August 30, 2006
Adoption is always slower than you think...
According to a recent report from emarketer reported in Dead 2.0, only 2% of US employees subscribe to RSS feeds. 88% do not even know what it means! Other stats show that only 13% have a good idea of what podcasting is. You can actually see the bell curve of adoption at work, with 12% of people still not knowing what spam is (via Business 2.0).
The RSS numbers also jibe with the numbers mentioned by Martin Nisenholtz from the New York Times in another Business 2.0 article (not online yet). RSS feeds at the NYT only generate 12.2 million pageviews out of a US total of 295 million.
August 15, 2006
The role of customer feedback in innovation
Over at the Fast Company blogjam, Dave Pollard looks at whether great product innovation really starts with the customer - and describes the whole issue as a chicken or egg question.
Involving the customer in product innovation is not an either or proposition - it is something that should always be done - but done in the right context. And when listening to customers companies need to realize that their mileage will vary depending on the type of product or the phase within the product life cycle.
In some product categories, people could care less about the products or the companies that manufacture them - making customer feedback useless at the least, or potentially dangerous if given too much weight.
Newer products that are still primarily appealing to innovators and early adopters have a different problem with potentially similar consequences. Assuming the product is successful, customers probably care about the product in this case. But their ability to innovate ahead of what is available will likely be several steps behind the ability of the team that came up with the innovation - and giving too much weight to customer feedback may limit the future product potential and give the competition an opportunity to catch up and out-innovate the incumbent.
Then you have more mature product categories where people care - probably the area that yields the most valuable customer feedback. Except that here too you have to be careful about how much weight you are giving to that customer feedback. If your goal is to grow your product revenue by 80% in the future, then you have to realize that "all" current customers only make up a fraction of your future customer base. Attaching too much weight to their feedback may eliminate a large number of future customers that do not share their profile. And according to Harvard Prof. Clayton Christensen's disruptive innovation theory, your trajectory of product improvement will eventually cross the mainstream trajectory of customer need - limiting your potential future customer base, and opening yourself up for a disruptive innovation.
All that being said, and according to MIT Professor Eric Von Hippel, in some fields there are a small number of "lead users" who invent new products out of necessity and who can be an important source of new product concepts. The kind of customer listening that is required in this case is very different from what most people think of when talking about customer involvement in product innovation!
July 6, 2006
Eager sellers and stony buyers - why sellers always overvalue their products
The June issue of the Harvard Business Review has an interesting article describing some of the latest findings in the psychology of new-product adoption (here - can be purchased or requires subscription).
According to the author, Prof. John Gourville, there are a few psychological biases in decision making that need to be considered when using Everett Rogers' "relative advantage" as a measure for successful product adoption.
Gains and losses:
First off, people evaluate attractiveness of new products and services not on an objective scale, but on a subjective/perceived scale which is based on products they already own. Every benefit of the new product compared to the new one is considered a gain, and every shortcoming is considered a loss. The kicker is that potential buyers give losses a much bigger weight than gains in their decision making process. In fact, multiple studies have shown that gains have to outweigh losses 3:1 before customers will adopt the new product or service.
The endowment effect:
Because of this loss aversion, people value what they have more than what they don't have. In fact, multiple studies have shown that people demand 2-4 times more compensation to give up products that they already possess than they are willing to pay for those same items in the first place!
Status quo bias:
The status quo bias explains why people tend to stick with what they already have, even when a better alternative exists. Studies have shown that the extend of loss aversion grows over time from a factor 2 to 4 - meaning that people's pain perception of giving up something increases over time and reduces their willingness to trade up.
But that is not all! Not only are consumers overvaluing losses and existing benefits of entrenched products by a factor 3, sellers are also overvaluing the benefits of their innovations by a factor 3. That makes the mismatch between what innovators think consumers desire and what consumers really want 9 to one!
So what is one to do? The author has a few suggestions. Come up with products that contain few product changes and require little behavioral changes and you will end up with an "easy sell." If your new product has considerable product changes compared to the incumbents - make sure that they require little behavioral changes. By doing so you may end up with a "smash hit." A high degree of product change combined with a high degree of behavioral change is much like the TIVO and those innovations are "long hauls." Doomed out of the gate are those new products with little product changes that require a high degree of behavioral change.
October 18, 2005
Early adopters are everywhere
Sorry for the light blogging - as I have been dealing with an ill friend in the past few days...
But that resulted in me reading the USA Today yesterday where they reviewed a study that concluded that early adopters are all over the US - not just in the spots you would expect them to be.
The study's numbers on early adopters were a bit out of whack - you just cannot have 29% early adopters - but that was partly due to the fact they measured early adopter status by looking at people who bought technologies that I would now consider mainstream.