Last week, we ran a follow up to the voice assistant research study we published last year around this time. Creative Strategies again partnered with our friends at Experian to see what has changed with voice assistants and explore some new products as well. This year, we added Apple’s AirPods to the study since Siri integration is a key feature of AirPods. In the next few weeks, we will publish more insights around what we learned about the Amazon Echo and Google Home but will focus this article on Apple’s AirPods. We used every available resource to track down as many AirPod owners as we could. In the end, we found 942 people willing to take our study and share their thoughts on Apple’s latest product.
The big story is customer satisfaction with AirPods is extremely high. 98% of AirPod owners said they were very satisfied or satisfied. Remarkably, 82% said they were very satisfied. The overall customer satisfaction level of 98% sets the record for the highest level of satisfaction for a new product from Apple. When the iPhone came out in 2007, it held a 92% customer satisfaction level, iPad in 2010 had 92%, and Apple Watch in 2015 had 97%.
While the overall satisfaction number is remarkable, a second question we asked of these owners stood out even more. We used a standard benchmark question called a Net Promoter Score, which ranks a consumer’s willingness to recommend the product to others. This ranking is on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being extremely likely to recommend and 0 being not likely at all to recommend. It was this number that surprised me. Apple’s Net Promoter Score for AirPods came back as 75. To put that into context, the iPhone’s NPS number is 72. Product and NPS specialists will tell you anything above 50 is excellent and anything above 70 is world class. According to Survey Monkey’s Global Benchmark of over 105,000 organizations who have tested their NPS, the average is an NPS of 39.
This incredibly high Net Promoter Score intrigued me for another reason. We know from profiling questions that most Apple AirPod owners fall into the early adopter category. This is not surprising since early adopters are generally the first among people to buy new technology products. We discovered something interesting in the first few sets of early Apple Watch research, as well as our studies on Echo and Google Home — early adopters tend to not give products high recommendations. The first few studies we did on Apple Watch had a lower NPS as did the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Early adopters tend to understand they buy products early and, oftentimes, they do not feel those products are ready for the mainstream. Certainly, a product’s NPS ratings goes up or down over time, but our experience and years of data on this subject are clear that early adopters rarely give new technology products a high NPS. AirPods broke the mold in this case as even the harshest critics and users of new technology (early adopters) felt AirPods are ready for the mainstream.
We asked respondents to briefly explain their ranking and an analysis of the most frequently used words by respondents were:
- Sound Quality
- Good Sound
- Battery Life
While those were some of the most common words used by our participants, many general themes in the write-in section were quite telling. Folks raved about the pairing process with their phone. Many indicated how surprised they were by how well they worked citing bad experiences with prior Bluetooth headphones. Another common theme I spotted in the write-in section was consumers saying they did not realize how convenient and useful wireless headphones were since AirPods were their first pair. Many indicated they liked the AirPods even more than they thought they would. That’s always a sign of a great product.
While there was some negativity in the write-in section, it was mostly around concerns or issues with fit or connectivity problems. But these were certainly an extreme minority.
We took the study a little deeper as well, looking at customer satisfaction around certain features.
I charted the top six features with the highest satisfaction. The number that stood out most in this top list of features is comfort and secure fit. There was a great deal of debate about AirPods when they first came out that not having a cable means it will make them not stay in or people will lose them easily if they fall out. We can now dispel that myth as Apple has designed a product that fits most people’s ears and, more importantly, fits securely and do not fall out for the vast majority of owners. Only 4.6% of AirPods owners who participated in the study said they were dissatisfied with the fit and ability to fit snugly.
Consumer Sentiment for AirPods
Lastly for the AirPods part of our study, we added some general sentiment questions to see what kinds of feelings or emotions consumers agreed/did not agree with regarding AirPods. A couple of stand out answers are worth mentioning.
- 84% of respondents strongly or somewhat agree that using just one AirPod at a time makes sense in certain situations. This means AirPod owners are actively using just one AirPod at a time in some contexts. Not necessarily a new behavior if we reflect back to the Bluetooth earpiece days for making calls, but certainly an additional value proposition to Bluetooth headphones as a category.
- 88.97% of respondents strongly or somewhat agree AirPods consistently pair to their iPhone as soon as they put one in their ear. While Bluetooth reliability has come a long way, we know many Bluetooth headsets on the market do struggle with pairing consistently quite often. This data point suggests instant pairing reliability of AirPods is quite high.
- 82.5% of consumers would like more control over their content by tapping the AirPods to do things like turn volume up or down or skip to next song. Right now that can be done manually or by asking Siri to turn the volume up or down or skip to next song but it appears some way to have more control of media by touching or tapping the AirPods themselves is desirable.
- 82% of respondents strongly or somewhat agree AirPods are their favorite Apple products launched in recent memory. What makes this question interesting is the fact that, while our respondents mainly lean to early tech adoption, we do not have a massive group of hardcore Apple fanatics. Knowing that makes this question all the more interesting. Overall, our respondents feel Apple has released one of the best products in a long time.
- 62% of respondents strongly or somewhat agree AirPods are causing them to consume more audio content (music, books, podcast, etc) than before they owned AirPods. This is fascinating as it could indicate AirPods become a catalyst for more of Apple or third party services.
- Lastly, we wanted to see how much our participants in the study still defaulted to old habits or didn’t trust AirPods enough to completely go wireless and fully ditch their wired headphones. To our surprise, 64% of consumers somewhat disagree or strongly disagree they keep wired headphones handy just in case AirPods don’t work.
Apple has accomplished a rare feat we have not seen in many years of studying owners of brand new technology products. They have succeeded at delivering a product with an industry best customer satisfaction rating and Net Promoter Score rating. Those two things alone highlight the quality of AirPods overall and the reality that there will be very few unhappy owners of Apple’s latest product.