Strategic Analysis: Apple
William A. Rios Jr
February 1, 2017
Strategic Analysis: Introduction and Problem Statement
Apple is a technology company whose headquarters are in Cupertino, California. Ronald Wayne, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Job cofounded the business in April 1976. A year later, the trio incorporated the company as Apple Computer, Inc (Richardson & Terrell, 2008). The company was specializing in designing, developing, and selling personal computers. However, its founders found opportunities in the consumer electronics market and consequently diversified its products to include a wide range of consumer electronics. In January 2007, the company was renamed to Apple Inc (Richardson & Terrell, 2008). Its main products include iPhone Smartphone, the Mac personal computer, Apple Watch smart watch, iPad tablet, iPod media player, and Apple TV. The company also has a range of software including Mac operating system (OS), iOS, Safari web browser, iTunes, iWork,and iLife. Moreover, the company has various services, which include iTunes store, Apple Music, Mac App Store, and iOS App Store (Richardson & Terrell, 2008).
Apple went public in December 1980 through an Initial Public Offering at US$22.00 for every share (Richardson & Terrell, 2008). Immediately afterwards, the company faced stiff competition. Moreover, poor leadership under CEO Gil Amileo resulted in the company performing poorly. By then Steve Jobs had been ousted from the company he co-founded. However, his comeback in July 1997 helped the company return to profitability after a major transformation (Richardson & Terrell, 2008). Currently, Apple is a leader in the computer and consumer electronics industry. Its high competitiveness is a result of its strategic planning and use of competitive business practices. Apple’s operating revenue is estimated at $215.6 billion while its annual operating income is estimated at $60 billion. The company employs about 115,000 people (Apple, 2016). It endeavors to grow its annual operating income for 2017 to “between $76 billion and $78 billion” (Apple, 2016, para. 4).
Apple does not have a clear mission and vision statement. It seems every CEO of the company comes in with mission statement. For example, Steve Job’s mission was to “make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind” (Blodget, 2013, para. 11). He was also using the following mission statement: “Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them” (Blodget, 2013, para. 12). The current CEO, Tim Cook, uses a different mission statement, which is “commitment to making the best products rather that the most” (Blodget, 2013, para. 15).
Apple’s best-selling product, iPhone, is facing quality issues especially with the battery whereby customers are complaining that their Smartphones are shutting off when battery life goes down to around 30%.
This problem is affecting all models of iPhone except iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (Kelly, 2016). The company had assumed it was a small problem affecting roughly about 30% of the products in the market. However, it has continued to receive complaints from customers, which means that the problem could be bigger than Apple thinks (Kelly, 2016). Product recall is common and it is aimed at rectifying problems that have been detected once the product is already in the market. Apple has not yet decided on recalling iPhones facing this problem. The recall would be costly to the company. For example, Samsung underwent a cost of $17 billion when it decided to recall Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (Kelly, 2016). Failure to recall the products may paint a tainted image to Apple resulting in loss of revenue because consumers might be more cautious about iPhones.
Tools that I Will Use to Solve Apple’s Problems with iPhone
The tools selected include Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analysis, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, and balanced scorecard (BSC). The first tool, BCG analysis, will help Apple to understand the strategic position of iPhones in the Smartphone market. This knowledge will guide the company in making the right decision regarding whether to improve the market or introduce other highly competing products. BCG matrix identifies four types of products/services in the market. Cash cows have high market share yet they operate in a slow-growing industry while dogs have low market share in a slow-growing market. Question marks have low market share in a high-growth industry while stars have high market share yet they operate in a fast-growing market (Daft, Kendrick & Vershinina, 2010). If Apple realizes that iPhone is a star, for example, there will be a dire need to address the current problems to prevent it from becoming a question mark.
The other analysis tool is SWOT analysis. It helps a company to perform internal analysis in order to identify its strengths and weaknesses. External (market) analysis will help Apple to identify opportunities and threats (University of Kansas, 2016). Effective analysis will help the company to address its weaknesses particularly regarding iPhone and leverage its strengths in order to exploit market opportunities so that it can counter threats especially competition from other technological firms. SWOT analysis will help Apple to come up with highly competitive strategies that will enable it to maintain high levels of market competitiveness.
BSC analysis combines financial and non-financial performance aspects of a business. Its four main perspectives include internal, learning and growth, customer, and financial (Kaplan & Norton, 2007). Using this analysis tool will help Apple to realize the impact of any of these four areas on the other three because the tool considers an organization as a closed system. For example, customer dissatisfaction with iPhone will negatively affect Apple’s financial objectives. Therefore, addressing these problems will not only improve customer satisfaction, but also will help the company to improve its financial performance, achieve growth in the industry, and improve its strengths (internal perspectives).
Tools that I Considered but will not Use
PESTLE (political, economical, socio-cultural, technological, legal, and environmental) analysis is important in helping an organization to come up with competitive strategies that address the six market aspects. However, I will not use this strategic analysis tool because it does not fully address the problem identified with Apple’s iPhone. Using this tool will result in too much analysis on areas outside the scope of the problem with little input or assistance in addressing the issue.
The other tool that I considered but will not use is the Michael Porter’s five-force analysis (threat of new entrants, threat of substitutes, customers’ bargaining power, buyer bargaining power, and industry rivalry). This tool for strategic analysis would be extremely helpful for analyzing apple as a whole instead of analyzing the problem with iPhone. Its application in the analysis of the organization would enable Apple to develop business and market strategies that will help the company to leverage its competitiveness. However, attempting to use the tool to analyze iPhone’s issues will result in too much work with little contribution to solving the problem.
Strategic Analysis of Apple using BCG Matrix
Apple’s products can be divided into question marks, rising star, cash cows, and dogs.
Question marks have a low market share despite operating in an industry where there is high potential for growth. Apple’s TV is the greatest question mark for the company. In the United States, Apple TV is lagging behind Google’s Chromecast and Roku in terms of market share. Apple TV occupies 11.3% of the TV market while Chromecast’s share stands at 16.8%. Roku’s share is estimated at 16.4% (Reisinger, 2016). The set-top box captures digital data and then sends them to a HDMI-compliant device such as high-definition or enhanced-definition widescreen (Reisinger, 2016). The product also offers other features such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and infrared capability such that it can be connected to other digital devices such as iPad and iPhone (Reisinger, 2016).
The digital market is rapidly growing especially considering that global switch from analogue to digital TV transmission is currently underway. However, Apple’s TV is not reaching its full potential because of various ecosystem problems. For instance, analysts say that when Apple designed the product, they were too much focused on using iTunes store to watch movies and TV shows (Reisinger, 2016). As such, there is little emphasis on integration with various screens. If Apple can address these problems, Apple TV could dominate the digital TV transmission industry and thus become rising stars.
Rising stars have high market share in a fast growing market. iPad and iPhone are Apple’s rising stars. In particular, iPhone is a rising star owing to its largest market share in the Smartphone market. In the United States, iPhone’s market share has remained steady at 43.5% although it has done slightly better that in 2015 (43.3%) and 2014 (42.3%) (Reisinger, 2016). iPhone 7 is expected to perform better than iPhone 6s. As such, iPhone’s market share is expected to increase although Apple is facing stiff market competition from Android-based Smartphones such as Samsung Galaxy (Reisinger, 2016).Apple has the opportunity to continue making iPhone a rising star by addressing various problems that customers have reported. Doing so will help the company to achieve its sales and growth objectives. However, iPad is losing ground in the market after its market share in the United States “fell below 50% for the first time in 2015” (Reisinger, 2016, para. 6). It is expected that its market share will fall to 44% by the year 2020 mainly due to stiff competition from other technological firms (Reisinger, 2016).
Cash cows have high market share yet they operate in a slow-growing industry. Apple’s Mac Book is the company’s cash cow. The market for portable computers particularly laptops has been on a decline globally over the last five years. Statistics show that in 2015, global shipments in laptops dropped by 5.7% (Weinberger, 2017). Apple’s sales for Mac Book declined by 9.8%, which is greater than the industry fall (Weinberger, 2017). Customers are fast moving to other highly portable computing devices especially tablets and Smartphones.
Nevertheless, Apple’s market share in the personal computer industry is still impressive despite decline in sales. Indeed, Apple holds the fourth position and analysts believe that the company will continue to outpace its rivals. In particular, the release of the MacBook Pro in the last quarter of 2016 renewed Apple’s efforts to regain its market share that it had lost to Window-based computers (Weinberger, 2017). Apple is still earning income from the Mac Book and the period over which it will continue earning from this product will depend on improvements that it will continue making to retain the product in the market.
Dogs have low market share in a slow-growing market. Desktop computers, in general, are fading away because users are preferring portable devices. Apple’s desktop is also fading away. There are numerous competitors in the market such that the company is not making so much money from this product. Perhaps it is the right time to drop this product and concentrate on others.
Relevance of this analysis to the problem identified
BCG analysis has shown that Apple’s has an opportunity to achieve its strategic objective of growing its operating income to $78 billion in 2017. The Analysis has shown that iPhone is Apple’s best selling product. However, there is a risk of the product losing its market share and hence preventing the company from realizing its growth objectives if it does not address quality issues with iPhone.
Strategic Analysis of Apple using SWOT Analysis
Advertising capabilities: Apple used about $1.8 billion in 2015 for advertisement purposes (Apple, 2016a). Although the company may not be the greatest spender on advertising in the industry, its effective use of every dollar in advertisement is a major strength. Indeed, Apple spends less that 1% of total sales on advertising compared to Samsung that spends 1.86% of sales (Samsung, 2016) yet the former has better financial performance and brand recognition that the latter (Forbes, 2016).
Strong distribution channels locally and in foreign markets: the company’s extensive distribution channels, which combines online stores, retail stores, direct sales force, and indirect distribution network enable the company to reach its widely spread market more effectively than its competitors.
Vertical integration: Apple has a wide range of products and services including Smartphones, personal computers, entertainment, software, and service provision such as cloud storage. This diversification generates high income for the company. In addition, it cushions the business in case there are dynamics in the market for any product.
Strong brand awareness: Apple is one of the most recognized brands in the world mainly because of its innovation and emphasis on quality versus quantity (Forbes, 2016). Consequently, it means that Apple’s products are widely known.
Strong brand reputation: Apple is the most valuable brand globally being valued at $145.3 billion (Forbes, 2016). This brand reputation means that customers will be highly willing to purchase Apple’s products.
Excellent financial performance: Apple has a strong balance sheet. The company has constantly grown its revenue and profitability (Forbes, 2016). This impressive performance gives Apple the capability to maintain highly efficient operations.
Overreliance on iPhone: iPhone’s sales account for two thirds of the company’s total sales (Apple, 2016a). This means that if iPhone’s sales go down, Apple will suffer a major blow. It also means that a majority of its other products and services are not generating sustainable income.
Quality problems with iPhone: customer complaints that the company is receiving from iPhone customers mean that iPhone’s sales might go down.
Low performance on Innovation: during Steve Job’s era, Apple was known as one of the most innovative companies mainly because of the introduction of new products and services into the market. However, for the last couple of years, the company has not introduced a disruptive product or service in the market. The company spends 3.4% of its revenues on research and development (R&D), which is far much below its rivals (Apple, 2016a).
Incompatibility: iPhone only operates on Apple’s OS X while Mac Book and iPad operates on iOS, which are incompatible with other common operating systems such as Microsoft and Android. Although this feature increases switching costs and hence maintains customer loyalty, new customers may be scared away from Apple’s products.
Growth in the mobile payment market: it is estimated that mobile-based transactions reached $8.7 billion in the US alone in 2015 (eMarketer, 2015). Apple can get into this market by introducing payment system that allows people to pay for products or services or transfer money to others.
Growth of the Smartphone market: the Smartphone market is in its growth stage. Apple can exploit this opportunity by addressing weaknesses in its iPhone to attract customers.
Health technology: there is increasing demand for wearable health technology that can help a person to monitor physical activity, blood sugar, and other health-related issues. Apple can venture into this business by introducing wearable smart gadgets. The company’s success in smart watch (Apple Watch) shows that it can easily exploit this opportunity.
Stiff market competition: Apple is facing intensifying competition from Dell, Microsoft, Samsung, HP, Lenovo, IBM, and Google among others. This rivalry is putting pressure on the company’s market share, sales, revenues, and profitability.
Patent Infringement issues: Apple has, for a number of times, found itself on the wrong side of the law regarding patent infringement. Apple is being targeted for patent infringement perhaps in the bid to lower its competitiveness (Unified Patents, 2015). These lawsuits serve to destroy a company’s reputation.
Data security issues: The company collects large amounts of personal data from employees and customers. The rise in cyber crime increases the risk of this data finding its way to unauthorized parties. In such a case, Apple’s customers would lose trust with the company resulting in lost sales.
Relevance of SWOT analysis on the identified problem
The analysis shows that iPhone is the primary income generator for Apple yet this critical product is facing quality issues. As such, the company must be quick to address problems with iPhone in order to achieve its growth objectives.
Strategic Analysis of Apple using Balanced Scorecard
The BSC analysis of Apple is shown diagrammatically as derived from Kaplan and Norton (2007).
Relevance of BSC analysis on the problem identified
According to the analysis done above, internal business perspectives especially product design will affect customer satisfaction (customer perspective). Shareholder value will be affected if iPhone’s problems persist because of reduced customer satisfaction. Eventually, the company will not achieve growth objectives thereby affecting shareholder value negatively.
The alternatives to the stated problem, which involves iPhone switching off when battery life drops to around 30%, include:
Do nothing about the faulty products in already in the market but correct the problem for iPhone products not yet sold;
Recall all the iPhone models with the problem (Iphone 6 and iPhone 6s);
The company can discontinue with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s so that the company can focus on iPhone 7 and iPhone 7plus, which do not have the battery problem.
Analysis of the Alternatives
Do nothing about the faulty products in already in the market but correct the problem for iPhone products not yet sold
This alternative essentially means leaving customers who already purchased iPhone products with faulty battery system to continue struggling with the problem. Instead, the company should focus on replacing the battery system for all unsold iPhone models with the problem. This alternative is the cheapest among the four possible options. Apple has a strong balance sheet with its annual operating income estimated at $60 billion (Apple, 2016). Therefore, the company will easily afford this alternative.
However, this option will evoke a strong response from competitors especially Samsung. Market rivals will highly likely consider iPhone’s persisting problems as an opportunity to increase market share by targeting Apple’s customers who will be disappointed with iPhone. For instance, Samsung and other phone manufacturers will market their Smartphones as having a stress-free battery system.
Customers will consider this alternative as Apple’s insensitivity to customer experience especially considering that iPhone’s premium price. This alternative might initiate loss of customer loyalty whereby customers will run to Apple’s competitors such as Samsung. In other words, failure to address this problem with iPhone products already with customers will compel them to start comparing iPhone with other Smartphones. Customers will fear iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s such that they will refuse to purchase them even if promised that the problem has been addressed.
This alternative does not fit with the organizational culture, mission, vision, and goals. Apple’s goal is to grow annual operating income to “between $76 billion and $78 billion” (Apple, 2016, para. 4). Failure to address the problem with iPhone products already with customers will result in reduced customer satisfaction. iPhone sales will go down.iPhone’s sales account for two thirds of the company’s total sales (Apple, 2016a). Slight loss in sales for iPhone will have a serious impact on Apple’s total revenue such that the company will not be able to achieve its growth targets. In addition, Apple boasts of providing customers with highly effective and innovative products. This alternative sharply contrasts the company’s vision and culture.
Recall all the iPhone Models with the Problem
Samsung faced a similar problem with Samsung Galaxy Note 7. The company decided to recall the faulty products for replacement. This process cost the company $17 billion (Kelly, 2016). Assuming that Apple’s problem is of a similar magnitude, the company is expected to spend about $17 billion, which is less than a third of the company’s annual operating revenue. As such, Apple can afford the recall.
This alternative will indicate that Apple is highly concerned about customer experience and satisfaction. As such, competitors will respond by investing in R&D with the goal of developing products that are superior to those of Apple. The current problems facing iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s are giving competitors some hope that iPhone lovers will ditch the premium-priced Smartphone for theirs. However, Apple’s dedication to address the problems will indicate that the company is not willing to lose not even a single customer.
Customers will respond to this alternative by increasing their loyalty to Apple because they will be assured that the company is highly concerned about customer experience. This decision will also attract new customers because it will communicate that Apple is dedicated towards providing customers with best products for best user experience.
This alternative is in line with the company’s vision of providing its customers with high quality and innovative products. In addition, due to increased customer loyalty, the sales of iPhone 6 and 7 series will increase or at least not fall. As such, Apple will easily achieve its growth target of reaching $78 billion in annual operating income by the end of 2017.
Discontinue iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s so that the Company can Focus on iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which do not have the Battery problem.
Apple has already rolled out iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which the company argues has the best battery performance in the market (Apple, 2017). The company has an upgrade system that allows customers to return their old iPhone for a new one at low monthly payment starting from $32.41 per month (Apple, 2017a). Therefore, discontinuing with iPhone 6 series does not imply leaving customers in the dark. Instead, this alternative will allow genuine customers to replace their old and troublesome iPhone 6 series with iPhone 7 series. Apple will then extract useful material from the old iPhones to make new ones under its recycle program. Therefore, this alternative will be beneficial to customers and the company. Customers will get a new trouble-free iPhone 7 while the company will address the problems with iPhone 6 series without undergoing huge expenses. The alternative is easily affordable.
Competitors will react by developing new products to compete with the new iPhone 7 series in the effort to retain their market share. This reaction will be initiated by the realization that Apple is working hard to attract new customers to iPhone. Customers will react by increasing their loyalty to Apple mainly because of the realization that the company is concerned about their experience and satisfaction. The sale of iPhone 7 series will most probably increase. This alternative is perfectly in line with the company’s vision, mission, culture, and goals. Giving customers the opportunity to replace the old and troublesome iPhone 6 with the innovative iPhone 7 series will help in communicating the company’s efforts towards increasing user experience through the provision of high quality and innovative products that help them to undertake daily chores with ease. In addition, the potential increase in iPhone sales will help Apple to achieve its growth targets.
From the analysis done above, it is clear that Apple’s iPhone plays a critical role in its current and future success. It has been realized that iPhone contributes over 60 percent of the company’s total sales (Apple, 2016a). Therefore, it means that Apple must address any problem with the product, which is the firm’s rising star, in order to ensure sustainable competitive advantage. Accordingly, doing nothing about iPhone’s battery problem is not a recommended option. Instead, the company must solve the issue in order to maintain high customer satisfaction rates while promoting brand reputation. Two options are recommended for Apple. The first option is to recall iPhone 6 and 6s phones with the battery problem while the second option is to allow customers with iPhone 6 and 6s having the battery problem to upgrade to iPhone 7 series through the company upgrade system (Apple, 2017a). These two options are combined to form an integrated solution that will give Apple the opportunity to address the problem while increasing iPhone’s sales. Implementing the solution described below will not be costly to Apple. In fact, there is an opportunity of making money from the iPhone’s battery problem.
The solution identifies two types of customers. The first set comprises of customers who might not have money to upgrade the problematic iPhone six series to newer models. For these customers, recalling the faulty product is the best option because it will enable them to continue enjoying their iPhone 6 series. Fortunately, the battery problem is not a hardware issue but faulty software that commands the phone to switch off once battery power goes below 30% (Kelly, 2016). Therefore, recall will not be costly, which means that it is highly affordable. Apple has already rolled out new software for iPhone 6 series aimed at solving the problem, but only recalled a few products. Now, since it has emerged that the battery problem is bigger than Apple estimated, it is imperative to ask all customers using iPhone 6 and 6s to return them to its stores for free software upgrade. The company has thousands of stores distributed worldwide. Therefore, it will be very easy for the company to implement this recommendation. Customers who have the capability to upgrade the software on their own can download the new software from Apple’s App Store. This option will make the implementation of the problem even easier.
The second set of customers comprises of those who have the financial capability to upgrade to the newest model of iPhone. For this group of customers, Apple should give them the option to return the problematic iPhone 6 series for a new and highly performing iPhone 7 series (7 or 7 Plus). Apple already has an iPhone Upgrade System whereby customers can upgrade their iPhones for monthly payments starting from $32.41 (Apple, 2017a). Therefore, implementing this alternative is extremely easy for Apple and the probability of success is high. The company should ask customers to check whether they qualify for the upgrade system. Those who qualify should consider getting themselves the new and better iPhone model.
For those who do not qualify, Apple can start a new system whereby it allows customers to upgrade their phones at a small fee. Customers will return their iPhone 6 or 6s phones for a new iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. They shall then pay some amount of money, which the company shall determine based on the value of the iPhone 6 or 6s being returned. As such, it means that customers who have maintained their iPhone well will pay a smaller fee than those who have not maintained the phone. However, implementing this option will be quite difficult for Apple because it will require subjective and objective analysis of the phone being returned for upgrade. Therefore, probability of success will be low. Nevertheless, the success of the upgrade option will enable Apple to make money from the battery problem because it will be selling iPhone 7 series in the process. Returned iPhone 6 series phones have resources such as hardware that Apple can recycle to make new iPhones.
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