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lundi 11 juillet 2011

Marketing : Imagine Better Product Concept with Lead-user or Emergent nature consumer ?

From the rise of "Lead-user" concept...

The Eric Von Hippel's (1986) concept of "lead-user" is clearly innovative and represents a powerful target for marketing. First of all, lead-user “live in the future” relative to representative target-market users, and so "experiencing today what representative users will experience months or years later". Consequently, idea generation studies must identify lead users and learn from them, both within and well beyond intended target markets : "Lead users found outside of a target market often encounter even more extreme conditions on a trend relevant to that target market. They may, therefore, be forced to develop solutions that are novel enough to represent “breakthroughs” when applied to the target market".

A well-known article "Performance Assessment of the Lead User Idea-Generation Process for New Product Development" from G. Lilien, P. Morrison, K. Searls, M. Sonnack and E. Von Hippel has been published in Marketing Science in 2002. It reports authors experience in 3M company. Results show that the lead-user process involves substantial profits for the company. "Annual sales of LU product ideas generated by the average LU project at 3M are conservatively projected to be $146 million after five years—more than eight times higher than forecast sales for the average contemporaneously conducted “traditional” project. Each funded LU project is projected to create a new major product line for a 3M division".

For the idenfication of a lead-user, five methods exist. Unfortunately, research can't determine if they are convergent or divergent. A great challenge for market researcher !

...to the birth of "Emergent Nature" Consumer

Recently, D. Hoffman, P. Kopalle and Novak T. have proposed in Journal of Marketing Research (2010) a new status for consumer : "Emergent Nature", defined as the "unique capability to imagine or envision how concepts might be developed so that they will be successful in the mainstream marketplace".

Authors distinguished the emergent nature construct from domain-specific lead user status and the dispositional innovativeness trait, as well as related personality traits and information-processing styles, such as openness to new experiences, reflection, verbal and visual processing styles, experiential and rational thinking styles, creativity, and optimism. 

How to identify them ? See our post on this topic.

The concept to improve is a SmartBox, depicted in the left drawing. Four mutually exclusive groups were created : a high emergent nature, an innovativeness, a lead user status and a control group. A total of 24 respondents completed the study. 

Respondents had to read following instructions: 
"Regardless of whether it’s laundry, dry cleaning, groceries, or most anything else, the SmartBox should make home pickup and delivery secure and convenient even if noone is home. Presuming you had a choice of many styles, sizes, and installation locations, please imagine that a device similar to this is on, by, or close to your home—or, if you live in an apartment, that a cluster of them is by your building. Suppose that FedEx, UPS, and the Postal Service as well as grocers, dry cleaners, and anyone else you want to authorize could use it to make secure pickups and deliveries. Built-inintelligence enables authorized deliveries only and sends notification to both consumer and merchant whenever a delivery is made".

631 consumers were randomly selected from a global online panel to evaluate the four concepts. The high emergent concept (M = 1.77) were the more highly rated concept, followed by the high lead user (M = 1.19), high innovativeness (M = –.61), and control group (M = –1.27) concepts.

Results suggest that consumers high in 'emergent nature' are right consumers to use.

Why ? 

These kind of consumer had specific traits and competences, like openness to new experiences, reflection, verbal and visual processing styles, experiential and rational thinking styles, creativity, and optimism. And, as a result, such people "are able to engage both in a process of successful idea generation to enhance original concepts and in logical analysis to refine and develop concepts further". In another words, their intuition and instictive vision lead them to a powerful understanding of new concepts, by visualizing latent uses through a sequence of affective and associative perceptions, and they also engage in logical and analytical efforts to evaluate and refine the concepts.


Our comments

These results are challenging. Nevertheless the measure of lead-user concept used by Hoffman and his colleagues could raise some psychometrics questions.  So, it seriously differs from Franke & al (2006) scale which is considered like the most valide.

Secondly, the smart box concepts have been elicited by only one emergent consumer group and only one lead-user group. Can we generalize these results? Clearly not. To gain a substantial external validity, one needs replications of these studies.

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