A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.
And “polarizing” would certainly characterize the tone of much of the public commentary thus far. While the Apple Watch may be Apple’s most individual product, within the tech media it is certainly the most studied. From our own research, I had long questioned whether the heavy scrutiny by many in the tech elite was representative of the true mass-market sentiment toward the Apple Watch. This was what the folks at Wristly and I set out to discover.
Profile of the Research Panel
As a researcher, one of the things critical to understand is the profile of the people you are surveying. With the Wristly Apple Watch Owner Network, we have more than a thousand people on our panel. The belief, by many, was this first wave of Apple Watch buyers would skew toward early adopters. When we asked some pre-qualification questions to help us profile the panel, we found a healthy range of consumer profiles were represented.
By our profiling questions, we found 34 percent of Apple Watch buyers were what we profiled as tech insiders. These were folks who very closely aligned with early-adopter behavior. To our surprise, 53 percent were what we call “enthusiastic” users. These are folks who don’t work in the tech industry, don’t even consider themselves “techies,” and more closely resemble traits of the mainstream consumer market.*
One of the best ways to measure how a product is being received by its owners is customer satisfaction. This statistic alone is highlighted by Apple continually as the barometer by which they measure a product’s success. Many pundits will look to Apple Watch sales as the metric for its success. But the real question is, do people love it? The answer is yes.
It is common practice to add the top two boxes, which demonstrate satisfaction with the product, in customer satisfaction ratings. When doing so, we arrive at a 97 percent customer satisfaction level for the Apple Watch. For even more perspective, if we take a look at how the Apple Watch customer satisfaction rating compares to the first generation of the iPad and the iPhone, we see the Apple Watch has the highest customer satisfaction rating of any previous version one Apple product. Given that the current customer satisfaction of the iPhone is at 99 percent, the first version of the Apple Watch ranks closer to the current generation iPhone than the first-generation iPhone or iPad in terms of satisfaction.
This begs an interesting question. Why does the Apple Watch have a higher customer satisfaction rating than the iPad or iPhone this early on in the product’s life cycle? Luckily, we have some observations and data to tell the story.
Early Adopters vs. Average Consumers
What has been fascinating about the Wristly Apple Watch Panel is how diverse it is across the adoption-cycle spectrum. We have those on the bleeding edge of adoption all the way through mainstream consumers who aren’t buying it for the sake of Apple fanaticism or love of tech and gadgetry but because they saw the utility and usefulness of the product right off the bat. They are all represented in our panel. I’m not sure any other product, from early PCs, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, etc., this early in their category, life cycle would have given us the opportunity to survey and talk to consumers with such a wide spectrum of the adoption cycle represented.
In many of our surveys related to questions on the Apple Watch — apps they use, likes and dislikes, willingness to promote or recommend the product to another person, etc. — I was reading through answers and began to observe something. There was quite a range of answers, particularly around a willingness to recommend the Apple Watch. We started seeing a common theme of answers that went something like this: “I like the Watch, but I’m not sure my friends will yet as it isn’t ready for the mainstream.” Or, “I’m an early adopter and I know I like these types of products out of the gate but I’m not sure my friends will.” But then we also started seeing answers like, “I don’t see why everyone can’t get value out of this product.” Or, “I love it and can’t stop telling everyone how much I love it.”
Around this same time, I was conducting man-on-the- street interviews everywhere I saw people with an Apple Watch. I’d just ask them what they thought of the product. I’d often make sure my watch was hidden in the hope that they would treat me as someone genuinely interested in the product and looking for a recommendation on whether to buy it or not. I also interviewed, on the phone in many different locations, a handful of volunteers from the Wristly panel. What I discovered was quite fascinating.
As I listened to 14 different people tell me about their Apple Watch, I observed a pattern. Those whose job it was to think about the Apple Watch or who were early adopters who thought deeply about tech and the tech products they buy, were all much more critical of the watch. You could tell they evaluated it and thought about it deeply from every angle by their responses. Then I talked with teachers, firefighters, insurance agents, and those not in the tech industry and not hard-core techies. These groups of people couldn’t stop raving about the Apple Watch and how much they loved the product. It was almost as if the farther away people were from tech or the tech industry, the more they liked the Apple Watch.
As we filtered the customer satisfaction answers by profile, we saw something that fit this observation. While every profile ranked high in one of the two top satisfaction responses, it was the non-tech users who ranked the highest for “very satisfied/delighted” by the Apple Watch.
While we don’t know exactly how many Apple Watches have been sold, what we can measure and use as a barometer to judge the success or failure of Apple Watch is if current owners are happy, satisfied and delighted. For that we can safely conclude the answer is a resounding yes.
You can download the full Apple Watch customer satisfaction report here. Also please join our Apple Watch panel if you haven’t already for insights and full reports.
* Note on methodology: We asked a series of profiling questions to help us spot those with early adopter or more mainstream non-tech user traits; things like first iPhone owned, current iPhone owned, timing of watch purchase, etc. Then we created the profiles of Tech Insider and Non-Tech User based on the screening questions.
Ben Bajarin is a principal analyst at Creative Strategies Inc., an industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Reach him @BenBajarin.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.