emerging markets

Apple keeps 76% of its users. Samsung gets 34% of switchers

March 7, 2014: 7:10 AM ET

Another study found 42% of Chinese buyers want iPhones vs. 32% for Samsung.

Source: Upstream

Source: Upstream

FORTUNE -- "We may have underestimated Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) progress in China."

So begins a story in the International Business Times Friday reporting on the numbers in the first attached chart.

They come from an Upstream survey of 4,505 smartphone customers in five emerging markets in which respondents were asked what brand they hoped to buy next. Apple edged out Samsung 32% to 29% overall. The gap was considerably wider in China, where 42% said they wanted their next phone to be an iPhone.

How can this be? Apple's share of smartphone sales in China last quarter, according to IDC, was a slim 7%.

There's a clue to what may be happening in a second study released last week by Xerox' (XRX) WDS subsidiary that measured something I'm calling brand magnetism.

Source: WDS

Source: WDS.

As part of a study of customer loyalty, WDS researchers surveyed 3,000 smartphone customers in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Fully 76% of iPhone owners said they were sticking with Apple. Samsung came in second at 58%. No other smartphone manufacturer managed to break 40%.

By contrast, Samsung was the favorite choice of "switchers." Among customers who were switching smartphone brands or coming from a feature phone, 34% bought Samsungs vs. 24% Apple iPhones.

"This metric speaks a lot to the marketing might of Samsung," said WDS's Tim Deluca-Smith. "The company has been very successful in developing solid relationships with almost every mobile operator on the planet and then building devices to a variety of price-points. This exposes the Samsung portfolio to an enormous base of potential customers."

That sounds like Samsung.

An earlier consumer retention study by Consumer Research Intelligence Partners found that among people who switched smartphone brands, Apple was able to take three times as many Samsung customers (33%) as Samsung was able to steal from Apple (11%)

One more data point. The Upsteam survey found that although nearly a third of customers in the developing world covet the iPhone, they download their apps and other content from Google (GOOG) Play (40%) or directly from their mobile operator (26%). Only 28% are currently using Apple's App Store -- although judging from Upstream's litany of complaints, that could change:

These [non-Apple] app stores are not without their frustrations. Results from the report show that the most prevalent app store problem experienced by emerging market consumers is the high level of promotional messages received (24%), suggesting that users are not amenable to in-app advertising. Furthermore the data revealed difficulty in navigating app stores to find downloadable content (24%) is another primary frustration. For example, 1 in 5 respondents point out that app stores have a lack of personalised suggestions (20%) and 1 in 10 (11%) say a major problem with current app stores options is the lack of payment methods offered when purchasing content. With many emerging market consumers not having access to credit cards, it will be the app stores that cater to all payment methods that will achieve widespread success.

Catering to all price points and payment methods is not exactly Apple's forte.

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