Abstract

Despite evidence of potential benefits, product adoption by customers can become difficult when adaptation to new techniques and technologies are required. Innovation may originate from other professionals or from developer research, and in either situation, product manufacturers face unique hurdles in marketing new ideas to wary customers. This article investigates the aversion people have to upgrading or learning to use new systems and products, and discusses ways to facilitate the process of product adoption.

Introduction

Product adoption is the process of customers becoming interested in, and amenable to, a new or reworked product. Despite evidence of potential benefits, product adoption by customers can become difficult when adaptation to new techniques and technologies are required. Innovation may originate from other professionals or from developer research, and in either situation, product manufacturers face unique hurdles in marketing new ideas to wary customers.

Difficulties in Adoption

The first thing to consider when releasing a new product is the infrastructure available to distribute it. As an example, when typical product manufacturers begin any project, they must primarily design to the specifications of the retailers who will have enough faith in the product to carry it. This heavily limits the amount of innovation that can occur by companies touting brand new types of products (Hoeffler & Herzenstein, 2011).

Another hurdle is consumer misunderstanding. Oftentimes, the customers who desire the innovation do not fully understand the means in which it was implemented. For instance, when digital cameras were first released, experienced photographers didn’t consider purchasing from typical computer outlets because they could not understand the concept of film-less cameras. Instead, computer enthusiasts and amateur photographers embraced the concept of the digital camera.

Alternatively, if the manufacturers had targeted these experienced photographers exclusively, the overall product adoption would have been significantly delayed. This is because professional photography is a niche market. The decision to instead appeal to a far wider population is an example of intelligently predicting a product’s market (Gounaris & Koritos, 2012).

This major issue with innovation occurs when there is a noticeable change in materials or a change in regards to their use. Users are hesitant to adopt new techniques because of their attachment to the process and infrastructure of existing products. For example, when hybrid seeds first became commercially available in the US, a large number of farmers opposed the adoption because it meant that their traditional and respected ability to gauge the efficacy of typical seeds was no longer applicable. In this way, a parallel can be drawn to the purists who still scoff at digital cameras. (The Diffusion Process, 1981)

Encouraging Adoption

Within the sphere of product development, innovation occurs successfully when there is an opportunity for economic gain. Contrary to popular belief, Eric von Hippel has found that this motivation for economic gain occurs most often within the consumer sector because innovation works best when it is geared towards the consumer’s specific goals. In the case of scientific research and development, this idea is exceptionally clear and intuitive (Table 1).

Table 1

Developers of Innovation. Source: Von Hippel, 1994, p.4

Innovation Type Innovation Developed by
Sampled User(%) Manufacturer (%) Supplier (%) Other (%) Total (n)
Scientific instruments 77 23 0 0 94
Semiconductor and printed circuit board process 67 21 0 13 43
Pultrusion process 90 10 0 0 10
Tractor shovel-related 6 94 0 0 16
Engineering plastics 10 90 0 0 5
Plastics additives 8 92 0 0 12
Industrial gas-using 42 17 33 8 12
Themoplastics-using 43 14 36 7 14
Wire termination equipment 11 33 56 0 18

For companies who wish to profit from innovation, “Free Revealing,” the process by which innovation by consumers is distributed, is a low-overhead means of encouraging adoption of a new idea. Innovators who Freely Reveal information allow their innovations to become understood without patents, and recipients get the desired product without confusion (von Hippel, 1994).

When profit seeking firms use Free Revealing, it is called Collective Invention. For example, employees from competing steel firms in the 19th century publicly revealed technology related to furnace production to each other, benefiting all companies with a sort of combined Research and Development effort. Additionally, this free exchange of information allowed all steel engineers and metallurgists to be similarly trained in modern ideas, increasing the overall job pool for all manufacturers (von Hippel, 1994).

When introducing new innovation to a market, understanding the preferences of the target consumer demographic, marketing in such a way that they understand the features of the product, and utilizing innovation diffusion techniques are all strongly encouraged.

Application to Senior Project

The Orange Team’s senior project involved developing a product that appeals to professionals in medical research and development. This includes Biomedical Engineers, Biophysicists, and Tissue Engineers. Our project focuses on developing a research aid when culturing petri dish samples. As such, it has the potential to be universally utilized.

Additionally, because it was requested by our sponsor, it is an innovation that comes from the consumer sector. Our plan is to expand the possible applications of the product to increase the possible market. Once the product is done with development, we plan to freely post the specifications and code online in order to encourage a wider range of adoption.

A potential consumer who could benefit from the project might find our work via a quick web-based search. By detailing our sponsor’s reasons for the innovation, hypothetical users can easily understand the scope of the innovation and see if it aligns with their goals. If they see a use for our work, this form of Free Revealing would allow the consumer to experiment with the developed software suite without risk, maximizing the chance of adoption. Finally, users may then give their own feedback concerning their experience and needs, further expanding the potential of the innovation.

Cited References

Additional Sources

  • Moghavvemi, S., Salleh, N. A. M., Zhao, W., & Mattila, M. (2012). The entrepreneur’s perception on information technology innovation adoption: An empirical analysis of the role of precipitating events on usage behavior. Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, 14(2), 231-231. DOI: 10.5172/impp.2012.14.2.231

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