Working Paper

As Time Goes By: Warm Intentions and Cold Feet for Really New versus Incrementally New Products

David L. Alexander, John G. Lynch, Jr., and Qing Wang, 2007, 07-112

This study examines how differences in consumers’ thinking about really new products (RNPs) and incrementally new products (INPs) affect (1) their formation of long-term new-product purchase intentions and (2) the likelihood that they will follow through on their stated intentions to buy products and use them as they expect.

In four field studies conducted with the CBS television network, the authors find that consumers are less likely to intend to purchase really new compared to incrementally new technology products. Further, the likelihood that consumers will follow through on their stated intention to buy in the next six months increases over time for INPs, but decreases over time for RNPs.

Those intending to acquire INPs are significantly more likely to think concretely about their intentions. In the first week of ownership, consumers who purchase RNPs think more abstractly about how they will use their new purchases than do consumers who purchase INPs. Moreover, those buying INPs are accurate in their estimations of how much they will use the products, whereas those buying RNPs are not.

One surprising implication of these results is that firms should minimize the extent to which their products are perceived as “really new.” If consumers perceive that a new technology offers (a) new benefits, (b) greater uncertainty about those benefits, (c) greater uncertainty about cost-benefit tradeoffs, and (d) a greater need to change their behavior to enjoy benefits, they reduce their intention to purchase and are less likely to follow through on positive intentions to purchase RNPs compared to INPs. Further, consumers’ more abstract thoughts about using RNPs lead to dramatic errors—both over- and underestimation—in buyers’ expectations of how much they will use the product after acquisition, whereas expectations are more accurate for INPs. This implies that RNPs will suffer from high rates of return, and negative word-of-mouth, compared to INPs.

Finally, the decreasing likelihood that consumers will follow through on purchase ­intentions of RNPs over time suggests that “preannouncement” strategies like that for the Apple iPhone may be less effective for really new than for incrementally new products.

Related links

“Too New” to Purchase? Consumer Response to Really New Products (2008) [Article]


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