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Harv Bus Rev. 2006 Jun;84(6):98-106, 145.

Eager sellers and stony buyers: understanding the psychology of new-product adoption.

Author information

  • 1Harvard Business School, Boston, USA. jgourville@hbs.edu

Abstract

Companies that introduce new innovations are the most likely to flourish, so they spend billions of dollars making better products. But studies show that new innovations fail at a staggering rate. While many blame these misses on lackluster products, the reality isn't so simple. The goods that consumers dismiss often do offer improvements over existing ones. So why don't people purchase them? And why do companies keep peddling products that buyers are likely to reject? The answer, says the author, can be found in the brain. New products force consumers to change their behavior, and that has a psychological cost. Many products fail because people irrationally over-value the benefits of the goods they own over those they don't possess. Executives, meanwhile, overvalue their own innovations. This leads to a serious clash. Studies show, in fact, that there is a mismatch of nine to one, or 9x, between what innovators think consumers want and what consumers truly desire. Fortunately, companies can overcome this disconnect. To start, they can determine where their products fall in a matrix with four categories: easy sells, sure failures, long hauls, and smash hits. Each has a different ratio of product improvement to change required from the consumer. Once businesses know where their products fit into this grid, they can manage the resistance to change. For some innovations, major behavior change is a given. In those cases, companies can either wait for consumers to warm to the product, make the improvement so great that buyers get past their apprehension, or try to eliminate the incumbent product. Firms can also try to minimize buyer resistance by making products that are compatible with incumbent goods, seeking out those who are not yet users of the existing product, or finding true believers.

PMID:
16770897
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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