in the country
The preliminary review of the literature shows that Apple Inc has continued to register exemplary performance in its customer satisfaction strategies, especially through its iPhones, which have become its main product. The question is how the firm’s performance in customer satisfaction relates to its overall performance in the market. The strategies are meant to ensure that Apple Inc maintains its superior brand like that which offers premium products and uses effective strategies to deliver them to global customers and to maintain effective management of customers’ needs and expectations. The following hypothesis is based on the findings from the literature review:
H1: iPhone users are highly satisfied with Apple Inc’s product in the market.
Definition of Terms
The following are some of the keywords, phrases, and abbreviations used in this report:
- Customer- an individual who purchases products, which in this case are the iPhones, from a given firm (Jarvis & Palmes, 2018)
- Satisfaction- the ability to fulfil or meet the needs, wishes, or expectations of an individual (Sarkar, 2019)
- Market segment- a group of potential buyers sharing specific characteristics that define the quality and quantity of products they are likely to purchase (Luiz, 2016)
- Market share- a portion or size of the market that a company controls through a particular product (Brooks & Dunn, 2018)
- Market rivalry- the intensity of competitiveness among firms offering the same products and targeting the same clients in a given industry (Schegg & Stangl, 2017)
- UAE- The United Arab Emirates
- MENA- The Middle East and North Africa
The global market for smartphones is growing rapidly, but at the same time, the level of competition is also getting stiffer than it had ever been. Apple Inc, through its signature product, the iPhone, has taken the lead as the most trusted brand of smartphones. The company has also registered impressive performance in maintaining a pool of highly satisfied customers who believe in the superiority of the brand. As the firm battles new market entrants, it is necessary to determine whether its customers still hold the view of the superiority of the brand. The study will help to determine if the company will have the capacity to protect its market share in the face of the increasing market rivalry.
Review of the Relevant Literature
Apple Inc is one of the top brands in the electronics market. For that reason, marketing studies have been conducted by various scholars to help understand factors that have enabled it to achieve such massive success over the past five decades. The company’s most profitable and globally popular product is the iPhone. It is necessary to review studies on iPhone customer satisfaction. Some of these studies have been conducted based on the markets of North and South America, Europe, and parts of Asia. The analysis will help understand how this company has performed in other markets outside the United Arab Emirates. It will also be necessary to compare findings in these studies with information that will be obtained from the primary sources.
Sharma (2018) conducted research titled “A study of consumer perception while purchasing apple products with special reference to Malwa region (Punjab)”. The researcher found out that in most cases customers buy goods because of the benefits and value that they attach to their attributes. When they get benefits from the products that they purchase, they will be satisfied. The top management unit of Apple Inc understands this fact and has been keen on defining specific attributes of the iPhone based on the benefits and value to its clients. The company has consistently been ranked as one of the top innovative firms, and its iPhone is classified as the best by global customers because of these unique attributes. The company has embraced an outward-in approach to developing new products (Sharma, 2018). In this strategy, the management conducts extensive research to understand the market needs before developing products that meet or exceed these needs.
Badran and Al-Haddad (2018) conducted a study titled “The impact of software user experience on customer satisfaction.” The research found out that although customers often prefer handheld devices with attractive physical attributes, the software experience often defines their level of satisfaction. The physical appearance may be appealing and may convince a customer to purchase an item, but they always wait until they start using it to state whether they are satisfied with the product (Badran & Al-Haddad, 2018). They conducted a comparative analysis of the software user experience of some of the major smartphone brands such as Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony, Blackberry, and iPhone. Their investigation revealed that an overwhelming majority of the respondents consider the software user experience for iPhone to be superior to the other smartphone brands in the market. Even most of those who are using other brands believe that iPhone is superior and that they are not using it because of its high price. They found out that iPhones have earned a reputation as a unique smartphone with software that meets and sometimes exceeds their expectations.
Ejikeme et al. (2016) conducted a study that focused on explaining the correlation between customer satisfaction and culture. In their project, the researchers found out that there is a close relationship between the two variables. For a firm to satisfy the needs of its customers, it must first understand the local culture and how it affects buyers’ decisions. Customers often purchase commodities in line with cultural beliefs and practices (Ejikeme et al., 2016). As such, when they realize that a specific product goes against their beliefs, they are less likely to become loyal customers. The management of Apple Inc is aware of this fact and has been keen on designing customer management strategies based on these cultural practices. Although the item sold to the global market is the same, the iPhone, marketing strategies differ from one market to another based on local cultural practices and beliefs. This strategy has enabled this company to meet the expectations of its customers.
Moslehpour and Nguyen (2014) conducted another study entitled “The influence of perceived brand quality and perceived brand prestige on purchase likelihood of iPhone and HTC mobile phone in Taiwan”. The researchers were primarily concerned with a comparative analysis of the perception of customers towards the value that they assign to various smartphone brands. The analysis was narrowed to two brands, HTC and iPhone. Respondents were asked to state which of the two mobile phone brands they consider more prestigious and are more likely to buy when they can do so. The outcome of the study showed that an overwhelming majority of the respondents view iPhone to be more prestigious than HTC. They considered HTC more affordable than iPhone, but given the opportunity to choose any of the two brands, they would prefer iPhone (Moslehpour & Nguyen 2014). It was important to note that even those who have never used iPhone view it to be more superior to other brands because of the perception that has been created in the market. The outcome indicated that customers’ belief in a firm’s quality is a critical factor when defining customer satisfaction. Sometimes two brands may be offering the same quality in terms of the service delivered. However, in most cases, the perception that customers have towards a given brand will define their level of satisfaction when consuming a product.
A study by Dunuwille and Pathmini (2016) focused on customer satisfaction and how it is affected by the brand image in the smartphone market. They wanted to determine if there is any relationship between a product’s brand and the satisfaction that customers get from it. Perceived quality, brand awareness, brand association, and brand loyalty were the four major dimensions that the project focused on in their comparative analysis (Dunuwille & Pathmini, 2016). The study found out that there is a direct relationship between brand image and customer satisfaction. Besides the value that customers get from products that they purchase, the next critical factor is other people’s perception. The rich often consider the brand when making their purchases, not primarily because of the attributes, but also as a demonstration of their social status. They will get more satisfaction when they own and publicly use a product with a brand that is of high quality. The emphasis on the perceived quality may even supersede the actual value. Someone may be willing to use a relatively older model of iPhone than to use LG because of the perceived brand attributes. It explains why Apple Inc’s iPhone users often register a high level of customer satisfaction. The fact that the brand is an iPhone is enough to make up for some of the shortcomings that the product may have in terms of functionality.
Choudhury and Gulati (2020) conducted a study that focused on determining how customer satisfaction is influenced by perceived product attributes. The finding revealed that perceived quality is more important for customers than the actual value. When a brand has been associated with greater value in the market, it may take a while for the perception to change. The study revealed that perceived superiority of attributes such as quality of the camera of a phone, the actual storage capacity, the speed of the processor, battery life, and ease of use all define the likelihood that a customer will purchase a given item. They compared Samsung to iPhone in terms of customers’ perceived value on the above critical attributes of a smartphone (Choudhury & Gulati, 2020). They found out that iPhone still outsmarted Samsung in almost all the attributes and considered it a better product. Samsung was making good progress towards bridging the gap in the perceived value, but the massive failure of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 rolled back most of the gains that the brand had made. It offered iPhone a perfect opportunity to assert itself as the global leader in the smartphone market.
The research methodology that one chooses to conduct a study should make it possible to answer the research question and meet the objectives of the project. As Sekaran and Bougie (2016) observe, one can choose to use qualitative, quantitative, or mixed research methods. The primary guideline when making the choice should always be the need to ensure that the design will help the researcher to realise the goal of the study. In this project, the researcher aimed to evaluate Apple Inc.’s performance in customer satisfaction through its iPhone. The researcher is keen on determining if the item that the company offers in the local market in the UAE and the approach that it uses to deliver the product, including public relation strategies, are considered satisfactory by the locals.
The researcher considered it necessary to use a mixed-method as the most appropriate design for the study. A mixed-method, as Pettey et al. (2016) explain, involves the use of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The method will enable the researcher to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the issue under investigation. Quantitative methods will allow the researcher to the number of those who believe Apple has registered impressive performance in its customer satisfaction strategies through its iPhones and the way the company delivers its products to customers. It will also help in determining the market size in terms of the number of those who consider themselves loyal customers. Qualitative methods will be used to explain why respondents feel the organization is performing well or poorly in customer satisfaction. This method will make it possible to precisely identify the major strengths weaknesses of the company in its customer satisfaction strategies.
One of the most important steps when planning to conduct primary data collection is to identify participants. Veal (2018) explains that one should ensure that the selected respondents could effectively represent the entire population. As such, one of the first steps that were done was to select potential participants in the study. One of the primary conditions that participants will have to meet is that they have to be current users of iPhones. They will also have to be aged above 18 years. Age was a factor not only because of the need to ensure that they could consent to be part of the data collection process but also to ensure that they could provide the required information. The selection procedure of the participants will be simple random sampling. The researcher will randomly select participants in the streets of Dubai who are users of iPhones and recruit them for the data collection. Their contact details will be taken, the significance of the study will be explained to them, and the protection of their identity will be stated. When doing simple random sampling, the researcher will ensure that there is an equal representation of both men and women. It will also be important to make sure that there was a representation of people of different age groups. A sample of 100 participants (50 men and 50 women) will be needed to take part in the collection of primary data.
When a sample of respondents is identified, the next important stage will be the collection of primary data and subsequent analysis. Collecting data from a fairly large sample of 100 participants through a face-to-face interview is a time-consuming process. As such, the researcher opted to send questionnaires to each of the sampled participants through their e-mail. The questionnaire, which is attached to this research proposal, captures the respondents’ age, gender, academic background, nationality, and whether they are current users of iPhones in the first part of the document. The second part of the questionnaire focuses on issues relating to the evaluation of Apple’s performance in customer satisfaction through iPhones. Once data is collected, the researcher will analyze using the design discussed above. With the application of Excel or SPSS spreadsheet, the researcher will conduct a quantitative analysis of the data to understand the number of those who think this firm has registered impressive performance on customer satisfaction through iPhones. Qualitative analysis will be used to explain why these participants feel the way they do. It will involve direct quotations of their statements. Their explanation will help in understanding specific factors that make Apple Inc’s performance in customer satisfaction through iPhones satisfactory among the sampled respondents.
Data Collection Plan
The primary data will be obtained from a sample of 100 participants using a questionnaire, as discussed above. The researcher will conduct a mailed survey. The first step in this survey will be to identify participants within the city of Dubai, through a random sampling method. Once one who meets the inclusion criteria is identified, their contact details (phone number and e-mail address) will be taken. The researcher will then e-mail the questionnaires to them and then make follow-up calls just to remind them that the questionnaires had been sent. In the e-mail, the researcher will explain how the questions should be answered and the time within which they are expected to submit the answered questionnaires. They will be expected to e-mail back the documents using the same address through which they received the questionnaire. The researcher will make regular follow-up phone calls just to increase the response rate. As Sekaran and Bougie (2016) note, those who fail to provide the needed response on time will be replaced. The aim is to ensure that the survey is conducted on 100 participants.
Proposed Analysis of the Data
The preliminary review of the literature strongly indicates that Apple Inc has registered an impressive performance in customer satisfaction through its iPhone products. Studies suggest that the firm has managed to understand the changing needs and preferences of its customers in the market and has a team of dedicated employees keen on meeting these expectations. The approach of releasing a new iPhone model each year is meant to ensure that Apple Inc can manage the changing customers’ expectations (Narayana et al., 2016). The company has also identified specific vendors that meet specific criteria to help in the distribution of these items.
These authorised dealers have been trained on customer management practices to ensure that they understand how to handle their clients when they purchase a commodity or come back with a complaint about it (Veal, 2018). As such, it is expected that the sampled respondents will confirm this argument. However, it is important to note that the researcher will not dictate the outcome, and it is expected that there will be different categories of people with diverse opinions. In the questionnaire, the researcher has identified different categories of responses to various questions. It is possible that when interviewing respondents, there will be varying opinions with the claim that Apple Inc has registered impressive performance in customer satisfaction through its iPhones. The response will be classified as highly agree, agree, not sure, disagree, or strongly disagree. Each of these categories will be captured in the questionnaire. The results from the sampled participants are expected to reflect the view of the entire population.
Implications and Limitations
It is important to explain the implications of the study to understand its significance. One of the implications of the project is that it will help identify specific weaknesses of Apple Inc. concerning its signature product, the iPhone, within the local market in the UAE. The study will suggest ways of addressing these problems. The research will also have implications for future studies. It will provide a rich source of information about the topic based on the local context of the UAE. The study may encounter various challenges, the top of which is the possible withdrawal of participants or their failure to respond to the questions within the expected time. Such participants will have to be explained. The other potential challenge expected is the limited number of literature focusing on the issue in the local context. Most of the scholarly articles and books were based on the United States and the European market. The weakness will be addressed through the collection of primary data.
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