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After telling customers it would no longer update its older products and that newer speakers connected to legacy items also would be affected, Sonos has made a rather large turnaround.
In a post on the Sonos blog, the company had stated: “This coming May, these legacy products—our original Zone Players, Connect, and Connect:Amp (launched in 2006; includes versions sold until 2015), first-generation Play:5 (launched 2009), CR200 (launched 2009), and Bridge (launched 2007)—will no longer receive software updates or new features.”
Sonos was offering a pair of options for owners of these products: 1) Continue using them knowing that software updates and new features won’t be coming, or 2) Trade up to new Sonos products and receive a 30 percent credit for each legacy product replaced.
A problem for Sonos with this idea revolves around the durability of its speakers. Sonos acknowledged as much in the initial blog post, stating: “We’re extremely proud of the fact that we build products that last a long time, and that listeners continue to enjoy them. In fact, 92% of the products we’ve ever shipped are still in use today. That is unheard of in the world of consumer electronics.”
After a number of loyal customers – presumably those using the expensive and durable “older” speakers – expressed frustration and disappointment, Sonos quickly changed course.
Loyalty360 CEO and CMO Mark Johnson was directly impacted by the movements made by Sonos.
“I was quite surprised to receive an email from them. I really did not have time to process it until the retraction came a day or so later, yet it was a big miss. In the age of putting the customer first and listening to and understanding them at a deeper level, this was a huge mistake,” Johnson said. “Many people like me have many systems in their house, and for them not to support it would have been bad.
“It is not like Windows7 – that was only operating a small percentage of laptops in existence – and offering a free update to get them to the current version,” he continued. “You are talking about taking a highly emotionally involved entity (music and the passion for it) and putting it in a precarious balance.”
In a letter posted on the Sonos blog last week, CEO Patrick Spence began: “We heard you. We did not get this right from the start. My apologies for that and I wanted to personally assure you of the path forward.”
Spence went on to say that when new software updates are halted in May those legacy products will continue to work and the company will provide some support.
“Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible,” Spence wrote. “While legacy Sonos products won’t get the new software features, we pledge to keep them updated with bug fixes and security patches for as long as possible.”
The CEO acknowledged the actions may have put a dent in customer loyalty with the brand.
Spence concluded: “I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust. Without you, Sonos wouldn’t exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.”
Hoping to provide an alternative to purchasing its pricy speakers, Sonos introduced a subscription program in October 2019. Sonos Flex, which was launched in the Netherlands, has three subscription options which range from 15-50 euros per month. Any concerns regarding updates and older products can be avoided, as Sonos says it will provide subscribers with free app updates as well as replace any speakers with the latest models. The service also offers free delivery and the opportunity to cancel the subscription at any time.
Announced earlier last year, Sonos partnered with IKEA on SYMFONISK, a series of WiFi speakers that “seamlessly fit into the home to enhance everyday life and integrate with the Sonos system.” These additional more affordable options from Sonos – a table lamp with speaker ($179) and a bookshelf speaker ($99) – are available from IKEA.
Sonos has altered its course on updates for legacy products, as well as created options that provide more affordable alternatives to buying its speakers outright. So, what does all this mean for the brand going forward?
“When you buy a ‘durable good’ – one that is supposed to last three or more years – you expect some product obsolescence. Yet to have a whole household of products (in my case more than 20 units) go ‘extinct’ would have been a huge miss,” Johnson added. “That would have meant a huge impact in my household, including some angry teenagers, especially with the products (speakers and amps) still sounding amazing and in perfect operational condition. They learned quick and retracted their position, mostly in tone of the email. Yet I am not sure who approved this approach initially.”
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