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Primarily a product oriented company, Apple typically develops innovative, sophisticated products that they think people will want, pushing market research and the consumer voice to the backseat. There has been much debate over the years about Apple’s market research tactics (or lack thereof) due to late CEO Steve Job’s noticeable distaste for it and the VP’s statements on Apple’s market research usage being atypical. An interview with The Wall Street Journal revealed that Apple does some research, in the form of surveys and user analytics (Vascellaro, 2012). However, that is the extent of their research efforts.
Market research is imperative to the success of any product launch, and Apple’s recent endeavors indicate the need for market research and development of new products to help revive business. Apple needs an innovative product that will create opportunity for the company—specifically competitive advantage in an emerging market segment. So where does this opportunity lie for Apple? Here’s a hint: it starts with “smart” and ends with “cars.” For years, industries have been transitioning to the tech side. Automobiles are just starting to make the transition. The next big thing is electric, eco-friendly smart cars, so why not have one of the leading tech companies create one, and include all the great quality and features Apple is known for?
There have been talks of Apple initiating this project, but nothing is yet confirmed by the company, leaving many to wonder if and when there will be an Apple Car. Launching smart-cars would be smart on Apple’s part because it entails setting foot into a market which is anticipated to grow substantially in the next few years. Baird, an investment bank conducted a survey on what respondents would like to see Apple develop, to which 21.6% said they want an Apple car (Seitz, 2017). There is certainly market potential, and this would be a brand booster for Apple because it displays social corporate responsibility. The product would be a modern, mid-size vehicle that utilizes software for parking, navigating, safety aids, blind-spot detection, and assisted/self-driving modes. The so aptly named iCar, would feature a premium sound system, integrated IOS, Bluetooth compatibility, and other signature “Apple” components. Apple could acquire an already existing motor vehicle company like Tesla for manufacturing, and focus on spearheading design and software for the car.
To even entertain the idea of launching the iCar, there absolutely needs to be market research, which will take place throughout product development. The first step to the marketing research process is “to define research objectives” (Babin, 2016). Given Apple’s lack of experience with the automobile industry, and the unidentified target market for smart cars, the research objectives for Apple should be defining the opportunity and concept testing. In defining the opportunity, Apple will set out to narrow down the target market and determine the profitability of the endeavor. Blank explains that “concept testing exposes potential customers to a new product idea to judge the acceptance and feasibility of the concept” (Babin, 2016). Concept testing allows for Apple to pitch concepts for the iCar product and gauge the market responses (this might be useful for developing other products if the iCar does not pan out). Since there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to Apple’s iCar, Apple’s research model will be largely exploratory. Because the smart-car market is not large and there is limited data available, research would mainly be primary. Concept testing could be done via Apple primary research surveys, which could be given to existing customers, as well as consumers who have purchased a smart-car, and some who are neither. Apple can gather additional primary data by creating a prototype based on survey input and industry trends to forecast sales and determine the profitability of the venture. Finally, Apple can utilize some secondary research on the general car market to determine existing and discoverable consumer behavior, wants, and needs when it comes to cars, like safety.
Market research will help Apple define this opportunity. The smart-car market has a lot of potential, especially if it involves the company that basically created every modern day piece of technology. The essential knowledge of building a smart-car already exists, but Apple can take those concepts and make them better, as they have done with many things in the past.
Babin, B. J. (2016). Essentials of Marketing Research, 6th Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781305688094/
Kosoff, M. (14 Feb 2017). Could Apple be the First Trillion Dollar Tech Company. Retrieved from http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/could-apple-be-the-first-trillion-dollar-tech-company
Seitz, P. (10 Feb 2017). Apple Car Tops Consumer Wish List For iPhone Maker. Retrieved from http://www.investors.com/news/technology/click/apple-car-tops-consumer-wish-list-for-iphone-maker/
Vascellaro, J. (26 Jul 2012). Turns Out Apple Conducts Market Research After All. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/07/26/turns-out-apple-conducts-market-research-after-all/