Currently, Apple experiences a significant decrease in its revenues due to the poor sales of its products. Despite the fact that the latter one utilized the solutions and policies that distinguished them from the ones produced by its competitors, namely those ones related to the information security, the attention of consumers towards them was relatively low. In order to address the problem, it was imperative to conduct the exploratory marketing research to define the behavioral patterns of clients and adjust the strategy of the company. The data were collected by the employees of the organization’s marketing department in the course of interviews and surveys, as well as from its internal sources. The entire process was monitored to ensure the compliance of the information with the presented requirements and prevent the use of false facts and figures during the analysis.
In the course of the research, it was deduced that the customers were concerned about the safety of their private data while maintaining a passive position, i.e. relying on the others to ensure the protection of the sensitive data. Therefore, the company must provide them with a stimulus. In this regard, the promotion of the information illustrating the consequences of negligence towards information security, as well as the comparative analysis of mobile devices by Apple and those by competitors, could serve as a powerful source of motivation. It could be providing for an increased responsibility on the part of its clients. In turn, it would be possible to experience the shift of their preference towards the products offered by Apple, which would result in the growth of sales and revenues of the enterprise.
The rapid development of personal technologies required the highest degree of protection of personal information of users. In particular, with people adding photos, messages, contacts, and credit card data to their mobile devices, the latter one became personalized, making the problem of data safety quite relevant. In turn, it was imperative to use the most advanced security technologies, equipping the applications, operating systems, and devices with the most efficient means of protection. The gadgets that were used on a regular basis must ensure respect for the inviolability of personal information. Apple, one of the leading manufacturers and innovators in the field of mobile technologies, made this principle one of the cornerstones of its product strategy, which distinguished it from the competitors. However, despite such attention to the safety of consumers, the latter ones were not so eager to spend their money on the products by Apple (Matyszczyk, 2016). In fact, during the last years, the company’s sales had started to decline (Gilbert, 2016), which was a sign of the problems related to the marketing strategy of the enterprise. These issues had to be addressed without a delay for the firm to maintain its current position in the market and ensure its profitability and survivability in a long-term perspective. Therefore, the following work focused on the organization and conduction of the research that would point out the reasons for the insignificant attention on the part of consumers and become a basis for making the propositions and recommendations aimed at addressing the problems.
The primary problem of Apple was its consumers’ low awareness of the importance of safety of their private or sensitive data during the work with mobile devices. It resulted in their low interest for the solutions and technologies that were being developed to address this problem. It should be noted that the current marketing strategy that had been implemented by Apple did not address the issue. At the same time, the majority of other manufacturers, especially the ones that operated in collaboration with Google, not only used the personal information of their customers but also did not try to conceal this fact. On the other hand, the product strategy of Apple was rather different, with its smartphones being a part of a closed ecosystem that consisted of devices manufactured by the firm. Naturally, in such conditions, the risk of data theft had been reduced significantly. However, the consumers seemed to ignore this fact when choosing a smartphone (Matyszczyk, 2016). As a result, the current strategy of Apple, which focused on the principle of non-intrusion in the private life of its customers (i.e. the firm was not interested in their sensitive information), making the company stand out in the market of mobile devices, did not provide it with a competitive advantage. Against the background of the growing competition, such situation could have affected the sales of the enterprise, leading to the reduction if its profitability and survivability in a long-term perspective. However, the company did nothing to address the issue, relying on its usual marketing strategy for the advertisement and promotion of its products (Matyszczyk, 2016). Thus, the problem was in the low efficiency of the latter, meaning that there had been a need for its adjustment.
The primary objectives of the marketing research were to determine the reason for the current attitude of consumers towards the safety of their private data during the use of personalized technologies and use this information to adjust the marketing strategy of the company. In order to meet them, it was imperative to gather both primary and secondary data that was relevant to the case of the company. The first type of data was to be collected with the specific purpose within the boundaries of the research (Wiid & Diggines, 2009). As a result, its primary source would be the users of Apple’s products to provide the consumer data in the course of surveys and interviews. By analyzing and processing it, it would be possible to define the behavioral patterns of clients. On the other hand, the secondary information, i.e. the one collected by someone else for the purpose that did not coincide with the current research objectives (Wiid & Diggines, 2009), would provide an insight into the changes in the preferences of buyers, as well as the dynamics of sales. As a result, it could be divided into internal and external ones. The sources of such data would include the information system of the organization (including such subsystems as accounting, sales management, and the others), as well as the results of the earlier marketing studies conducted by Apple. In turn, this information could be used to alter and adjust the marketing strategy of the enterprise while retaining the core principles of product design that made its smartphones unique. As a result, the company would maintain its well-known image while eliminating the bottlenecks in the process of advertisement and promotion of its devices. Thus, the restoration of Apple’s competitive advantage through the use of marketing tools was the ultimate objective of the research.
The research was of exploratory nature, i.e. it focused on collecting the pre-marketing information to identify the problems and make hypotheses. The primary reason for the selection of such approach was the fact that there was not enough information about the reasons for the consumers’ indifference. It means that any definitive conclusions on this matter had to be drawn with caution since they could steer the research in the wrong direction. As a result, it was impossible to establish an explanatory relationship between the problems of the company and situation in the market, which led to the need for the further exploration of the issue (Wiid & Diggines, 2009). The research used several techniques. The first of them was a qualitative approach, which included the informal interviewing of consumers at Apple stores. Next, there was the formal data gathering, namely through the use of questionnaires. The final technique was the secondary research, which focused on the study of the relevant data being already in possession of the enterprise.
The selected design dictated the need for it being flexible and multifaceted. It means that there had to be less formalized methods and procedures. It was necessary to ensure the analysis of the new ideas and considerations that arose in connection with the researched problem. At the same time, its primary limitation was the low stability. In particular, in case a new idea or information was received, the orientation of the study might have changed drastically. The exploration had to continue until all possibilities were exhausted or would not find another direction (Wiid & Diggines, 2009). For this reason, the focus of the research could be subject to modification as the understanding of the issue deepened.
Fieldwork/Data Collection Techniques
The focus on the target consumers of Apple provided for a relatively specific set of tools that could be used to collect the necessary information. It primarily included surveys (online and personal) and questionnaires (open and closed ones). On the other hand, there was also the so-called library research, i.e. the secondary one, which focused on the review of the available internal data. However, despite the differences in the methods of its gathering, all of the marketing data obtained in the course of the research had to meet several fundamental requirements. First of all, it had to be relevant, i.e. represent the real facts at the right time and have the connection with the reviewed problems. It should also be reliable, i.e. reflect the events with a high degree of adequacy. Finally, it must have weight, i.e. provide for the maximum use of indicators of the research object (Wiid & Diggines, 2009). In this case, it could be used as a basis for the adjustment of Apple’s marketing strategy.
The responsibility for the data collection was to be distributed among the employees of the company’s marketing department. It was decided to avoid outsourcing of this task, i.e. attracting the specialized groups and agencies from outside, due to the objectives of the research that involved both internal and external data sources. Moreover, such approach allowed preventing the leaks of sensitive or private information, which could threaten the well-being of the organization as a whole (Wiid & Diggines, 2009). The quality of the data was to be ensured through the use of several methods, with the polls and interviews being the primary focus of the QC team. In particular, during the process of data collection, the routes of the interviewers had to be available to the members of the latter to indicate the time and place of the interview. The best way to ensure the reliability of data was the open control of the interviewers. This approach had several advantages. The first of them was the elimination of the possibility of falsified answers. Moreover, the observation of the process of data gathering allowed determining its weak spots, with its subsequent adjustment. The second available method was the so-called hidden control. During it, it was possible to check whether the interviewer had invited the people relevant to the objectives of the research, with the members of the team acting as respondents and answering the questions. In turn, one could define the quality of an interview, e.g. whether the interviewer suggested the right answers. After the data were collected, at least 10-20% of the documents had to be analyzed. It was imperative to check whether the questionnaire had been filled completely and whether there had been a correlation between the answers to the test questions. In case any of the interviewers or areas covered by the study seemed to be unreliable, it was necessary to browse through more profiles from this data source (Wiid & Diggines, 2009). As a result, it would be possible to avoid fraud and increase the value and weight of the obtained information.
The study of the collected data made it possible to draw the following conclusions. First of all, the consumers tended to disclose their personal information online to save time and effort on the voluntary basis. At the same time, they were actively concerned about its protection. In particular, about 27% of the respondents were willing to disclose their personal information for the sake of convenience (Tryfonas, 2016). In many aspects, these habits seemed to be paradoxical, which made it rather difficult to draw conclusions. For example, the majority of respondents claimed that they did not trust social networking sites and the manufacturers of mobile devices when it came to the safety of their personal data. Meanwhile 40% of people had been not satisfied by the privacy settings offered by online services and gadgets (Tryfonas, 2016). Additionally, more than the third of respondents were convinced that the government protected their personal information even in case the manufacturers of smart phones failed to do so. However, many users expressed the opinion that the Internet and, therefore, the devices that were associated with it, were becoming less private than it used to be. For example, 81% of people believed that the level of privacy on the Internet would decline over the next five years while 59% of respondents felt a considerable decrease in privacy over the past year (Tryfonas, 2016). In turn, from their point of view, the situation was rather dire.
Thus, it was possible to say that the consumers were concerned about the safety of their private data. However, they were not ready to take any action to improve their own safety, relying on the other entities instead. Moreover, they were not willing to sacrifice convenience for the sake of security. The analysis of the company’s sales had demonstrated the steady decline, with its revenues dropping by 13% or $8 billion (Gilbert, 2016). In turn, this fact made it possible to assume that the current features of products by Apple, including the ones related to the safety of personal data, were not quite attractive in the eyes of an average consumer. As a result, the people required motivation either from the government or manufacturers to act responsibly. In the case of Apple, which had always operated with the emotions of its customers, such objective would not be difficult to achieve.
Recommendations and Limitations
The findings of marketing research made it possible to provide the following recommendations. First of all, Apple had to focus on attracting the attention of users to the problem of data safety. This goal could be achieved by writing and distributing articles that informed readers about the problems they could encounter due to the lack of control over their sensitive information and the possible consequences of these issues. Additionally, each article had to contain a discreet description of possible ways to prevent all these difficulties through the use of specific solutions. It was not necessary to go into the detailed descriptions of the products. The reason is that the client could have the impression that the articles were aimed at the promotion of goods. In case the content of the work or the issue described therein attracted the interest of the customer, he would try to obtain the information on the said product or turn to the author (Pulizzi, 2014). Writing and distributing articles was a powerful marketing tool, which made it possible to recommend making every effort to bring these publications to clients. Even in case the article came out in a rather popular magazine, one could not expect that it would be seen by the majority of consumers. Therefore, it was necessary to create a section on the corporate website that would contain all released material, as well as stream them in the paper or electronic form to clients (e.g. during face-to-face meetings and public events). In case there was a significant amount of articles, it was possible to use them for the creation of the themed compilations and release them as separate booklets.
Additionally, it was possible to recommend developing the detailed descriptions of the safety-related properties of products, making them available to consumers. The more detailed the description would be, the better it could be. It demonstrated the depth of the manufacturer’s knowledge. As a promotion tool, it was possible to use the corporate website, product catalogs, and separate leaflets sent to potential clients. Moreover, it was necessary to conduct the preparation of analytical materials that would provide the client with the interesting information related to the offered products (Pulizzi, 2014). For example, they could contain the comparative characteristics of data protection solutions and the policies implemented by different manufacturers, the description of correct approaches to their choice, product testing, and any other data that could be useful to the consumer. The company’s expenditures that were associated with such analyses would more than pay for themselves through the increased sales after their appearance (Pulizzi, 2014). Finally, the considerable results could be achieved through the promotion of the comprehensive analytical materials in specialized magazines, the target audience of which consisted of those people being familiar with the concept of data safety. It was not recommended to pursue the publication of such information in any other print sources as the audience of these media was not interested in such technical features (Pulizzi, 2014). It means that the initiative would not have the desired impact.
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At the same time, it was possible to note that the consumer-oriented research had provided for the emergence of certain limitations that could have a negative effect on the reliability of the data obtained in its course. This statement was especially true for the use of both closed and open questionnaires. In the first case, they did not provide an opportunity to fix the shades of opinion, as well as did not allow expressing the views in a verbal form. It means that the data obtained through them were likely to be limited. The open questionnaires were less restrictive, allowing respondents to express their views in their own words instead of sticking to the pre-selected answers. They were also more flexible and provided the richer data in comparison to the standardized ones. The researcher could develop any questions for the better understanding of the respondent. On the other hand, the lack of unification meant that the answers would be difficult to compare (Wiid & Diggines, 2009).
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