Customer Engagement and Experience Influence Consumer Selections

This is our third annual analysis of customer perceptions of smartphones. This report is produced entirely by means of Social Media research. Customers became even more active in 2012, sharing their experiences with products they chose for the benefit of consumers who are shopping for smartphones.

The last year saw an increase in unsolicited Social Customer engagements with brands in this category of over 75% — from 29,971 in 2011 to 52,517 in 2012. The quarterly trends indicate that the rate of engagement is still accelerating. The following filters were applied to arrive to these numbers:

  • smartphone models that have at least 100 customer reviews published on multiple SM sites
  • content is unsolicited and volunteered by actual customers
  • content was published on or before 12/31/2012

We produce smartphone market reports to illustrate the power of our technology developed for DIY primary market research of Social Media and Social Enterprise. Our software mines opinions in customers Word of Mouth to measure their engagement with brands and difference between their expectations and their experience, then predicts their propensity for advocacy. For more information about methodology used to produce this information, please visit our methodology page and/or contact the writer.

Spotlight on Customer Engagement

Brand cannot flourish without advocacy of its customers and the advocacy is not likely without engagement.  We have noticed the correlation between number of reviews published online and a number of units shipped, and therefore found it important to use for further studies. There are plenty of smartphones launched every year, but only some engage customers sufficiently to inspire them to share their experience in numbers that are required for meaningful, statistically representative analysis. The consumer exposure (i.e., advertising spent) is one factor, but not the deciding one. An example, HTC 8X, is exposed a lot more via TV advertising than Nokia Lumia 920, but the latter is reviewed online almost twice as much so far.

Samsung is the King of Customer Engagement and it is not surprising that their sales numbers are also leading the rest of the brands. More intriguing is that HTC keeps holding to the second place, considering its well publicized problems.  However the Samsung is not the only net gainer – Nokia has also seen dramatic improvement in its Social Customer engagement.

Below is a chart of the trends in Social Customer Engagement with brands year over year. As the overall engagement grows fast, only Samsung and Nokia show substantial gains capturing attention of this critically important demographics. Brand Engagement Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S III was the most often reviewed smartphone in 2012 (5,048), which is remarkable considering its late shipping date.  It is not really a surprise considering its market penetration (it is available under the same name from every major US carrier), and advertizing spent. This strategy does promote powerful Word of Mouth, but this smartphone was also launched before most of the others on this list.The Apple iPhone 5 was second (3,185) and iPhone 4S third (3,096) in engaging with customers.

Customer Engagement with Platforms

It appears that Social Customers display more loyalty to the smartphone platforms than to the brands as they describe their previous experiences with different manufacturer models, but mostly the same operating systems. That is why we also looked at Customer Engagement by platform.

 Social Customer Engagement by Platform

Again, the domination of Android is to be expected even though it came down from the prior year. The dramatic drop in iOS Customer Engagement is very surprising (30% Y-O-Y), but there is enough evidence of the substantial number of iPhone customers who decided to experience Android (9%) or Windows (14%) platforms. It is always easier to show dramatic gain from a low base, but the growth of engagement with Windows customers is nothing less than remarkable at  1,032% Y-O-Y.

Social Customer Engagement trends by Platform

Spotlight on Advocacy

In the previous reports we measured Customer Satisfaction with smartphones, and then aggregated these numbers to the brand level. This year we introduced a capability to estimate (or predict) how the Social Customers would respond to the Net Promoter Score® question, if they were asked “On the scale of 0-10, how likely would you be to recommend this product to your friend or family?”. Since we work with unsolicited customer feedback, we have no ability to ask such a question. However, when customers are asked this question their typical response is to replay their experience with the product in their minds, then decide how to answer, based on those memories. These experiences are precisely the same “raw material” that is available in online customer reviews. Our software does the last piece of translating stories and experiences into a score. It is taking common language and translating it into a scale of how strongly the “author” feels about the subject – either positively or negatively.   The chart below shows aggregated NPS for each brand that is produced by calculating weighted scores of the individual smartphones that are associated with a brand.

It would not be surprising that these numbers may substantially differ from the results obtained by a survey if you consider that Social Customer enjoys anonymity that allows them to say how they really feel about their experience. The top Advocacy rating of 2012 is shared by 2 Windows smartphones – HTC Titan II (NPS=55) and Nokia Lumia 920 (NPS=55). Motorola Atrix 2 (NPS=49), Nokia Lumia 822 (NPS=47) and Samsung Galaxy Note (NPS=45) complete the top five smartphones. The basement is occupied by LG Cosmos 2 (NPS=-68), Motorola Droid 2 Global (NPS=-55) and LG Revolution (NPS=-44). These ratings are changing quite frequently. Our software recalculates every time new customers publish their experiences online. Free access to a real-time monitoring of a product category of your choice is available on trial basis.

Advocacy by Platform

Say what you want about a shortage of applications, Windows users just love their experiences with the platform. There is not a lot of them yet (4,152), but their numbers are growing fast (1.032% year-over-year) and they are very vocal. The quarterly growth trends were very consistent and apparently predictive of growing sales  (139% in Q3).

Three out of top five smartphones are powered by Windows.

We cannot provide trending information for NPS this year as this capability was launched only a few months ago.  However, we can look at Customer Satisfaction as a proxy, to see that it improved for all platforms excluding Blackberry.

The blog format does not allow enough space for detailed reports of each smartphone customer experience analysis, or their benchmarking and root cause analysis, but such information is available on request if desired. Below is an example (a screenshot) illustrating a format of Customer Experience dashboard.


In conclusion, this form of Social Media market research offers compounding benefits: faster time to insight translates into advantages in time to market. Lower research costs mean more resources that can be directed into improving the Customer Experience. All this translates into serious competitive advantage. In our experience, companies that leverage customer review data not only benefit from faster time to insight, but actually find the information more actionable.

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