It’s fair to say that when it comes to product innovation, engineering has outpaced marketing. Over the last decade, technical innovation has accelerated dramatically, delivering new capabilities that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, particularly in the mobile communications space. But while some consumers still camp out in front of stores to get their hands on the latest smartphone or tablet and others take pride in being the first in their group to download a new operating system, only a small subset of total consumers actually usea fraction of their new device’s capabilities.
That’s not because consumers and businesses don’t want to use innovative new features: It’s because they don’t know how to use them, and any attempt to address this knowledge gap will have to involve a significant change in consumer behavior. It’s not a failure of engineering – it’s a failure of marketing and education, and it must be addressed. The knowledge gap has profound implications for brands because consumers don’t value features they don’t use. Brands that find ways to elevate product feature adoption can find unprecedented stickiness by helping consumers see the value the brands are already delivering. They can also support continued innovation by driving demand.
Ways to Improve Feature Adoption
There are a number of ways marketers can get the word out on innovative new features. One key point is to realize is that the 80/20 rule comes into play: There is a subset of consumers who tend to be early adopters of new features. These early adopters can be influential with other consumers who are less likely to embrace new features on their own.
The challenge is to get early adopters to share the benefits of less-used product features. Rich media marketing in many forms can come into play here, with far-sighted brands promoting early adoption by using embedded video, links to consumer-generated tutorials on YouTube and reviews and sharing features linked to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Depending on the product, marketers can reach out to new customers to improve their experience and promote feature adoption in all these ways and more. Marketers can leverage consumer-created media by providing a platform for consumer-to-consumer education. Not only can such outreach efforts provide the needed training to promote feature adoption, they can drives sales since consumers who receive notification that a friend has recommended a product and embraced and positively reviewed new features are more likely to explore those products and features themselves.
Marketers can also play a greater role by realizing that their job is bigger than just getting the product name out there and driving initial sales – marketing professionals need to find new ways to educate consumers on specific product features. Rich-media marketing and education tools can play a major role in this effort too, giving marketers affordable ways to reach consumers and opportunities to better target potential and existing customers by focusing on platforms and venues designed for consumers with specific interests.
What’s at Stake
There’s a strong correlation between feature adoption and customer loyalty: Research shows that consumers who adopt and use specific technology features tend to assign higher value to the products they own and have a greater tendency to purchase products from that brand in the future. Feature adoption results in stickiness and repeat business.
It’s important for marketers to expand consumer knowledge about new product features to effect behavioral change, which can help manufacturers build customer loyalty and capture repeat business. Rich-media educational outreach, consumer-to-consumer communication platforms, social media and educational marketing strategies can all facilitate this process.
But the implications of lagging feature adoption go beyond market share and revenue generation: If consumers don’t understand product capabilities, a specific brand’s offerings will be undervalued, which is obviously a problem for that brand. But technical innovation itself may also be affected. Depressed demand for innovative features can result in a decreased focus on research and development, and that’s an issue that affects everyone.