Consumers in industrialized nations are pro-innovation. They believe that technology, if properly harnessed, can benefit them.
First, an innovation may create a high degree of change in the consumers’ day-to-day existence and disrupt their established routines. For example, the videotex, which offers in-home shopping services, when initially in France, met with high consumer resistance because of the changes it created in shopping behaviour. Consumers could not interact with store personnel to get helpful information; they had to forego their enjoyment of the attractive atmospherics of the store; and those who loved to go shopping with their friends were deprived of this social interaction. Consumers had to learn how to use this innovative service. Further, many were happy with their current mode of shopping and resented the changes posed by the innovation.
Thus, potential changes from a satisfactory status quo (or current habit) can cause resistance to the innovation.8In European countries such as France, where the innovation has gained success, consumers were given free terminals to overcome the resistance. Innovations, such as the videotex, which create considerable change for the consumer are said to be discontinuous. The higher the discontinuity of an innovation, the higher the resistance is likely to be.
Characteristics of Resistance
There is evidence in the marketing literature to illustrate the existence of innovation resistance First, innovation resistance affects the timing of adoption. Adopters of innovations have been classified into five categories: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards.5 Each of these groups has a different level of resistance to the innovation, and this variation in level affects the timing of adoption. For example, Innovators exhibit no resistance to the innovation and are the first to adopt. The Laggards, on the other hand, have such a high level of resistance that they do not adopt the product. For the other adopter categories, the resistance to the innovation breaks down over time.
Second, innovation resistancevaries in degree. Resistance exists on a continuum, increasing from passive resistance or inertia to active resistance.4Consumers who are aware of an innovation may behave in one of the following ways:
(1) They may feel disinclined to adopt the innovation (inertia); for example, few men adopted cosmetics when they were first introduced exclusively for the male segment. For a variety of cultural reasons men were not sufficiently motivated to change their current behaviour.
(2) Consumers may feel that the innovation is too risky and postpone the adoption decision (active resistance); for example, microwave ovens met with high market resistance initially since consumers feared that the radiation might cause physical risk.
(3) Consumers may be convinced that the innovation is unsuitable and decide to launch an attack against its adoption (very active resistance); for example, when diesel cars were first introduced, the early adopters had to cope with high diesel costs and radically new maintenance problems; these dissatisfied consumers raised such a hue and cry about their problems that they diffused resistance to the innovation through the rest of the market.
Third, innovation resistance exists across product classes. What matters is not the product class to which the innovation belongs, but the two basic causes of resistance: the degree of change or discontinuity brought about by the innovation, and/or the extent to which it conflicts with the consumer’s belief structure. A highly discontinuous innovation, such as the first computer, creates a great degree of change for the consumer and is likely to encounter high resistance. Innovations based on new technologies usually create high discontinuity. On the other hand, a continuous innovation, such as the push-button phone, which improved on the rotary dial phone, creates hardly any change for the consumer. Yet, even such an innovation can meet with resistance for the second reason: conflict with belief structure. While the market has readily accepted push-button phones made in the United States, not all consumers have switched to the cheaper imitations made in Hong Kong, because of the lower quality that they perceive in the latter.
Perhaps the most common reason for customer resistance to an innovation is that it is not compatible with existing workflows, practices, or habits. Innovations that require changes in customers’ routine require a relatively long development process before gaining customer acceptance.
The second functional barrier to an innovation is based on the value of the innovation. Unless an innovation offers a strong performance-to-price value compared with product substitutes, there is no incentive for customers to change.
An Innovation that has avoided the value barrier (by not charging for usage) is the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). The ATM is restricted in the types of transactions that it can do for a customer. It cannot open a new account, issue drafts, provide loans, or perform any of a number of other services that are provided routinely at a bank counter.