Consumer Resistance to Innovations

Consumer resistance to innovations: the marketing problem and its solutions This article describes the major barriers which create customer resistance to innovations. This understanding is important because of the high rate of new product failure. A major cause for this is consumer resistance, although consumers are pro-innovation. It’s a normal, instinctive response of customers. This article suggests marketing strategies to overcome these barriers. Innovation resistance can appear in customers because it disrupts their established routines and they can be happy with the current status quo.

The higher the discontinuity of an innovation, the higher the resistance is likely to be. Also, consumers have their own belief structure. An innovation can conflict with this which can results in resistance. There are various characteristics of innovation resistance. First, there are different groups regarding to the timing of adoption of an innovation (Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards). Second, resistance varies in degree; (1) inertia (they may feel disinclined to adopt the innovation), (2) active resistance, (3) very active resistance.

Third, resistance is influenced by the degree of change/discontinuity and/ or the extent to which it conflicts with consumer’s belief structure. There are two kinds of barriers which create consumer resistance. The article gives some explanation how to undo these barriers: 1. Functional barriers Usage barrier: the most common reason for customer resistance to an innovation is that it’s not compatible with existing workflows, practices or habits. The more existing habits have to change, the more the resistance will be. UNDO: develop a systems perspective to market the innovation.

The innovating firm has to estimate how its new product will fit into the existing system, by looking at the whole operation. A second strategy is to integrate the innovation into the preceding activity or product. Finally, overcome usage barriers by making the innovation mandatory through government legislation: lawmakers have to say they are convinced that customers will benefit from the innovation. Value barrier: there has to be a good performance-to-price value compared with product substitutes, otherwise there is no incentive for customers to change.

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UNDO: provide significant performance value over existing alternatives. Second, reduce the manufacturing costs of the innovation and decrease the price of the product. Third, add value to the innovation by successful positioning the product. Risk barrier: every innovation can have potential side effects that cannot be anticipated. Customers will try to postpone the innovation until they can learn more about is. There are 4 main types of risk inherent in an innovation. (1) physical risk: harm to person or property (2) economic risk: the higher the cost, the higher the perceived economic risk. 3) functional risk: customers can worry that the innovation may not work properly because it’s not been fully tested. (4) social risk: customers can feel scared to face peer ridicule when they adopt the innovation. UNDO: Offer the innovation on a trial basis to potential customers. Second, show testimonials from experts who objectively evaluate the innovation. Third, package the innovation under a well-known name. 2. Psychological barriers Traditional barrier: innovations can create a cultural change for the customer. The more the customer deviate from traditions, the more resistance there can be.

UNDO: understand and respect cultural traditions. Second, educate customers/market education. Third, use change agents. Once industry leaders adopt the innovation, the rest will do the same. Image barrier: this is a perceptual problem that arises out of stereotyped thinking. If associations the product class or where its manufactured is unfavorable, there can be created a barrier to adoption. UNDO: Suggest to people that its silly to carry such stereotypes and make fun of the image. Second, create a unique image for the product of service (for example using a cowboy theme).

Third, associate the innovation with someone/something with a positive public image. Each of these strategies for countering the barrier for innovation may be classified into one of the five types: product strategy, communication strategy, pricing strategy, market strategy and coping strategy. The answer to successful innovation lies in understanding the causes of resistance and cope with these causes. S. Ram & Jagdish N. Sheth (1989) “Consumer resistance to innovations: the marketing problem and its solutions”, The Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 6 Iss: 2; pp. 5-14

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