What Drives Consumer Adoption Of New Technologies?
I'm participating in a panel discussion this morning during the offsite of a major media company. They sent me a list of questions in preparation of the event. One of the questions was the title of this post; "What drives consumer adoption of new technologies?".
It's an interesting question and one I've never tried to answer directly in writing. But it's also a question we attempt to answer every day in our firm as we evaluate thousands of new startups every year.
Let's take ten of the most popular new consumer technology products in recent years (with a couple of our portfolio companies in the mix): iPhone, Facebook, Wii, Hulu, FlipCam, Rock Band, Mafia Wars, Blogger, Pandora, and Twitter and let's try to describe in one sentence or less why they broke out (feel free to debate the reasons they broke out in the comments):
iPhone – mobile browser with a killer touch screen interface
Facebook – a social net with real utility
Wii – gesture based user interface for gaming
Hulu – your favorite TV shows in a fantastic web UI
FlipCam – a video cam that fits in your pocket comfortably
Rock Band – everyone can be a rock star for a few minutes
Mafia Wars – a natively social game built for social nets
Blogger – a printing press for everyone
Pandora – drop dead simple personalized radio
Twitter – blogging everyone can do in less than a minute
In most of these cases, the breakthrough product or service delivered a new experience to consumers that they had never had before. Sure there were social nets before Facebook, but none allowed you to run your life the way Facebook does for my kids. Sure there were browsers on phones before the iPhone, but there hadn't been one that you could actually use like you use a browser on a computer. Sure there had been personalized internet radio services before Pandora but not one that was drop dead simple and delivered a great experience.
So it seems to me that consumers are driven to new experiences that are simple and useful and/or entertaining. It is not enough to be the first to market with a new technology. You have to be the first to market with a version of the technology that is simple and easy to use.
I'm curious to hear everyone else's thoughts on this. The sooner the better since the panel starts at 10am today.
I think sociability is a huge part of it. My focus is on games, and what both the Wii and Rockband do is make it easy to play games with your friends “sociably”. For both of them, it’s possible to enjoy *watching* someone else play, which is a new innovation.With Mafia Wars, Facebook, Twitter, the connection with your friends is clear.I’m less clear about the others, particularly the two hardware elements. Although, as always, seeing other people using something a lot is a good incentive to try it yourself.My instinct is that humans are social animals, and tools that make it *easier* and *more fun* to be sociable are winners.
right. social action is important
agree! My daughter set up a facebook and orkut accounts and she spends most of her time in Orkut. Reason: most of her friends are in Orkut, and of course, I am in FB :(… Sustainability after adoption is all about where the relationships are, in order words, your community!
5 years ago I cramped my harddrive with music & pictures until it was full and I had to select files to erase in order to make room for new stuff. Today I use Dropbox, I can use it remotely, if it’s full – I upgrade.Another one? Google Docs. No need to buy expensive MS software anymore, nor to upgrade & update.
so utility is the key?
Yes. And the way I can get access to it. It just took several clicks and I was ready to go. Of course there are external harddrives (and they are still useful too (see Time Capsule) but I’d need to go buy one/order one and I’d have a physical device that I’d need to carry around. Dropbox is still rather far from mass adoption but since Cloud Computing is buzzing, my guess is that in about 6 months, the concept is adopted.
yes utility – better said here, than in my response below.
yes but not simply utility. It’s where the utility one gets is greater than the cost of switching from another service or behavior. Everyone you list above share that characteristic, that solve for that equation.
How do we measure both so we can solve it?
Good insight here – also need to think of utility like an economist, so many different forms. People too often get focused on harder versions, whereas so much killer app utility is softer – network effects, usability, interface.
I think what spurs adoption is first and foremost the general usefulness of the product. If the product is genuinely useful then you will naturally attract the early adopters… I think past this initial step in the adoption curve its all about sales and marketing… I think in the case of twitter, the marketing was done by celebrities showing up and “tweeting”, in the case of the iphone is was complete package of a phone and pda packed up in a sleek touch screen box. The sales and marketing of facebook in its early stages was that it was an exclusive product only offered to college students… there are lot of ways to market things, either by a gimmick or by general features of the product… however, at the very base of it… it comes down to genuine usefulness of the issue. (in my humble opinion of course.)Lee
I think “ease of adoption” made the list above go wide in the mainstream. Each of them thrived in an area where other companies, sometimes many others, made products/services that offered something similar before these firms did it, but each of the winners above made it so anyone without specialized knowledge could use their offering in minutes.Maybe those above were first to offer “ease of mass adoption.”
Doug – agreed, ease of adoption thus ease of use is critical. All of the products/services listed above fit both criteria based on the target groups. The one criteria I would add is that all have layers of usability, being novice to expert can find something great about them.iPhone – phone and email + all kinds of different apps for everythingFacebook – basic communication + groups, appsWii – simple games that anyone can play + games that are more challenging more like Playstation or XboxHulu – easy to watch great contentFlipCam – easy make videosBlogger – easy to start blogging, easy interface + ability to really customizeTwitter – easy blogging & following + api and tools to fully leverage the platform
Doug/rdeichert, I don’t disagree with you that “ease of adoption” and ease of use is something that is common with all of these, however, there are a lot of things that are easy to use and get used to that don’t take off. Case in point, Disqus itself as I type on it, I love it, the first couple times I used it, I was hooked. But it hasn’t taken off like this other list of things.The reason I think is marketing and the group of users that are the early adopters. Having the right group of early adopters is key. You could have the coolest, easiest to use, most interesting thing in the world but if you don’t market it with the right angle to the right group of influencers, it will never take off. For example, Apple had the iPod for a couple years before it took off…..why didn’t it take off sooner. Marketing and getting to the right group of influencers.
BrianDisqus requires someone installing it on the blog. I’m sure true endusers (commenters) don’t care so much.
you put it on your blog 😉
Right, how long did it take for me to install Disqus?
So what’s it going to take to get disqus to break out and go mainstream?
2 things.1. market to key influencers. I saw it on your blog, got used to it, and convinced Rob to put it on his blog. But that said, I’m not a key influencer. I will only maybe get 1-2 people to use it. You need key influencers to promote disqus and have a good reason to. i.e. Yardbarker.com is a network of sports blogs. They distribute out ad code and operate a sports blog ad network in addition to their hub site (ala Glam). Disqus creates more page views and more ad dollars so if blog networks like Yardbarker.com promote it and insist that their bloggers use it, it will spread faster in a market where people are used to cutting and pasting code into their blog.2. bundle with blogger and wordpress and other blog software and make it easier to install. cutting and pasting code and installing WP plugins is annoying and takes too long. Like Rob said above needs to be easier for bloggers to adopt it and/or a stronger key benefit to the blogger than “your users will love it”……needs to be more like……disqus doubles your page views and makes you more ad dollars by X% on average and increases time spent for your users by X.XX minutes per session.
I agree with both. They are doing well on the first point. Lss well on the second point. Blog platforms have yet to wake up and realize that coments are a different medium than posts. Right now they want to control both experiences
Why can’t installing disqus be as simple as “paste this blob of html into your site”. Right now I go to disqus and it says, first sign up, add your email, make a disqus account, and I don’t even know what the rest of it will involve. If it was just pasting html you could even have just a single post have disqus comments, just to try it out.
You need a dashboard/widget – for the administrator. As Brian mentions you can play up the benefits, but you need to measure and deliver them everyday.Maybe something like Zemanta in nature. A tool for the blogger, not the commenter.
We’re working on something along these lines. It might be helpful for us to hear some of your thoughts on it a little before it’s released. Let me know if that’s something you’d like to do.
Daniel – I’d be happy to take a look
I’d be glad to give feedback as well.
I’m also thinking, as odd as this sound, the ability to handle multiple identities. I don’t use this handle on certain other blogs. I continue to use two other, older ones, as they relate topically to the field being discussed.(Unless you really want to track what I think about Orthodox Jewish day school tuition, my highly regimented dating life, and what I think about various brands of makeup…)
maybe something sharable ala Chartbeat
Disqus needs to be easier to install, especially on standard blog templates by Typepad et al.I’ve wanted to install it on my Typepad blog for months, but I’d need to use Advanced Templates first.It’s Great once it’s installed and running though, and as a commenter, it’s terrific to be able to log-into it on various blogs, so definitely social and useful there…They’ll still need to work on sexy though 🙂
Typepad is a big issue for disqus. Theve made it a lot harder recently with their changes to advanced templatesIf the blog platforms were more supportive of third party comment systems, disqus’ life (and users too) would be a lot better.But that’s no excuse. This is a challenge for disqus and they need to rise to it
Absolutely true. Complexity is a barrier to consumer adoption. No doubt.
Interesting point. That said many people think Facebook is overly complex. So, in some cases complexity may not be enough to cause barriers to adoption and/or the service itself provides such value that users will jump through the complexity hoop.
I think you are right as rain in these thoiughts but you are also leaving out some very powerful and obvious reasons why consumers adopt new technologies (or new anythings)peer pressure – “so many people i know are into this, its not so alien, I should try it” (facebook, iphone, twitter)media saturation – “i keep hearing so much about this, i should check it out” (facebook, iphone, twitter, wii, blogging, guitar hero, rock band, most “green” things)familiarity – “oh that’s new but so similar to what I already know and like, why not?” (mafia wars, hulu, twitter, pandora)anxiety and insecurity – “holy moley it feels like everyone is into this, i don’t want to be a luddite or out of fashion, i better check it out” (iphone, twitter, facebook, most “green” things)Albert Einstein said (paraphrasing):”Nuclear energy changes everything… except for the way people think.”;)
peer pressure for sure. I see that with twitter every day. People are almost angry that have to weave it in!
Yeah it pisses me off to no end!
I think I’ll use this in my panel today steve. Thanks!!
I don’t disagree with any of your points, but to me the initial root cause is more interesting. Peer pressure, media saturation, and anxiety and insecurity usually aren’t drivers until a service has already crossed a usage threshold. What caused those initial users to adopt and use the new service in the first place instead of the alternatives? Why did Facebook succeed when hundreds of other social networks didn’t (my opinion: one reason is effectively targeting small networks at first to amplify network effects). Why did people choose Twitter over Pownce before the media coverage? Why did my Mom choose an iPhone as her first smart phone (trust me it was not because anxiety and insecurity, it was just the first phone she thoughts was “fun”)?
Small networks may amplify network effects but they also need to be connected somehow to larger networks for the technology to spread
A related point I’d make here is that the small networks and their limitations provide a framework in which to understand what something is about and how it can be used.In 14+ years of product work, I’ve realized that most people don’t have the time or inclination to understand how powerful tools work. Give them a blank canvas and they’ll stare at it and go away. Give them something that outlines a framework and then they can see how it can be adapted to their needs.Even in working with enterprises I’ve run into this. When we went in with a platform that could do anything, they didn’t get it. We then created packages that highlighted various things that could be done with the platform. Then the clients could more easily see how it could do those things plus a few others that were specific to their needs.The initial limitations on FB helped to define those frameworks.
the people that join for peer pressure are not “adopters” and end up abandoning in a short period of use time….
great comment Steve – I’ve just added it to my ‘one great thought per slide’ insights repository
Good morning Fred. From a women’s perspectve, and this may be a generalization but women more than ever are “multi-minding” – a term used by Ketchum to describe how women are doing and thinking more than ever these days. We are looking for technology that will make our lives easier to connect, organize, etc. We are looking for funcionality above all and show us a technology that makes our busy lives easier – we will adopt.
Entertainment: Humans need ways to engage themselves otherwise they get bored. So anything that creates new MEDIA that is enjoyable or NEW / EASY WAYS to interact with old media has incentive for customers to adopt. Facebook, Twitter, FlipCam, Blogger helped in creating new media. RockBand and MafiaWars is new media that people loved. iPhone, Wii, Pandora, Hulu helped interact easily with old media.
Excellent. I’m gonna use this too. Thanks!!
1. A sufficient value proposition that compels skeptics to try it.2. An unexpected utility and reward for using it.3. Bridges the next level of adoption for the category.
In my opinion it is:- sexyness to get people to first use- socialness to get them addicted- usefulness to keep themWhereas the problem is defining sexy, social, and useful.Examples from my life: – Hulu is sexy, but not useful in Europe, so it did no stick with me. – Twitter is sexy and social, so I’m addicted. It is not 100% useful yet so we will see if I stay with it- Facebook is all of this (although the sexy wears off), so I’m using it a lot
I like this description.
I like this framework, sexy, social, useful. Thanks!
Very much like these points, but would clarify ‘socialness’. Really, it’s about having a short publishing cycle (approaching real-time). I realize this is most often achieved with UGC, but UGC is just one method. I work with nature-generated content (weather data), which has no social (human user) component but still keeps people coming back for the latest.
Great insight matthew. And with data gathering devices proliferating on the web, we’ll see more DGC
Very nice approach, although I would change it to “sexyness, usefulness, socialness”. You need sexyness at first, but if the product is not useful to you, you won’t use it. So, that comes second imo. Finally, socialness is what makes you use it after you probably don’t need it so much anymore, but familiarity and the social aspect makes you come back.
If a celebrity adopts a new technology, that can be a major factor for some to follow.Whether it can actually enrich that person’s life or is actually suitable for them is another story.
I’ve not used an iPhone but from what i’ve seen i’m pretty sure the Opera beta was out with the functionality of the iphone browser for Windows Mobile before the iPhone was out.
Peer pressure (often subliminal) is a significant factor – and not just with the teenage demographic.
A breakout product is compelling. It fixes a pain point, grants the user a superpower, solves a burning problem, or fills a need nobody knew they had.iPhone: The UI of *every* other phone was torture. People had been saying “I wish Apple made a phone” for years. Granted the superpower of a great browser in a phone “the internet in your pants.”Wii: Quit the PS and Xbox “more horsepower” arms race and reinvented gameplay.Facebook: Not a total mess like MySpace.RockBand: Wish fulfillment, grants superpowers. Music is the most powerful art form. It’s tribal, it reaches into our brains and makes us feel things.Google: “Don’t make me think.” Other search engines were big messy portals spattered with ads.Twitter: Triumph of emergent system design. Simple rules result in complex (and good) outcomes. Surfaces great stuff: content is pre-filtered by people I trust. Creates a whole new category since microblogging is not just “blogging but shorter”. Twitter won because it hit the network effects tipping point first.
Or it fills a need that consumers knew they had but companies refused to address for business reasons. e.g. The record companies knew for decades that the number one consumer complaint about music was being forced to buy albums when they only liked one song. Yet the label business model was built around albums. (It was also built around distribution, by the way. What did the Napster/the Internet disrupt–albums and distribution. Double ouch!)
Great points ‘ux hero’
Simplicity and purpose.
I love the brevity of your answer. It conveys conviction
Incidentally, I wrote pupose rather than utility (as others have) because that Benthamite concept seems to have been corrupted into relating to commercial productivity. Originally it was much more to do with being worthwhile by whatever criteria one chose to expend one’s credit – be that cash or time. Something entirely frivolous and trivial can have utility if you value those traits.
I like your read of Bentham.John Dodd- what do you think of Foucault in this sphere- he gets a lot of press for his read of Bentham’s Panopticon.All of these products so far bring together community. A good number of them actually track behavior- should we be concerned? One thought that I have been having is that the power of searching leaves us vulnerable to the fact that we are currently in a system where wea) are trying to attract the guard of the Panopticon’s attentionb) which leaves us vulnerable to the guy who isn’t. he can look on behalf on the guard, underneath, at our vulnerabilities.Is the loudness of all the information of the internet getting in the way that someone with enough power can use it for harm? Should we develop products that also encourage segmentation to amplify as well take away certain powers of the “Guard in the tower?”Or in other words- should we develop products and systems on the internet that afford privacy as well as community at the same time?The reference to Bentham makes me wonder what you read.
Shana, the reference to Bentham derives from my having read economics at a college where Bentham’s stuffed body resided (truly) in a glass-fronted box in a corridor. I am sadly ignorant of those aspects of his writings of which you wrote (and think I don’t share your fears) but have had my interest piqued. Feel free to tell me more – here or via email.
Alright, I have been co-oped into Disqus. Just to find your email address. Now if only I could figure out why it won’t let me claim my profile….
What happens when you try? You can try again just by entering your email address here: http://disqus.com/claim
It isn’t recognizing my email address for unknown reasons. Might be the three am finals week thing.
Nope that isn’t it. Who do I email to complain to about this?
div class=”alert-message error”>We couldn’t log you in! Please check what you have entered.</div>
You are doing it. Disqus replies are read by the person you are replying to and daniel is the ceo of disqus
I recognize that. This is the highest level of customer satisfaction I have ever gotten. Thank you very much.Some more information: if I try to trick this program/plugin/application into sending me a password to the email address I am using:div class=”alert-message error”>Sorry, we couldn’t find anyone with that email address or username.</div>
Send me an email at [email protected]. I’ll fix this for you.
Purpose is such a great word
Fan of The Matrix reloaded? http://www.youtube.com/watc…I actually wrote up my take on it a while back when I first began writing online: http://www.dreamsnare.com/P…
Not so much
Everyone hates the second two but me. Hugo Weaving just makes a great villain.
So here are my comments on a couple of the above:a. Facebook and iPhone : the variety of applications available is incredible. Variety / choice is of course very attractiveb. With respect to the iPhone while the browser experience is interesting I actually just love the fact that I can bypass the browser experience by simply clicking on the application straight from the UI
But the iPhone was a mass-appeal phenomenon before they even added the app store.
I agree, but I guess the point then is where you are on the adoption curve and what drives customer adoption at that point. To move from one point to another you need to create additional value. Initially it might have been sex appeal and web browsing experience but at some point of time (for me at least when I moved to it) it was the app store. It probably became even more relevant due to availability of thousands of apps already on facebook at that point..so I guess a number of facebook users got pulled towards the iPhone..
For facebook i would have said : a social net with real NAMESreal names make it easy to connect so it fit with your analysis.
I would say authenticity is a partial driver but in a social environnement trust that steam from it is important.Many bad talks about twitter are about fake accounts, cybernamesquating and identity spam. So in terms of social identity it’s definitly a part of the equation.Authenticity means no time wasted try to clear out stuff.I like the three axes of Nigel1. simplicity (ease of use) 2. your friends (i.e. context) – 3. cost of entry (not just money, but time).And authenticity is part of the N°3 in terms of cost in time.
MySpace was the hood. Bling bling your page, etc. Scared a lot of consumers off. It was for rockstars and teenies showing off their street cred.Facebook still gave people the ability to express themselves and connect with others while being upscale and easy to use.
My opinion is that MySpace and Facebook are simply designed for two separate purposes. To compare the two is unfair because MySpace is more of a social portal, with significantly more content and a much more open platform with regard to viewing other people’s content. Facebook is a virtual photo album/rolodex, not a content platform.
I agree. It has to be 3 things..1. simplicity (ease of use) 2. your friends (i.e. context) – 3. cost of entry (not just money, but time).What makes Facebook more popular than MySpace in certain age groups. We all hang out in different places based on where are friends are and what they do and give us. The other interesting thought it what is the tenure of new technology – with the increased pace of change, we can all try things easily, set up a profile quickly and as quickly ditch it.What makes Facebook interesting for example is its stickiness, ease of use and platform. We add feature, widgets etc – then photos, share them with our friends that are also on there and more.. Just my 2c.
Is it not likely that adoption follows paths which are well known: involving “innovators”, “early adopters”, “early majority”, “late majority”, laggards”? These were, of course, identified by Everett Rogers back in 1962 and referred to in Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” (for which chasm, Rogers says, there is no evidence, by the way!)?This does not mean that the same product makes it through the whole sequence, on the contrary, it seems that a product appeals typically to one group, but it might take a product that appeals to two groups for it to bridge across and trigger adoption by the next group. The whole thing works by referral and I suspect that we are still learning about what information it is that is transferred across each transition.Once the word is out that some new capability is potentially available, the viability for its adoption by each group depends not only on the validation of the objective by the previous group, and not even by the features (because in many cases each group expects fewer features than the previous group) but, I suspect, mostly by the removal of barriers to adoption which are more difficult to surmount for those who are more innovation-averse.In other words, innovators will put up with a lot more pain to achieve the purpose than the early majority.
Excellent. This is gonna get some air time this morning
Wow, these are really interesting when you consider how each might differ (and need to be satisfied) all the way along a stream of users from early adopters and mainstream users.For example, Google enters a crowded search market with technology so much better that early adopters switch from existing alternatives but it remains simple enough that several years later my Mum and everyone she knows probably use it daily.
Very interesting. Can you recommend where to read more about Roger’s 5 factors (in addition to your link)? Is this HBS article the original: http://bit.ly/iixYa?
Fred, the question you are trying to answer is indeed intriguing. As a SaaS startup we are grappling with that exact issue, so any insight will also be helpful for us.I think Lee Corning and Nathan Bowers are spot on. I think consumers have been adopting new technologies for the last 100 years and so the phenomenon is not new. The rate may be new.The key driver is that the market is always made up of early adopters where it is truly a technology battle and by the time it gets to mainstream certain standards emerge which allow better capital allocation and hence acceleration of choice. The classic was the BETAMAX-VHS battle. While Sony on Betamax had the better technology, VHS won in the end. So technology alone is not a differentiator. For a product to enter mainstream, it must have established a set of standards, it must be seen as safe and reliable, and the cost-benefit proposition must make sense.
Maybe, but did the iPhone have early adopters? You can argue that the iPhone was a smartphone and as such there were devices that came before it, but I disagree. The iPhone was the first in it’s class. It delivered a huge, pretty, touchscreen experience. – Low Barrier To Entry. It delivered great internet and music playback in one device. – Useful. Then, the final straw, it delivered games and useful applications to expand it’s scope. – Fun & Useful. I’d call it the first true entertainment phone, because that is why it succeeded. It entertained you with the iPod features and was useful with the internet/phone features and the barrier to entry was low with the touchscreen/simple UI.There were no early adopters that the iPhone relied on to sell it, it didn’t need them. It sold as many as Apple could produce just from the presentation and online coverage EVEN at the inflated pricepoint! You don’t need early adopters, hell you don’t even need to be cheap! You just need a kick ass product that has a low barrier to entry, that’s either useful to the consumer or incredibly fun to use or both and the market will take it from there.
the last 100 years?you mean the last 100,000 yearswhen has there ever been an era where people aren’t trying new technologies?
It must also have porn :)+1 VHS
1: Ease of Use. (twitter, flipcam, Wii, iTouch)2: Social Radar. “Knowing what everyone is upto without the effort of calling around” (FB, twitter). Also helps if their friends are already on it.3: Accessibility. (hulu – access to nostalgic content)The most important factor for consumer adoption is #1. It has to be easy.* Note I only named those apps/devices, I am currently using.
Hi Fred,A few random thoughts:Consumer adoption of new stuff (not just technology) is driven by other people/people like “me”/people who “I” trust. Increasingly, advertising alone does not. Check the Yankelovich Monitor stats on who/what people trust, and you’ll find people trust others like themselves much more than advertising.I call that Integrating Advocacy into your product/brand and wrote a short paper on it: http://www.i-boy.com/weblog…I wonder if the things you’ve listed above (whilst certainly rooted in technology) have more to do with more basic needs than “technology”. Most of the examples you’ve listed deliver either engaging and entertaining experiences or enhanced/enabled communications. Or both. I think those two things (entertainment and communications) are intrinsically more interesting than technology and they drive adoption more than technology does alone.I disagree with the idea that “you have to be the first to market with a version of the technology that is simple and easy to use.” … Google was far from first to market. The iPhone was certainly not first to market, not as a mobile phone, smart phone, touch screen or whatever.What both Google and iPhone have done is provide a revolution (instead of an evolution) in their respective markets. Evolutionary companies (the me-too brands and such) can do ok with enough marketing and advertising, but it is the revolutionary creative and innovative brands that capture people’s imagination and attention. And that drives adoption.Good luck with the [email protected]
2 dynamics (one successful, one not)- the ‘POP’ effect – the best way i can describe this is Shazam / iphone apps (most of them) – brilliant little novelty app – one you cant wait to show your friends, but no lasting value – repeat usage drops of a cliff.- the ‘perpetuity’effect – a combination of novelty / curiousity combined with lasting value. An example in my life would be the I-google platform – designed as a platform that delivers new, fertile, viral and actionable content to my screen every morning. Perpetuity effect is the enablement of an ecosystem of continuous value for the consumer.If you are an app – you better be a killer app that i truly never realized i needed but now find i cant do without – i cant think of any of those.Just my opinion mind.
M-PESA – Mobile banking in Kenya; 6m users in two years. Driven by pent up demand (for financial services), poor alternatives, strong brand, extensive network of payment points of presence (agents) and a simple user experience (SMS)
Cool example. Thanks
I was just thinking M-PESA!
can’t be defined; IMHO there’s something mysterious about what makes the crowd tick. but i think much of entrepreneurial/investing talent is in having that sense of knowing instinctively when you see something that is going to make everyone tick.
Are you saying its art not science?
yeah, pretty much. though i do favor cosmological sciences.
Technology has to have a low barrier to entry and make my life easier, more fun, or increase the usefulness of my time or energy spent. The Wii is more fun, when I was growing up my mom would play Mario with me. When she wanted Mario to jump, she moved the controller up in the air in a ‘jumping’ motion. It was natural that a video game console that appealed to these people, the non-gamers, using motion control which is infinitely more natural than mashing buttons would take off big, especially one as simple as the Wii. This is an example of creating a low barrier of entry, casual gamers are not intimidated by the Wii at all. Useful, Wii Fit actually allows you to get fit while you play. And more fun, Who doesn’t want to simulate boxing by punching at the screen or driving a car by using a real wheel?Netbooks have taken off because they make life easier and increase the usefulness of time spent. People are always on the go and they always need access to information. Now couple that with a bigger screen but still small enough to be portable and you have a device that can entertain you on a flight and you’re still able to carry it with you and pull it out in Starbucks and surf the web on something bigger than an iPhone. It’s just small enough and just useful enough. They don’t replace a computer, but that’s not the design, it’s designed to be your computer on the go and for that it’s brilliant. It’s both useful and easy to use because it’s the same computer you’re used to, you don’t need to learn a new OS. It just works.I think that it’s still important to note that the Wii doesn’t succeed ten years ago. The gaming market hadn’t reached critical mass yet, so the idea of granny’s playing video games probably wouldn’t have taken off. But when you have a market that is searching for new consumers, they way the gaming market was after selling over a hundred million PS2’s, the only way you can get new customers is to target them specifically.The same with netbooks, ten years ago a netbook was a Palm PDA. It was cool for what it was worth but the mass expansion of internet and wireless access has made this device infinitely more useful. The fact that it also runs the same apps that you’re accustomed to on your home PC also makes it that much easier to use. Sure you can’t slide it into your pocket but the increased usefulness makes carrying it in a backpack or purse worth the slight inconvenience.I’m rambling I think, but in summation, you really need a low barrier of entry and for it to be either useful or fun or both to succeed. Otherwise, what you end up with is ‘cool’ and ‘cool’ doesn’t change the world on it’s own.
My mom and dad are late 70s/early 80s and compete in a bowling league …. a wii bowling league. How cool is that?
iPhone – brand conscious consumer, attention to detail, affordable kick ass appsFacebook – not myspace, clean easy designWii – cost, family, classic gamingHulu – Not joost, contentFlipCam – cost, ease, qualityRock Band – evolution of dance revolution, evolution of air guitarMafia Wars – huh?Blogger – dude, Blogger? why not wordpress, both would be blog or die trend, ease, pure playPandora – dead brain simple to listen to music you like without thinkingTwitter – kids hate, the elderly love it, has to do with our inability to concentrate, thank you
I had wordpress in there and then realized that the blogger domain has way more uvs
Hi Fred,I also think the best ideas are the ones which leaves room for exogeneous innovation / appropriation.eg.The iPhone became a portable console => I doubt this was fully intentional on APPL’s side (or they are pretty damn good visionaires)Twitter became what it is thanks to new use cases / applications coming from the outsideFacebook was only targeting students (from specific universities) at the very beginningSometimes the best products / innovations are the ones which are open for everybody else to innovate on top of them. I call this innovation^2 (squared).Finally products need to be simple, viral, usable, and FAST (eg. to adopt, understand, use etc.) – users have less and less time available for new products.
All great points
I think John Lewis is on the right track. Breakout products are rarely the first in a category; rather, they are able to channel the interest generated by those products by providing a more compelling experience — usually by being simpler, more elegant, quicker, more understandable.
It may be overly simplistic, but I generally consider it to be one of the following factors:- It improves my personal efficiency at doing a given task- It ultimately saves me money- The level of engagement is an order of magnitude higher than the current optionsIf it can tick more than 1 of those boxes, it quickly becomes a must have. If you take previous real world examples as case studies:Adoption of DVD:The visual and sound quality was a huge jump up from what we’d all be accustomed to with VHS, but it wasn’t the killer feature for me (and is why I’ve still not got a blueray device in my house). Being able to jump to a specific track like we’d become accustomed to with audio CD was amazing. Now you could jump directly to the scene you wanted to rewatch, no “fast-forward oops too far, rewind” dilemmas. The fact that I could reduce the amount of space required to store my movies by at least 2/3 would ultimately be saving me money too.Skype:Living on a different continent to the rest of my family, not only do I no longer need to call to see if their home, but I don’t need to pay the often exorbitant international telco prices at per minute rates to keep in touch.Facebook:Continuing with the “keeping in touch” theme, there are a lot of friends and family that I have a genuine interest in their lives. Due to my own various commitments though there is so often something else that is a higher priority that lining up a schedule with an old friend for a quick catch up on what’s new. Now knowing the minutia of someone’s life can happen on my terms and not just let years fly by and making us lose contact.Twitter:Networking and other benefits aside, the main benefit twitter gives to me on a daily basis is that it is mostly a self filtering RSS feed. I the list of people I follow fairly tightly grouped around my areas of interest, as a result almost anything of particular interest to me gets tweeted about by somebody. I find it much quicker and easier to quickly glance my commentary in twitter a few times a day, presently my RSS reader has several thousand unread items that I feel like I’ll never catch up on.Just one man’s opinion
But a good one!
You cannot overestimate the attraction of a shockingly simple device/technology that does what it says it’s going to do
I think a lot of Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm, applies. Particularly making customers into evangelists, and creating a cult following for the product. The Apple brand is a gold standard, they’ve perfected this over years; it stands for great design, simplicity, easy of use, cool, “genius”, innovation, unconventional, and creativity. Between the stores, the employees, the culture, the high design, the free software integration with hardware – undeniable cult/evangelical feel about Apple’s users and consumer culture.iPhone executes the Apple strategy perfectly — “Minority Report” kind of interface is brilliant, design/simplicity gives it the cool/unconventional association.Facebook, Pandora, Twitter — all very simple, subtle design, easy to use, self-evident UI.- Users create content in discrete, digestible, chunks — keeping the content ever-changing but the interface remains simple.- Multi-channel distribution (web, iphone, mobile)Evangelists become not just passionate users who spread the word, look the part, reach out to influencers (some of this bleeds into Gladwell).Evangelists also become developers — iPhone apps, Facebook and Twitter apps. Open API standards allow developers to do the programming outside of the company. Technology brands become app launch platforms. When adopted, innovation, development and marketing are free for the brand and cheap for the developers themselves (which is key – it allows small teams to execute app development, marketing and distribution – to reach micro-audiences the tech brand couldn’t).When advertising isn’t economic, Incorporating an easy payment and distribution system is key, integrating iPhone apps with iTunes was a great move.
Lots of great insights in here jennifer. Thanks!
Seth Godin wrote a great piece a few years back about what is required for a product or service to go viral.http://sethgodin.typepad.co…
Of course he did. He’s a mentor and a inspiration to me
Hi Fred,I think all technologies offer a new experience to the customer even the ones which are not successful in the market. I agree that many hit products today create engagement feeling (like Twitter), Fun and prestige (probably iPhone)or totally different with the mainstream (like Wii).However there are other dimentions which come to picture as well. Take automobile as an example: One it was introduced in the market, it was very difficult to use it (compared to horse) but people went for the product as it offered better performance in certain attributes (e.g. speed).In the case of the bag-less vacuum cleaner, it was the customer cost of using/process which acted as the driver…an so on. Hope this helps.
They all tend to have one outstanding, value-creating feature. It seems rare that products that change consumer behavior are driven by robust, comprehensive feature sets. Rather, they do one, game-changing thing really well.
Albert thinks its all about the packaging. We should get you two at lunch and debate it in front of me and brad!
I agree with “simple but think it goes farther to include:1. interactive. All of those applications allow the user to interact with the information or media in a whole new way.2. Build upon the previous experience. Every time someone uses Facebook, or follows someone on Twitter, they build “barriers to switching” that increases the time required to switch to a competitive network, product, etc.3. Understand the audience. The Wii doesn’t have the best technology, but Nintendo understood that creating a unique way to participate was more important than graphics power. The iPhone was unique and got its audience to switch to an inferior network to use the device.4. Invert the question and understand why certain new technologies weren’t adopted. Why was $MSFT unable to challenge the ubiquity of Adobe’s Acrobat? What impact does price point have? Is the community remaining true to the intent of has it become corrupted (craigslist v. eBay, myspace v. Facebook)?That’s my $0.02
Some good stuff here. I like the interaction and network effects in particular
This is an important point. With the web, new technologies are more directly tied to networks. This has dramatic implications for 1) the pace of adoption (due to efficient or automatic propagation) and 2) competitive advantage (due to network-driven switching cost).
Seth Godin once suggested that we should only invest in services with network effects. I’ve always thought about that since he asserted it
Meets a need and satisfies the “category” antes. Needs are the more difficult of the 2 to uncover and require a lot of skill and technique. Antes (or what it takes to get in the game) for consumer tech tend to be functional–faster, easy, affordable, simple, personalized, able to connect, well designed, convenient, etc.A useful list might be those companies that did not break out and why! The dark side can often be more illuminating!
Yeah but the dark side is so huge whereas the winner circle is small
Fred,The overwhelming theme is “I want to do something but don’t want to think”. So the success is a combination of a product that fills a want with a very usable product and a tendency to err on minimalist features, at least in the beginning.If you take this explanation, it maps extremely well against all of these breakout products.However, we have to be careful with the word simple. I prefer “simple to use”. For example, the iPhone is complex because it can do many things so I wouldn’t say it is simple. But it delivers huge with little effort on the part of the user and it is therefore simple to use.BTW, I’m a bit surprised YouTube didn’t make the list.Enjoy your [email protected]
I was trying to focus on the recent past. I agree that youtube belongs on the list
simple, utility, and cost seem to be three primary factors. it must be easy to use. it should do something unique or better than it was done before. i believe the cost should be competitve if it is to gain viral traction.
Having a start up of my own, I’ve been *researching* this very question. I’ve been looking at things like Facebook, Twitter, EBay and Gilt Group. The names you post above help confirm my conclusion: it’s about entertainment. In the case of Gilt Group and Ebay, entertainment is delivered by the vehicle that is e-commerce. When Ebay first blew onto the scene, the attraction was more about bidding and swiping people at the last minute to buy something; it was finding the long tail demand for the broken lamp in the attic. It was fun. But the number of pageviews has decreased since the advent of social networking– the new entertainment, delivered this time by the vehicle that is social connecting. Facebook only had a trickle adoption rate in the beginning, it wasn’t until they opened their platform for applications so you could poke someone or send them a cupcake that they had explosive growth. Without those *fun* apps that your kids use to “run their lives” would they have adopted it so readily? And Gilt Group- the thrill of the buy? Waiting in anticipation to buy an Escada dress for $200, at that price you don’t even care if it fits, it’s $200 and there’s no other way on God’s good earth you could ever conceivably own one. I think it’s entertainment- actually let me rephrase — SUSTAINABLE entertainment delivered via a utilitarian vehicle like e-commerce, communication, social connecting or a technology enhancement.
Entertainment disquised as something else???
“Something else” disguised as entertainment? Your own example of parents doing sports (bowling) disguised as entertainment because of how Wii looks and works. [Fiction] Books of course, would be another possible example, if less recent than you are looking for.
Think openness is the key to sustainability, which is why I’m short on a lot of these but long on twitter / iPhone. Open to the community to build great experiences on top. Platform plays. Also applies to things like Boxee, Google Wave, etc.Hope you have a follow up after the panel with other thoughts.
I’m with you on open platforms but its interesting that many of these are not open
Hardware, like the flip is difficult to make open, but think all the software/web apps you’ve listed are open or will open up in response to competition. The ones that don’t aren’t sustainable in my books.
That’s true for sure
I find most of the comments here really enlightening (you have smart readers) and I agree with almost all of them. I think the one thing no one mentioned is that sometimes what we think is adoption isn’t. It’s people (like me) buying into the ideals/experience/potential of a product.I own an itouch. Despite all the apps I purchase I use it 99% for music.I own Rock Band. We used it for a week and now one of my jackets covers the drums.I own a netbook. Hardly ever use it though I am always on the go. (I did buy one for a gf who uses it all the time.)We know that most twitter users are over it in a month just like blogging.Massive consumer adoption is less about convincing me I should use your X but convincing the people I trust to use it. And, no, it’s not the same thing.
My secret is that the community here is way smarter than me. Pls don’t share it with anyone 🙂
One of the interesting things about internet startups (compared to your consumer electronics examples) is that traffic is measured hourly, daily, monthly… These services haven’t taken off because someone registered, tried it once, then left and never returned. Sites like Facebook and Twitter attract millions of people back every day. That’s powerful and a totally different metric of success.
A thing of beauty is a joy for a fortnight.
Examples of barriers to adoption take many forms. It often takes the mindset of the next category in the adoption cycle to see through the barriers created by the previous category.So it can be interesting to look at why products are not adopted. For example, if the technology-push behind a product were based on the ability for consumers “to combine A with B while doing C”, then Geoffrey Moore identifies a couple of areas which prevent adoption.Firstly, the product might be found useful by people who want to do A and D. If the provider’s response is “but this is not even doing B, let alone C!!”, then they may fail to pursue that avenue. But if it works, then who cares?In the 1970’s, I was involved in technical research on video discs using a variety of technologies. When our group first heard of CDs (which applied the same technology to audio-only), we simply did not get it, we thought: “What? It doesn’t even use the video capability”!Secondly, there might be a myriad of wrinkles to be sorted out, they are technically easy for the provider but are problematic for the consumer. But the provider does not see the problem, because “anyone could solve that”, but no one does!Apple products are wonderful, but [putting my hard hat on] they fail in many ways to appeal to the early majority in most sectors because of this issue! They are getting it slowly: note MS Exchange support in OS X Snow Leopard announced yesterday.Also, it is important for providers to roll with the market, their first product might useful but its greatest value might be in the bridge to their second.Google started with search, Adwords came later.Interesting that Jennifer Johnson mentioned “passionate users”. Of course, Kathy Sierra (http://headrush.typepad.com/) understands a lot about this.Enjoy the discussion. Can we follow it anywhere?
You can follow it right here! The panel was fine but this conversation is remarkable
Great new technology is like a great new song. It makes us say “wow” in the best kind of way, it’s positively addictive, and there is a touch a familiarity – as if we’ve listened to it in the past but which of course is impossible.
I love this metaphor. Its why I love finding new music and being a VC. I am going print this out and hang it on my wall!
i reblogged this comment on fredwilson.vc
Thank you. Ironically, it came to me as I was listening to The National this morning.
That makes perfect sense. Such a great band
Definitely, a very simple sound but they have something special about them.
On Facebook: given that your children are not yet in college, Facebook was really big before they were ever even allowed to open an account. It first opened and blew up into a mandatory social utility while I was in college… seeing the initial adoption first hand like that, I think Facebook’s initial killer app was voyeurism. It was amazing it look over the shoulder of guys on their laptops in class who would ignore lecture and page through multiple pages of search results on Facebook looking for all the hot girls. Facebook’s beginnings were a part of the mating game, just the the original college facebooks — the books that contained everyones faces when they first arrived on campus, bound in paper. Facebook especially appealed to those people that were pretty bad at the mating game and wanted to watch it more voyeuristically. “He’s dating HER!?” “She’s in his FB Profile Image?!” “That super cute girl also likes Snow Crash?!” etc etc etc…On YouTube: The killer app was “Lazy Sunday.” That one video sparked consumers interest more than any other and felt like a total tipping point when it was blogged via the embeddable widget for the 294762873th time. YouTube created the necessary viral features (like the embeddable widget) to grease the rails and substantially increase the viral coefficient of a user… but it was illegal copyrighted content that was the accelerant which cause the massive explosion of user adoption, and Lazy Sunday epitomized this for me.
Then its all about sex and cupcakes?
No different from the rest of life.
The answers are a think more emotional than technical:- Belonging (connectedness)- Fun (creatively ticklish) – Simpler (doing something better, easier, with more joy and less ugh).- Emotionally engaging. (makes me feel good, human, part of the thing)- Aesthetics (feels good in your hand, looks good on your shelf, wears well on your body)The thing is – people want to be connected, participatory, and valued. Humans are drawn toward ideas and devices that facilitate those emotions.
Indeed they are. My partner brad thinks VCs should stop going to business school and study anthropology instead
One of the phrases indelibly marked on my brain from marketing class is ‘people buy emotionally and justify rationally’ but I’ve since realized it extends to pretty much every decision we make in our lives. I think Brad is on to something.On a separate note, our program used threaded discussions extensively for class debates (and graded participation). The comments on posts like this (and I could have written this on any number of your posts in the last few months) look more and more like our class threads, only now I think your comment threads are bigger 🙂
The next thing we need is a comment thread cliffnote. It should summarize the thread, provide three or four pull quotes, and maybe the best positive and negative view
Yes, please. A “send to Kindle” option would be nice too (I don’t own one yet, so I don’t know how this would work, but twice lately I’ve found myself wishing I had a printed copy of a list of articles [or in this case, comments]).
Now that is one of the most sensible suggestions I’ve heard in a while! Go Brad!The points made in this conversation are very astute. The participants on this blog are remarkable. You’ve created a nice little social network right here Fred. It underscores some of the points made earlier.Context plays a very important role in all this. The topic of this post clearly attracted a lot of the comments here based on people’s areas of interest, expertise, new ventures et al. If you look at some of the most successful social phenoms (e.g. facebook) they didn’t start out being everything for everyone. And yet in so many ways that’s where they are now.Trust and a little bit of celebrity (yes you!) helped tremendously (we trust the ‘value’ of the conversations you get going).
I am partly with Brad…. but most anthropologists aren’t as wealthy as VCs. Until this point in the thread I have been reluctant to mention socio-cultural psychology and cultural historic activity theory (CHAT) because it fails the ease of adoption test.When a system of activity has contradictions (ie some bits of it aren’t working as well as it might) a new mediation system (tool or whatever) that “fixes” the contradiction can upset the apple cart and create a new system (a new stability or dynamic- you choose) that of course reinforces the value of the new mediation system – all else changes to accommodate the new mediation. The whole theory embraces community, regulatory systems and how we divide and spend our time too.You can use the analysis on major changes like electric light or even subtle changes – there is a great paper in the literature that discusses how the means of getting into hotel bedrooms changes whole of social relationships and employment structure in hotels. (see http://www.edu.helsinki.fi/activit... )
I suspect I should get educated in CHAT. Seems relevant to our investment thesis
Fred, there is a good book on CHAT and computer technology:Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-computer Interaction, MIT Press (1996) edited by Bonnie Nardi (now at UC Irvine)
I like to think of avc as a community not a social net. But I very much appreciate the sentiments and I share them
It seems that Anthropology is all the rage right now: http://blogs.harvardbusines…
I think Seth G explained it well with his talk: http://www.youtube.com/watc… (10min13sec in) Early adopters are driving the rest of the market. Unlock what appeals to early adopters and you have the secret. I don’t think it’s a known thing apriori. It’s like predicting the future, how can you know what the market will love when you aren’t the market? This type of question is slippery because it touches on intangible’s that appeal to us for any number of reasons. It helps if the product has a unique style that meshes well with what people expect. But I think it has to go beyond their expectations and impress them on a deeper level when it comes to technology. It should be simple to use, the less time users spend frustrated, the more likely they are to keep using it. If it’s customizable to the user in some way, that’s a big plus. Of course an almost addictive quality to the technology, based on producing some positive psychological feedback, is common to many successful/spreading technologies. I could spend a lot of time with this one, best of luck Fred you got a tough question to answer.
When faced with a tough question, ask the community!
Part of Twitter’s growth spurt is due to huge unemployment numbers. It’s a place to hang out.
Yes, driven to new experiences that are simple, useful &/or entertaining PROVIDED they meet a fundamental human need – such as connecting and interacting with others or add convenience or portability
Mojo factor- both marketing-driven and socially generated.
It must be targeted.I will not be an early adapter of iPhone since I don’t need mobile web. I’m semi retired and don’t travel much any more. My trips are short enough to wait till I get home to check email and web sites. While the market for iPhone is large, it’s not universal. The same is true for each example on your list. Here is a target market – I need my address book, calendar, phone, and portable memory in a single package WITHOUT the extra $60 a month for web browsing. And I’d like the touch interface cause it’s cool! Oh, yea, ad in simple sync with both windows and Mac.
Some say the best interface is no interface…like the tolltag analogy. I think it’s also important to have the right “services” strategy. When I find utility in an app, a big part of that is tied to the connectedness it provides to other services.When you have services that are “aware” – it’s much easier to experience the network effect.
Some say the best interface is no interface…like the tolltag analogy. I think it’s also important to have the right “services” strategy. When I find utility in an app, a big part of that is tied to the connectedness it provides to other services.When you have services that are “aware” – it’s much easier to experience the network effect.
Fred – nearly every successful digital product or service in recent years has used one or more of eight personal information strategies. I call them Eight Ways to Make It Personal, and you can find them all here: http://nowpossible.com/blog…Simple and useful are both important, no doubt. But it takes more than that to explain why Amazon or Google represent giant leaps forward. Hulu is successful because of the word “your;” Pandora because of “personalized.” Basically, the same thing. Blogger is your own printing press. Ditto for Twitter…
Sense of ownership?
Yes.For example, Kathy Sierra reports that a discriminator of “passionate users” is that they describe their experience in the first person.Hence her (http://headrush.typepad.com/) – old way: “Buy this because *we* kick ass” – new way: “Buy this because we want *you* to kick ass!”
That’s a great way to think in all aspects of life
I wonder, however, whether it is less clear to most vendors/providers that the new way is better than the more prevalent middle way, which is something like: “Buy this because *it* kicks ass”
Maybe more like a sense of selfishness, and I mean that in the good sense. Consumers want what they want on their terms. Any company or product that lives with a gap between what consumers want (TV when/where/how they want it) and their profit model (broadcast television) is ripe for disruption and innovation. Enter Youtube, enter Hulu.
You know that I totally agree
I think it comes down to either fulfilling an underlying need very well or creating a new need.iphone: Underlying need is pride. It’s cool to own an iphone. Why cool? Because of branding and new UI.Handphones: Creation of new need in that communication is now mobile and real time (at least with people on your contact list).
Fred,I’ve discussed this concept through the years with a number of companies in regards to digital music, but the concept is the same for all technologies, I believe. The most important engine driving consumer adoption of new technologies is when they remove an artificial barrier to consumer desire. I describe this as “consumers abhor a vacuum.” The company that can fill this vacuum will have consumers flocking to its doors.This need to fill the vacuum is so great that if the tools are there they will do it illegally. The poster child for this was Napster, which removed a very long-time vacuum between consumer desire (the ability to consume individual songs and easily organize and listen to them) with a business model that required that consumer desire to be unfulfilled: Record companies whose profits were pegged exclusively to album sales.An interesting sidenote to the above is why Pressplay failed and Apple did not. Apple combined the demand for singles with the ease-of-use and consumption that consumers demanded. Pressplay and the others did not. Still, it is worth noting that even without a hardware player, Napster was a true phenomenon.Ultimately, this is why we see piracy raging. Consumers want immediate access to content when, where, and how they want it. I commented in your blog in the past about this in regards to Youtube. To my mind, Youtube’s growth was exploding directly due to it filling the untapped need of consumers to view premium video content on their terms. This goes directly to the success of Hulu, which is taking that desire and finally fulfilling it in a legal way. Youtube is still the free video hosting site on the web, but its role as a host of legal premium content is being lost to Hulu.As to your examples:iPhone: Fulfills the untapped demand of consumers wanting to take the Internet with them. Its touch interface and large screen and beautiful browser changed the game in this space. Lesson? The demand for a rich mobile Internet experience was greater than the demand for a keyboard.Facebook: Well, I would have used Myspace or even Friendster here, as it was the new technology that first took off, but Facebook works as an improvement on the concept. The consumer vacuum here was for a home on the Internet where it was easy to add content and share it with friends. Myspace and Facebook basically created what Geocities was trying to do and what The Well should have become.Wii: To my mind, consumers have wanted a more immersive gaming experience since they saw Tron or saw the Holodeck on Star Trek. The Wii took that concept to another level with its controllers. The next innovation here is an even more immersive virtual reality experience, I’m sure.Hulu: I already mentioned this, but it is (finally) giving consumers their favorite TV shows on demand. The only thing missing here is the connection to the television box. This is one of those artificial barriers between what consumers want and the profit model of the industry. It will break down sooner or later, but in the mean time others will rush to fill that gap as best they can. Boxee’s efforts via Apple TV being a good example.Flipcam: A video camera that you can take anywhere and can easily use to post online to share with friends and family. If you’re a parent, this is a big “duh.”Rockband: Every consumer everywhere wants to be able to play an instrument but not have to take 20 years of lessons. Now you can. It’s the same reason flight simulator and multiple other massively popular games that let you aspire to being what your not took off.Mafia Wars: I’d need to look more closely at this to speak definitively.Blogger: You nailed it: A printing press for everyone, with syndication built in, to boot. Everyone thinks their opinion matters. Now they have their digital newspaper to prove it. Note that simplicity and focus were also important here. You could post text on a Geocities site, for example, but it was not designed for “publshing” like Blogger was. Ev Williams is a genius at recognizing consumer vacuum’s by the way.Pandora: Consumers would LOVE a radio station that lets you skip songs you don’t like, played more music closer to their tastes, and yet still presented a passive listening experience if they wanted like “normal” radio. Enter Pandora. This reminds me of my family’s favorite XM feature: The ability to rewind songs on my car Skyfi receiver. A day doesn’t go by that I’ll be listening to terrestrial radio and a song my daughters like will come on, and they’ll go “rewind it, rewind it,” and–alas–I can’t.Twitter: Twitter is at once the simplest and most powerful of concepts. In one sense, it is nothing more than reality TV for the rest of us. In another sense, it is a public diary for our friends and family. In another sense, it is a news source. In another sense, it is a way to asynchronously chat with people we like while people we don’t know but like us can follow along. It is for these and other reasons that I think that, of all the technologies you mention above, Twitter will be ultimately the biggest and most disruptive. It does more than just fill a consumer vacuum, it is an infrastructure that fills a number of them. At the same time. And simply.By the way, I would add Tivo to this list.Jim KerrVP/StrategyTriton Media
Wow. What a fantastic comment. This is a blog post or even an article. Thank you for sharing it
Thanks! Glad you liked it. Now I need to call our web team and get my company blog going sooner rather than later. 🙂
Yes, wonderful comment, Jim. Thanks. And you’re right about Twitter. It represents a fundamental disruption in how people interact.
Working on a good pneumonic for this, but for now it’s RIPUPS:RelevanceInnovationParticipation / InteractivityUnique ContentPersonalizationSimplicityAny one of these can drive adoption (and differentiation); of course, the more the merrier. Enjoy the panel!
Does anyone have them all?
Good question. I’ve only just recently started to develop this framework, but I wouldn’t expect that all firms would necessarily want to have them all (unique content, in particular seems to not apply to all models). It might be more interesting to rate companies with booze balls.That said, the Xbox 360 comes awfully close (innovation in question, but if Natal materializes, then that question is answered). And one might argue the iPhone (with help from its apps).
Xbox was on the list even without natalBut it wasn’t recent enough of a launch to stay on the list
I have been referring people to this post of yours to anyone who has asked me this question – http://www.avc.com/a_vc/200… (How YouTube Kicked Google’s Ass (and everyone else’s too)I specifically ask them to see the last part i.e. Youtube embed part. Was YouTube the 1st to launch with Flash with immediate playback? Maybe, maybe not. More importantly, sometimes its enough to be the easiest/simplest to use. But other times, it’s not enough.The service has to be useful/entertaining to be even in the game but without a unique adoption/distribution strategy (e.g. Twitter’s API strategy), you may not be able to scale that much. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule 🙂
I love that post. Its one of my favorites to this day. And I love the title too!
Anything that gives consumers an enjoyable experience.
Great discussion, thanks!I’m learning something which is something I feel like I often do when I come to your blog.I think ‘learning something’ is worth mentioning here. Technologies that allow people to continuously “learn” have a much better chance for wide adoption. The ‘something’ doesn’t have to be a traditional academic pursuit…think video games, where you are constantly learning how to be a better player Social nets, where you connect with friends but also learn what they are doingPandora, where you learn more about the music and musicians that you likeGoogle, where you can learn…anything.On Twitter I follow SEO types, and entrepreneurs, and VCs. Why? To learn.:earning is one of the reasons I think Bing has a chance…Its good enough search but it has an interface and features that suggest it can help people learn shortcuts for getting things done on the Web.Hope to read a follow-up after the panel discussion…
Educate and entertain at the same time, right?
Not where I was headed although I would agree with your comment.Here’s a Gladwell post that may have inspired my comment:http://www.gladwell.com/200…Maybe we humans have a visceral need for knowledge? Maybe that need causes us to choose technology winners in part for the way they engage our mind? In addition to the user interface, the utility, the social aspects, maybe part of the success can be attributed to how the products make us think?
There is increased utility (new or better experiences) but also the other side of the coin…that of behavior change. The more behavior change needed to do something, the better the experience needs to be to drive adoption.
When I was in enterprise software, our big first customer was P&G, which talked about the first and second moments of consumer delight. The first moment is when you pick up the box of Tide in the grocery store, and the second is when you pull your clothes out of the dryer. What stayed with me about this thesis, which I heard from a late-50s IT manager in Cincinnati, was the almost-Gallic use of a sensual word like “delight.”In rational discussions of sociability and utility, I think we forget that there were other social applications or useful applications that nonetheless weren’t delightful whereas Facebook and the iPhone went right at the summit of consumer emotion. Since delight doesn’t figure into most cost-benefit analyses, it usually proceeds from companies that make a religion of it, and who give product developers enough time and space to make something that delights themselves.
Great comment Glenn! I am going to make sure we remind ourselves to design for “delight” in our users and ourselves.
One product that didn’t make it to your list which I love as an example of breakthrough consumer technology would be your (and my) BlackBerry. It’s an especially intriguing one because it not only delivered mobile messaging (esp. email) in the most concise, easy-to-use format, but it also is an incredibly powerful and customizable device.RIM wasn’t the first to market with email on a phone, but they were absolutely the ones who figured out the best way to do it in a hurry. I’d give them five stars under your ‘simple and useful’ category.
Absolutely bberry is an example. It didn’t make the list because I was focused on recent examples
What leads to adoption of new technology? I am not convinced that usefulness or newness is enough. If you’ve made something and nobody knows it exists then it wont get used. Friends, coworker and family use it or recommend it. Endorsement by a celebrity, famous and respected tech individual or entrepreneur.Positive coverage on blogs and social news sites such as Digg.A big or reputable company such as Apple is behind it.
Adopting any technology is the start of a relationship. To form broad and sustainable relationships the other side needs to be open, accessible, with substance and giving.
It has to be better than the alternative and if so, it can’t suck.
Facebook – not usful, just critical massHulu – TV on your schedule
Facebook: I believe that Facebook displaced MySpace / Friendster bc of photo tagging …iphone: The iPod paved the road … and Apple released a sexy product without a huge flaw …Hulu: Perfect product, had the advantage of sponsorship/cooperation of NWS and NBC compared to rivals which had initially zero or 1 big production company sponsorWon’t last …Wii: I believe that the Wii’s succes is shortlived, no competitive advantage, sony/MS will release better version of motion based gaming soon (I own a Wii)Flip: I own one and love it but the company’s success will be short lived …Twitter: This next year is important …
100% about the flipcam. The technology for the chips will come down. Same with MiniDV tech.A low end 3 chip (RGB) MiniDV camcorder from Panasonic,like the one I borrow to shoot with, runs about $4,000. It uses a Leica lens. It also has a flash port.I remember when this kind of craziness was happening with DSLR cameras. You now can get a DSLR camera for under a $1,000. (I think I saw a body for $500 recently).The Flip is proof of concept that you don’t need a DV tape for a good shot. You do need a better body, and a better les (But you don’t need a Leica). We already know from experience with DSLR that chip and body prices will come down.I’m sitting this one out. Isn’t worth my time. Rather wait two years for something that can do something a bit more heavyweight in a smaller body.
I think a large part of it is marketing. Take the FlipCam for instance. Not necessarily any new technology. They just got it in the hands of the right influencers and had a simple marketing message and brand name and it took off.
You could say the same about twitter
true, i guess what more is twitter than AIM with a public view?
Twitter’s other value is persistence. Public & persistence makes status update a very flexible and valuable thing.
With a 140 character constraint and sms input and an api with >11,000 apps built on it
Can’t believe I’m saying this to someone on Twitter’s board, but Twitter is so much more than a simple marketing message and brand name. Twitter is asynchronous chat, instantaneous news, real time search, a marketing platform. And it’s simple!
As a fairly cynical 26-year-old male, here’s how I read it.iPhone – “cool” factor is king, and if you have enough apps you can actually let it do the thinking for you. Facebook – It’s not the same draw as Myspace, which was more about how many friends one could have. This is more about keeping track of/in contact with people who maybe you don’t want to call every week, but it’s nice to know what they’re up to.Wii – Singlehandedly turned Mom’s argument of “you should be out getting exercise” on its ear. Now gaming IS exersize. Plus it’s a blast to do drunk.Hulu – On demand, almost no commercials. For such an impatient generation as mine, we want it when we want it and we don’t want to sit through a bunch of spots to see it.FlipCam – Ease of use, comes with super-easy editing software so now we can all be on YouTube, and be there faster.Rock Band – See Wii.Mafia Wars – We hate telling our friends “no” for any reason (“You’ve denied a request from _______” is so painful to see!) so we accept it to keep from upsetting he or she who sent it to us.Blogger – Again, ease of use and sharing your opinions with the world makes us feel important.Pandora – Self-programmable (appeals to our on-demand nature) and zero commercials.Twitter – Like Blogger, only even easier.I don’t know if that helps, but that’s how I sees it. Good luck sir!B. McMath
Hahaha….The 23 year old female concurs.This is why I would tell all of you- go into a college dorm and ask what we do…you will get some interesting answers.Though I can say, GoCrossCampus is more popular with a certain crowd….I keep turning down invites…
Perceived value…everything you listed provides a group a people with a consistent experience that they perceive to be valuable (easy, simple, resource saving, increased productivity etc.) In some instances, the solution is built for a need or want that is easily identifiable…and some are in the riskier area of “here’s a solution in search of a problem or need you might not have known you needed.”
Often overlooked, but one fundamental driver is Quality/Reliability. Soclal word of mouth drives adoption so:1) People only recommend a service/product that they love. People hate flaky services/products. (note: Twitter really took off after the fail whale became rare/extinct)2) People will stop using a flaky service/product quickly – leaving a short window for recommendation.3) A high quality service/product gives people the feeling at a fairly deep level that the vendor cares. People flock to this feeling.Quality is a gate for product adoption.
Hi Fred. I use the term First Use for this:First use is about creating the best possible user experience when you deploy your service for the first time amongst your target users. First use is about answering the question,”Is a user willing to put in the effort to learn about this new technology and incorporate it in his current habits”? The answer in any case is that willingness is related to either solving a problem or creating another type of value for the user. If this isn’t obvious from the start, then the user is not committed to put in the effort of integrating this technology into his life. Note that this isn’t necessarily related to design or usability or complexity. It helps if your development scores well on those factors. Bottom line however is whether or not the user conceives enough value to put the effort into it.I’ve written several posts on this. Here is one if interested:http://vanelsas.wordpress.c…
So if yoiur first use is a bad experience, are you screwed?
Fred, it is about intention. I can speak from experience. When we launched our service, we used previous experiences and early tests to provide the best possible First Use experience. We failed in some area’s, but we were very open towards our users. Along with the service we launched a community where users could discuss their experiences directly with our team. This has helped us and our users tremendously. Our intention, providing a good first use experience, was clear from the start, and our community is helping us out every day to improve that.There are several advantages when you focus on First Use:- It helps you focus on the user experience, instead of the nr of features you implement- It prevents creativity getting in the way of delivery- It addresses the most important question when building a new service: ”Is a user willing to put in the effort to learn about this new technology and incorporate it in his current habits”?We are using this in practice every day, and we are still learning as we go along 🙂
Thanks for that explanation. Its helps me understand your first use prinicpal
Gosh, I love this point but I think I read something completely different than both Fred and Alex.”Is a user willing to put in the effort to learn about this new technology and incorporate it in his current habits”? “”Simple” not only refers to “simple to use,” but to “simple to understand the value of.”To me this point and the point of this blog post is about the need for a clear value proposition. People are willing to invest a lot of effort into adopting something if the perceived value is high. Chemotherapy is a horrendous experience and doesn’t always work, but given the alternative (death) it’s a no brainer. Alternatively, if the perceived value is low, the less forgiving users will be. I’m not going to register, verify an email, and create a profile when all i want to do is play a game of solitaire on the train for five minutes. **This is reminds me of the relationship between price elasticity and wealth (or is it income?).Clearly and concisely articulating the value proposition is a real problem for lots of great technology platform companies*, twitter included (it’s NOT ironic that Fred went through and did just that to get this conversation started). It’s not as if people havent heard of these platforms! Everyone COULD benefit from joining Facebook or using Twitter but not everyone realizes it. That the most common thing I hear from non-twitter users “why the hell would i do (need) that?” The main reason that people try these services, despite having no idea what they are, is “everyone else is using it (therefore it must have value).” The main reason services don’t stick is because people give up before they find value.This is where Alexander’s concept of “first use” comes up. I bet Marketers try a lot harder to “get” twitter than Accountants because they know it’s something they are supposed to be using. Twitter is doing a lot to improve this by suggesting friends and auto-populating new accounts with popular tweeters. It’s getting better but still needs work.Ultimately, the proportional relationship between perceived value and one’s willingness to expend effort to adopt is more people than products. This is classic Geoff Moore/technology adoption curve. Technologists find the perceive value in technology for technology’s sake. They could care less if something is “simple” or easy to use or about sharing or whatever as long as it is technically interesting or new or difficult. Early adopters find technology interesting, but only because of it’s ability to affect disruptive change. They are willing to put up with a lot of pain because they perceive huge benefits. The majority just wants to keep pace. Skeptics actually perceive negative value and thus will hold out until non-adoption itself becomes so painful that it is easier just to capitulate! Different people see different value in different things.In conclusion, “simple” not only refers to “simple to use,” but to “simple to understand the value of.” A “clear value proposition” should make the list of drivers of consumer adoption. [email protected]://timetogetstarted.wor…PS. Fred and Daniel, speaking of summarizing, can we get some yelp-like technology to parse out repeated phrases? Also what about multimedia comments (see below)?PSS. Alex’s blog is great. People should check it out.*People are insensitive to large relative prices increases for goods that are cheap relative to their wealth, but they are very sensitive to small relative price increases on goods that a large purchases relative to their wealth. In English, I am virtually indifferent between a $1 pack of gum and a $1.10 pack of gum (10% price increase), but raising the price of a house from $100K to $110K (also 10% increase) is game changing. To complete the analogy, the amount of friction users are willing to overlook is proportional to the value they perceive. Thus I believe that a users initial perceptions are all the more important if the value proposition is marginal or unclear..**Drop.io is another example of a great platform technology and “great” product (simple, sexy, social, useful etc) that risks missing consumer adoption because people don’t fully appreciate all of the things you can do with it. Getdropbox is much less versatile product that may ultimately win because it is much more intuitive. (Hey Fred and Daniel, when do I get to embed a Compete.com chart in my disqus comments ? When do we get multimedia comments?) I think this is why we keep seeing “simple” and “uncomplicated” and “focused” come up as important drivers of consumer adoption.
What a great comment. Actually its a full blown blog post. You should post it on your blogI love the marketers vs accountants comparison!
One thing that has not been mentioned thus far (as far as I can see), re: a compelling factor in the mass adoption of new consumer technologies: a period of high levels of disposable income, and nothing else to worry about other than the next gadget to desire/buy.
I understand its easy to gather all necessary articles and books and then make a list of stuff that your app/gadget needs to have/not have. But, there I learned that first of all you must GIVE value to your users. Make deals from which your user will profit. If you have pressure of taking peace of pie then you are on the wrong way …Ross Lovegroove, one of most genius mind, once said: You must give before you get!
I’ve always though the key thing is to solve a “problem”, preferably one the user didn’t even know they had. (I use the word “problem” broadly — it might be the problem of keeping track with your friends ALL the time, or shaking your phone to get a cocktail recommendation.) Second, it must be fun. Third, it must be cool — that is, be viewed positively in your social group (obviously, social nets and games meet this criteria). All of the above seem to fit that bill. And, many of the products below (including mobile banking in Kenya) do as well. Of course, after you do these things the resulting product then seems obvious.Some of the above also have true network effects (Twitter, Facebook) — the more people use them the more valuable they become — which I don’t think is necessary but when you have one, and can drive it that is very valuable and will accelerate growth. As long as the product meets the three things above of course.
In the ten year operation at http://www.vision-incorporated.com, we have found that we must address the FEAR’s (False Evidence Appearing Real) when consumers are approached or when they encounter new technology.We have found that if consumers or the general public feels comfortable with the IT firm and the IT firms assures customers they are there to help them, guide them, and the purpose of the IT firm is to show and teach them how to fish instead of handling them one (Technically speaking).Consumers are more likely to listen, be receptive to what you have to say, and you gain their trust; because you make them feel that you (the IT firm) are on their side – instead of trying to make a buck and run.
1. Ease of use.2. Free2. Good customer service (or no need of one, it’s that simple)3. Addictiveness, with low frustration level4. Stability, combined with slow feature creep at the customers’ demands5. Keeping up with the Jones and “all my friends have it”.I don’t know if you can argue that all the millions of try-mes who came to Twitter will yield a growing user base, I don’t think Twitter is anything like AIM yet, many kids prefer AIM to Twitter still, they don’t like being out in THAT huge a public of Twitter, and prefer known networks.I never see anyone use Hulu — if you don’t watch TV, why use Hulu? And there is so much more interesting on with interactive social media, games, and virtual worlds, and more easily accessed movies, that TV seems obsolete.I prefer Typepad to Blogger, and I can’t think of any blogs I read using blogger, does this one? A lot of people use WordPress.I guess if I had to pick one thing I see much more of than the services on this list I would say “Blackberry”.
I prefer aim and friends because of the level of depth in my conversation.I am not going to discuss about the nuances of tea with a friend in Syria over Twitter. First off, Political Reasons for both of us. Second reason, it is an involved conversation.Same with friends in Germany. Hiking in Germany and about the nature of flowers isn’t going to cut it.Twitter has a surface problem to it. I have a love/hate relationship with it (I also feel a need for a secondary client…another problem that was already resolved for with AIM and friends),
So try seesmic or tweetdeckI think twitter alone may be surface but twitter is the news feed for the webMany of the people who came to this discussion got here from twitterFacebook wants you to do it all there. Twitter, like google, sends you elsewhere
One of my discussions of what makes something good- How portable. I live in the cloud by necessity.I am one of the few human beings I know who doesn’t own a computer. (my processing needs are high compared to my money supply.) It is really freeing and has actually forced me to learn more about computers, as well as meet more people. If software can’t be loaded from my one portable harddrive (named DRIVEOFDOOM), it isn’t happening.I am forced by school constraints to not install TweetDeck until I get back home. (They are afraid of people f***ing up millions of dollars worth of equipment, joys of an expensive private university environment. Adobe Air seems to want this to happen, so no TweetDeck.)I respect the wishes because I am good friends with many members of their student staff.Share economy- I don’t do too many illegal things, my friends tell me how to use Bash terminal commands on school computers, They also get to complain about weird comp sci problems. I tell them that their monitors are not properly calibrated. They critique my scans of film or my gigantic copyright symbols.I can wait on the technology for such simple joys. I rather hang around wonderful people instead.(Let the record stand that I have been without a computer for one academic year now. If you cannot figure out how to write a paper or do calculations without a computer- that is odd.)
Fred, great post. I agree with what you’ve writtern, the only item I would add is that certain products need to be “sexy” they need to have that “wow factor”
While all of the technologies Fred listed met a consumer desire and are innovative in their approach, let’s not forget about market timing and adoption. Apple, Facebook, Wii, FlipCam, etc. are great products / offerings, but they also hit the market when the market was ready to adopt. You could just as easy generate a list of “like” technologies that were innovative, but slightly ahead of their time and failed. Jobs is correct that sometimes, the consumer does not know what they want so it is up to innovators to design and create great experiences. With the exclusion of Apple, let’s see how each business model evolves and generates profit (not just revenue) and then assess success. Still early days for most of these companies.
There are lots of technologies that were “almost there” but didn’t take off, but I don’t think it generally has anything to do with timing. If the consumer desire is there, success is for the taking. As to consumers not knowing what they want–that stops companies from innovating not consumers from embracing those innovations.
If I recall Psion developed a PDA in 1980 and launched an organizer 4-5 years later. Apple took a shot with w/ the Newton MessagePad in the early 1990s. Neither device (for whatever reason) took off. Consumers were not buying it en masse. It took US Robotics acquiring, then launching the Palm Pilot in 1996 before consumers started to pay attention … the concept of the pda went mainstream in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Concept and technology were nearly 20 years ahead of market adoption.
Man, I’m relying on memory here, but wasn’t price a primary obstacle to mass-appeal adoption for these early devices. Again, I’m being VERY specific here. If you take the Psion of 1980 at its price point then and released it in 1991 and it flopped, it wouldn’t be due to timing, it would be due to other factors–functionality, UI, price point, etc. That’s what I mean by timing being of little consequence.If by timing you are saying that the technology or price point hasn’t caught up to the idea yet, then I would agree with you. But I wouldn’t personally define that as a timing issue.
I’ve got an original newton in my gadget collection in my office.
Many of your examples use discovery as a means of engagement, and I do not believe that is a coincidence.Great presentation on what I’m speaking to can be found here: http://www.slideshare.net/m…
Discovery is the new cocaine. And so much better for you too
Ironically, I believe it is the consumer’s desire for less technology.With the introduction of every successful product or service we’re given the hope that that produce or service will simplify our lives. PDAs hold the promise of maintaining relationships while on the go. Social Networking applications give us the illusion of hanging out with our friends in the Mall (or town square, bar, etc.). MP3 devices transport our cinderblock & pine wood shelves of albums to our metaphorical home at our favorite coffee shop.The buzzwords in Design is that “it’s” so simple, so beautifully executed, so intuative.I posted an essay a short while back [http://tiny.cc/sPKO3] where I referred to Tip O’Neil’s famous line, “All politics is local”. In that essay I was referring to how graphic designers should approach designing for the web.In regard to your question, I’d suggest the same concept can be applied to what drives consumers adoption of new technology.All consumers want technology that will bring them “home”.
Andy- 1)you have beautiful work. I would kill to have my BA work look like your work….Hell I would work for free just to make sure I was learning how to work the way you work…damn.2)You are on the mark on about less tech. or Less Obtrusive tech…Most people don’t realize that we act upon a mediated world. Good design will both hinder and help that action.We want technology that shows us how the mediation works without driving us mad…to us, this is home.It is why we can’t replicate nature on screen no matter how hard we try. But we can replicate and extended the movements of our bodies and voices.Any object that can succeed in extending the senses that belong to the self, literally extending man, will succeed on the market. But one that tried to bring the outside, in, will probably fail.This is the power of objects like the GUIs and phones. They literally extend. Even the basic power of music. Our identity, our power of conception, of numbers, patterns, our ability to hear, is locked in it. Things that extend music tend to succeed gloriously, especially if they intuitively extend other parts of the body.
Less overt technology?
More physical technology?
This is so basic but:Google Calendar. It was totally cross-platform, and it had sharing features so that everyone could plan tgoether.Now it is even more robust. It texts messages me where I am supposed to go if I make it do that….
reminds me of my favorite book about selling “new products” – Selling the Wheel. If you can keep in mind that the concept of a wheel was at one time a break-out product, it helps to keep things in perspective:For massive adoption it must:solve a meaningful problem, or create a unique opportunity – for a very targeted audience. . . with an inherent ability to evolve for other audiences.
Quick question:Do we need to be so general with our problem solving?Sometimes I wonder if meaningful problems only occur to specific demographics. Is it ok to let the evolution to either:a) never happenorb) happen really slowlyMainly I wonder because it seems that some industries and thier problems, though very general in some ways, got themselves into complicated rabbit holes.Solving those problems would provide general solutions to a lot of people, but, it might be easier, more cost effective, and you might make more money by not trying to be everything to everybody- but by only trying to be one thing to one group. Just to pull some groups out of the rabbit hole they walked into.Just a thought.
I agree completely – abstraction thwarts innovation. focus drives it.
I’m unclear on that one. Still mulling.I admire abstraction and the innovation it takes to get there. See if you can find Michael Fried’s “Art and Objecthood.” He declares work by artists like Donald Judd as work of spectacle. These works are heavily abstract, but the process of getting to such an abstraction is complicated. (It is one of the reasons I took Figure drawing), which is one of the reasons the critique Fried offers about idea of spectacle is both controversial, yet appealing. Minimalism, across a variety of subjects, including business, has a lot of appeal because it does locate itself as being broad. Methods that are more limited tend to have a slower traction time, and can and often do become more valuable over time.Awareness of people, their needs, their sense of place in time, seems to drive innovation more so than anything I have heard of so far.Finding which needs are say minimalist (or an everyone need) versus limited (what would only appeal to a VC or a real estate lawyer) for me, are two very different approaches about how to drive innovation, and where to place human needs.It is about where to start the Identity conversation and how to help define it.
Demographics, psychographics, the perception of risk and the status associated with assuming it are the keys to adoption. I’ve just completed a book about it. Working on publishing and marketing now.People adopt tings more out of the need to define themselves than out of need for features and functionality. That said– the newer (or more novel) something is– the simpler it needs to be. Apparent simplicity reduces the risk of neurological pain that comes with trying something that doesn’t work.Timing is everything. Wished I knew about your need sooner.
Let me know when your book gets published
looks like you hit a nerve— sorry past 10am, regardless, my days have shown that the while it has to be easy (or perceived easy) it ultimately comes down to the 4 other Es and varies on the consumer demographics – those Es being “Experience”, “Entertaining”, “Educational”, and “Equitable”. So basically, is the apps – something you gotta do, something fun to do, something informative/educating or something that makes me time/money. Age, race, sex, locale can easily skew which E drives the adoption. What may be a logical next question is what drives the Churn of New Technology?
I thought there were nine Es 😉
without getting scientific about breaking down the multitude of possibilities…* personal value* learning curve / ease of use* environmental pressure (peers/social flow/marketing message)* impact (personal/social/environmental/etc)better late than never…
It might be odd to think of you as a product but to add to your list of recent mass adaptations:avc.com – A VC who responds to every comment
Not every comment but the ones where I am inspired to reply to
I think that the real answer to what drives engagement remains a critical mass of early adapters. The technology and functionality can be brilliant, but mot technologies today still require a critical mass of influencers to begin adopting it, even if a networking experience is not part of the experience.
Don’t over generalize from consumer markets to other markets. Yes, the consumer market demands products, not technology, that is easy to use. Consumers don’t buy technology. They buy products.The consumer market is not the place to see adoption. The consumer market is a late market relative to technology adoption.
Not any more. Consumer is where many new technologies (at least on thw web) get their start
Fred,I would add one more: fundamentally disrupt the economic of an existing industry — e.g. long distance phone calls over skype.cheers,Bill
For sure. Did you see the disruption talk I gave? I’d love to hear your throughts and critiques
Great discussion!From my standpoint particularly in web based technologies, its all about delivering meaning (whether its wisdom, information, a means to express oneself, connection with others, or fun/entertainment being sought at the moment by the user) in a consistent and memorable experience that is beautifully simple in form and distributive in nature. Simplicity ensures ease of use, trial and understanding. Consistency ensures predictability of value or utility. Memorable allows early adopters to promote the sharing of the experience with others. Distributive allows the experience to be easily accessed from multiple points to create more use opportunities and adoption. Of course, all of this typically needs to be surrounded by the right circumstances and execution. How one rises above the noise is an incredible but exciting challenge.
Check out the Diffusion of Innovation theory from Everett Rogers in 1962. I think it still applies.http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…#massmedianerd
Thanks massmedianerd. Very interesting
What Drives Consumer Adoption Of New Technologies?Fear of missed opportunity.Fear of looking/feeling stupid if they can’t talk about it or don’t know about it.Fear of not being in the club.Fear of not being noticed.Fear of not being a somebody.Fear of not being there when something important happens.Fear of being judged.Fear is the number one motivator for all things, now everyone re-read this line 1,000 times until you get it.People will do absolutely anything to mitigate these fears, they will have their bodies reconstructed, they will spend obscene amounts of cash on designer goods and technology, they will mindlessly join every social network that is talked about. The more stuff people have or subscribe to, the more afraid they are.Of course they may not realize it and they may deny it but that’s because they are afraid of being judged 😉
I concur Adam. Freakonomics.
Community and especially a happy community!!Look at how Open Source can create happy communities that boost the project without high marketing cost. People want to feel good and be part of a group.Arno
Developing new technology is the same type of endeavor as composing and recording a song or writing, filming, and editing a movie, and therefore Richard Cave’s “nobody knows” problem ultimately applies to the business desire for reproducibility (Creative Industries http://www.amazon.com/Creat…. While we may be able to describe in general and specific terms, after the fact, why a particular song, movie, or technology became popular, the description by nature cannot provide a basis for describing the next popular creation (it can however provide a basis for formulaic efforts like sequels and spin-offs).A good song, says what needs to be said, says it within the context what has been said before , and says it at the right time. Consider that the themes of songs we love (or hate) really don’t differ much from the songs we care nothing about (neutrality is worse than hatred for the creative). It is the timeliness, relevance, and craft of the expression of that theme that wins the day. And if a song further exhibits time*less*ness, ongoing resonance, and beauty it becomes a “classic”.This analogy neatly explains many phenomenon in popular technology: hits-based business structures, a belief in king/queen pickers, fadishness, increasing operational focus on marketing and promotion, etc. The business of new popular technology looks like the business of music and movies, because the creation of new popular technology looks like the creation of music and movies.A few things follow from this analogy. Winning technologies like YouTube are not thematically novel (i.e. hundreds of competitors in the online video distribution space, which is ultimately thematically related to television), but rather emerge as the most timely, relevant, and well-crafted. Further, we cannot ignore the influence of resources – monetary, power, or otherwise – on the relevancy component of the function. Perhaps most importantly, it is way too early to know whether any of these recent technologies have graduated to “classic” status yet. Even Google, while of obvious business value, has yet to exhibit the cultural longevity of Abbey Road, or Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, or perhaps more to the point television or the telephone. The last two illustrate the final business problem for popular technology …successes become categorical and thus commodity.Finally, the answer to your question as it applies to your business, Fred, is the same as in other creative businesses: prolificacy, experimentation and inspiration comprise the measure of creative capacity. The business problem is that the creative process is orthogonal to the ex post facto hallmarks of creative success (even if you substitute or add your own to timeliness, relevance, and craft). Everybody knows why a creative *product* was a success, but we can only perceive the capacity of a creative *effort* to output a large number of products all of which try to be subtly novel and “come from the heart”, one of which *might* be a hit.Gotta love it, right?!p.s. – hope the panel went well, but it looks like a remarkably rich conversation has been right here in the comments. thanks for spurring.
This is a consistent theme in this thread. I need to collect all of these thoughts and tuen them into a post on this idea
My advisor in grad school was Ev Rogers, the author of the classic Diffusion of Innovations paridigm (1962). As I recall, several characteristics of any innovation contribute to its rate of adoption:1) Relative advantage–is the innovation better than the idea it supercedes?2) Comapatibility–is it consistent with existing values and needs?3) Complexity–Is it easy to understand and use?4) Trialability–Can it be experimented with n a limited basis before a commitment is made?5) Observability–Are the benefits of the innovation easily visible to others?Generally, the more emphatically you can answer yes to the above questions, the greater the rate of adoption. I believe these basic principles still hold true today.
I’m late to the party but try these success factors on for size:1) Ego (means: address me or let me express something about me)2) Win (means: let me accomplish some reachable goal relatively quickly)3) Sex (means: tickle my fantasies)(tip to oliver hölle for this formulation)
Both are so true. I don’t tend to use objects unless they fulfill both.
Oh yeah. StevieG is in the house!
We are all self-centered, insecure and want to be ‘stars’. Most of these consumer technologies meet these needs:Twitter: How cool is it to see your username and all your tweets? better when someone else refers to your tweets.Wii: Lets us imagine we are that awesome tennis player or golfer we always wanted to bePandora: Music just for ME…because I am ‘special’ – same goes for Hulu, TV just for MEFacebook: My friends can see all my photos, what I’ve been up to..and I can expand my friend circleRockband: we can be a starSo, takeaway for me is make the consumer feel special…like a star, and you’ll win them over
iPhone – mobile phone that you can make *yours* (music, screen, pics, apps, etc) – I think bank to my lovely early Samsung phones wishing I could customize them…Facebook – a way to keep in touch, easily, instantlyWii – you are the joystick, it’s like the version 0.001 of the holodeckHulu – watch tv shows, clips anywhere, anytime, right nowFlipCam – it’s so easy to use you can forget that it’s in your pocket :)Rock Band – who hasn’t fantasized about being *in* a rock band. Headbangers delight!Mafia Wars – like Fb, it’s easy, instant and played asynchronouslyBlogger – easier than WordPandora – your radio station without the work of picking all of the songsTwitter – merges and personalizes what, where and why instantly in 140 characters or less
Great descriptions of why these broke out. Thanks
Many of the points listed above are important, but don’t forget about pricing.Of the non-consumer electronics products you listed (i.e. web services), not one of them charge. At best Pandora operates under a freemium model, yet it still offers a compelling service for free.If you focus on consumer electronics, I’d argue that only Rock Band is priced in the premium category. The iPhone was but has fallen to I wouldn’t consider $200 (now $99) to be premium in the smart phone market. And the Wii falls well below its console competition.
Very important point. I just commented above about early technologies that appeared to be “ahead of their time,” when I think the reality is that they were simply above an affordable price point. This also is relevant to the earlier comment about an economy with disposable income. The “premium” Rock Band game isn’t so premium in a thriving economy with a lot of disposable income.
Freemium beats premium!
Great conversation. I’ve always looked for the liberation effect. New technology tends to free you from creative/productivity constraints resulting in the blossoming of latent or hampered creative potential. Explosive productivity is the physical result. Joy is the emotion.
Sms and mobile email is freedom
I also think it is interesting to think about how we define “success” in consumer adoption. For many of the products below, it’s relatively easy to get a huge mass of early innovators up to and even across the proverbial chasm, but the thing that got them there usually isn’t enough to keep them there. Popularity can wane easily, and switching costs for many things are low.Think of all the great follow-on acts that have created stickiness with users: oGoogle: Search -> Gmail -> Docs -> AndroidoiPod -> iPhone -> App Store oTwitter: Microblogging -> 3rd party tools, “new” RSS ->new tools like twitpayoWii: games -> fun fitnessPart of the key to is the need to keep growing with your user base. This becomes particularly difficult when the user base itself is changing from early adopters to followers. Not only because scaling is tough, but because a different class of user often has different wants / needs / expectations.
Soooo true. You can’t stop innovating
Wow. This post is a study in entrepreneurship and product innovation. Fascinating that you turned your readers into analysts and consultants.
That’s because we are cheap.
Shh. That’s my only trick in the book 😉
פרד, אני אטייל ספק שזה כל הסודים שלך.ועכשו, אני רוצה ללמוד איזה סודים אני צריכה להצליח בחיים.זה אחת מן סודים שלי.critique the grammar later. I’m way out of practice. I need to find a way to catch up on tv over the summer to get back into practice, and be less shy about doing something like this.A secret for a secret;)
You’re part of the new open source economics wave ; ) If you haven’t, you should see Yochai Benkler talk on Ted.com about the subject. http://bit.ly/qMlMY
Glad to know. And thank you for the welcome.
Yochai is a friend of our firm and huge inspiration to us. Our investment thesis reflects his work in many ways
That doesn’t surprise me. I’m applying his thesis, as well as Blank’s customer development and Ries’ development frameworks to the online children’s education space. We’ll see what happens.
I’ve been thinking about this since I was a teenager. It’s partly why I became an industrial designer. Here is the core truth about simplicity. When a product is pleasing to approach (which is created by a lot of qualities, foremost of which is simplicity) people get a psychological response to “engage”. It’s simple but unconscious stuff. “Hmm. I think I can do this. This is friendly.” The interesting part is that if you can elicit that response through UI, form factor and sheer disciplined editing of functionality down to its core essence, people will actually dig deeper, spend more time, and uncover MORE functionality from a simple product than from a more fully featured one. So they get more feature usage from a product with, objectively, less functionality. Designers understand this. Engineers usually struggle with it. (But not the best ones.)
Joshua Schachter told me that the hardest thing, but the most important thing to do, is reduction. I agree that most engineers are not instinctively good at reduction but the best ones are
CARE!I went around in circles when I let this question churn in my head -thoughts appeared: – it’s a wrong question – consumers don’t adopt technologies – I don’t know what they do adopt… but it isn’t technology – technologists (and stakeholders) care about technology – most consumers don’t – for them technology is like magic – and how wonderful is that? – in what context is the question raised – is it about making money? is it about doing people a service? is it about improving life? – surely this question has no single relevant answer – if consumers are teenagers then maybe “slick & sexy”, if busy business people then maybe “useful & simple”… – are we talking about consumers or people? consumers smells to me like a capitalist concept… is there an undertone there, or is it just my imagination?Then when the dust settled, ideas surrendered and judgments suspended – there was silence… and Care appeared!People love care. It is care that people consume – and it is care that is offered to consumers. Care comes in many flavors – it can be offered truthfully and it can be offered manipulatively – but it is still care!Relevancy of a product is achieved by caring about it’s intended users. Having someone in mind is a key to caring – otherwise you are just jerking around with ideas in your head (a trap technologists & technologies often fall into).A good product – simple, great UI, performance – is achieved by care on the part of the people who partake in creating it, and that happens when management cares about them!A sense of caring can be carried through in every aspect of a product’s interface with “consumers”: packaging, user experience, support, socializing, etc.People are drawn to caring. I consider myself to be of a western state-of-mind – and I feel that care is one of the shortcoming of western society – it is direly missing. I wonder if consumption is a quality that has grown from this and it’s resolution by other social forces (such as industrialization?!)As I write these words I wonder if people who have care in their lives are less likely to be “consumers”?Does this make sense to you?
Care is another great word. I’ve mined two great words from this thread – care and purposeThanks
Regarding the iPhone, a recent survey found that 75% of iphone users are previous Apple customers, with almost 70% having owned an iPod. With almost 100 million iPod users at the time of the iPhone release, I’m wondering how big a factor convergence was in driving adoption of the iPhone. I’m sure that there were also quite a few Apple customers like myself who were delighted to finally have a smartphone that will sync easily with their mac.
these are two huge factors
Amazing comments here! your panel has come and gone, but I would add one point: daily use. If its not something I can and do use daily, I’ll just forget about it.
Does rock band pass that test?
Fred, I think Umair Haque had a lot of interesting things to say related to this area in a post of his the other day. – Particularly the “Ideals Beat Strategies” notion. Although his points are counter-intuitive to many, there’s a lot of truth in there. Check out: http://blogs.harvardbusines… –
I read it (I read everything by umair). He’s right
Years ago, I read a study that concluded technology which simplifies your life, is adopted much more quickly. Contrasting early innovations cited were electronic banking which was cool but complicated “managing the check book in the early stages”, electronic ticketing for airlines with a similar issue and ATM’s which simplified getting cash. I think the principle holds true today in the communication and entertainment arena.
Hi bill. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Its nice to hear from you
Participation – the ability for one to comment/discuss/debateAs a side note, – this has over 250 comments, is that average, low, high for one of your questions? – how was the panel?
Panel was OK but this conversation is way better. This is a big number for me. Largest thread on this blog is around 300. Average this week is 100 per postDisqus for the win
i have a slightly different take on the iphone and the flipcam. they’re popular mostly because they’re ultra-simple and ultra low-featured. this means you can use them without reading a manual. i don’t think it’s the killer touch screen that drove iphone nor do i think the smallness drove flipcam. both were done before. what drove them is that they have 1 or 2 buttons and are utterly usable. you turn them on and you immediately think “oh, i get it.”with hulu, the interface is so-so. hulu’s success is due to the fact that they hit a critical mass of content in one location. their interface good, not great (there is no “play your queue” button, for example so after you queue up a few shows, there’s no “go” button). their success is 95% attributable to their CEO. he knows how to close deals and he closed enough of them to reach a tipping point of content. that’s a one-man company as i see it (maybe not any longer but that guy is a pro at executing. how do you get someone at all those networks to return your calls?)
I’m no marketing guru by no means, but I put in some thoughtson this since this has been a *very* thought provoking thread to me.Thank you for posting this entry and all the comments.In my opinion, what you should be focused on may and should vary depending on where your product is in its lifecycle.And the thoughts you should put into and what course of actions youshould take also differ accordingly.That’s just another reason why it seems so difficult to come up with one answer that satisfy this simple yet very very deep question.I’m dividing the product lifecyle into 7 different phases.I want to think what the right approach of marketing strategy andtactics for the product is for each phase when I’m releasing myproduct.1. Pre-launch of the product2. At the launch of the product3. Soon after the launch of the product Standing out to the eyes of Innovators4. After getting Innovators approval Refining the product to appeal to Early Adoptors satisfying the requests from Innovators at the same time5. Early mass marketing phase Going into the general public to attract Early Majority6. Crossing the Chasm Expanding into Late Majority7. What to do after becoming the #1 in the market Dragging Laggers in to get them involved (if you care to)
This lifecycle framework is very good and very useful to our portfolio companies, particularly post obtaining initial escape velocityThanks!
I’d also consider the role of super-connected people in promoting the products/services. See Malcolm Gladwell’s book: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
Simple, useful and entertaining were merely costs of entry for these successes. The real reason behind their success was the ability to tap into a meaningful and differentiated solution to a core consumer insight. Sure, the iPhone has a “mobile browser with a killer touch screen interface,” but the need it truly met was for a convergence device that actually converged. Blackberry was great for business/email and others covered off on various aspects including mobile messaging or picture-taking, but none was able to tie a phone/camera/email/web browser/media player/mobile messenger together like the iPhone. The fact that it did it with simplicity and ease was, no doubt, core to its success – but meaningless without the dedication to solving the key consumer insight…The same can be said for all the other examples. Consumer products – technology based or otherwise – MUST start with an insight that, when solved, opens up a meaningful and sustainable competitive advantage within a sizable and profitable consumer/customer base…
Simplicity can have a downfall as well because if the product is too simple people sometimes perceive less value and it becomes price sensitive.
I agree wholeheartedly with the phrase “It is not enough to be the first to market with a new technology. You have to be the first to market with a version of the technology that is simple and easy to use.” This was actually the subject of my final paper in a b-school class–what defines ideas that are truly transformational? I think the list above is awesome, but it could be applied to any industry and almost any point in history. I highly doubt that Pizza Hut was the first company to dream up delivering hot pizza, yet they were the ones who commercialized it and transformed part of consumer behavior.
One thing I’ve always wondered is how product development differed for successful technologies (the ones mentioned) as opposed their less successful peers. For example, did the success stories solicit more user feedback, we’re they more data-driven than opinion -driven when designing their successful technology?I am prompted to think along these lines because I am just now finally getting into the work of Jakob Nielsen: http://www.useit.com/
Sorry this isn’t in time for the panel but I have a couple thoughts for you. I think there is a generational consideration that must be applied. Some technologies are successful among younger generations because it provides an instant fit with something their want to do, e.g. texting to communicate with friends. Much the same as the previous generation saw picking up the phone and calling friends as the preferred method and the generation before that went to see their friends in person. These are innate experiences. As adults, technology is adopted if we can adapt it to improve something we are already doing. I just read a report about adults texting more because it is the best way to communicate with their children – adapting. These are adaptive experiences. Many of your “new” experiences are really adaptations of existing experiences.
Great thoughts, but as a social scientist, I see a couple of issues in the way you answered the question. First, you selected on the “dependent” or “outcome” variable. One way around that is you could have selected ten sites that didn’t take off such as Joost, Friendster, etc. and see if those characteristics you mentioned in your successful companies were absent in the unsuccessful companies. While this would not give you the causal answer it does move you in the right direction. Second, you could have approached the answer at a higher level of abstraction. For example, we can take a look at the adoption of the gun, radio, car, TV, etc. and see if those characteristics you mentioned apply to these new technologies.
Great suggestions for follow-on blog posts on this same topic
#300!I like the fact that you see the product and the experience as two different things/sides of the coin. Sure there are social networks, but none allows you to run your life the way Facebook does. That’s why we don’t just design products and web pages anymore, but we think in term of designing experiences.But then again, the question becomes, is it more about optimizing an existing experience or about creating something entirely new, that sparks consumer’s interest?There is an interesting video from Rob Bryanton, its called “imagining the 10th dimension” and it’s about understanding time and space (there is a very cool video that you can find on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watc…One of the things from that video that I found very interesting is that “a higher (N+1) dimension allows someone to transport from one place to another in the existing (n) dimensional space.”So when it comes to innovation, instead of trying to find the white space in an existing n-dimensional market, we can redefine it. Add another dimension…
We hardly ever hit 300 comments in this community. This is a big topic, for sure
We hardly ever hit 300 comments in this community. This is a big topic, for sure
Is Facebook considered new technology? Didn’t they just offer a more grownup user interface than myspace?
No, they built real viral channels that work
Thanks Fred, my thoughts exactly. Facebook’s a classic example of proper mix of design/execution/timing.
It doesn’t answer your question (What Drives Consumer Adoption of New Technologies?), but I had the cheek to write a blog post called Fred Wilson Is: (http://blogs.law.harvard.ed…, because avc.com and the people who comment here are just so darn amazing.It’s a looong post, and after much discussion of this and that (including Kathy Sierra, and Michel Foucault’s take on Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon), I propose (at the end of my long long post) one version of completing the phrase, “Fred Wilson Is:”… Hope you don’t mind – I really do get a lot out of your blog! 😉
I read it Yule. You are a great writer, serious and thiughtfulI left a comment on your postI wonder if you would build a larger and more loyal audience if you could figure out how to write shorther and more frequent posts?
Yes, that was a very long post, even by *my* standards… Thanks for your comment, Fred (I replied, too).I know I’m handicapping myself by not writing shorter posts because I know many online readers (of blogs etc.) really will not bother with anything over one or two paragraphs. “Shorter and more frequent” could mean delivering my “war & peace” length opus over several shorter installments instead, sort of like a series. That could work – something to think about/ act on.Then again, not every post on avc generates well over 300 interesting and thoughtful comments that range so widely into so many areas. I really needed to stitch (or scramble?) some of that together…! 😉
I like taking an idea and working on it over four or five posts over a period of timeI do that a lot
Blogging is thinking out loud for me and I rarely think in completely baked thoughts
Good points. In your blog you do, however, focus in on a specific area (as per your blog’s title, a VC). That makes it all hang together, and focuses your insights. Others might think out loud, but it’s unfocused (although in the aggregate, it can all cohere into a pattern).Are you familiar with the term “bricolage” (in Levi-Strauss’ academic-structuralist sense)? The Bookman (blog) describes it as a “willingness to make do with whatever is at hand… The ostensible purpose of this activity is to make sense of the world in a non-scientific, non-abstract mode of knowledge by designing analogies between the social formation and the order of nature. As such, the term embraces any number of things, from what was once called anti-art to the punk movement’s reinvention of utlitarian objects as fashion vocabulary…”http://thebookman.wordpress…I’m way too scientifically-minded to appreciate bricolage as any kind of ideal, and I’m definitely not saying that either one of us is a bricoleur, or that I want to be one and do bricolage (although it sometimes feels like that’s what I’m doing). But even when you’re just “thinking out loud,” I do think that your expertise lets you record your “rarely …completely baked thoughts” like ingredients in a recipe. And your readers know that they often enough add up to a movable feast: they cook your stuff in the comments board – to use a typically bricolage-y analogy.On the other side of the coin, there’s the rock star blogger, someone so star-like s/he can blog about underwear and people read it. (In fact, people would probably read it *because* it’s about underwear…) I’d rather chew off my own leg than fill those boots, though. The pressure would kill me. 😉
Great points Yule
Sometimes it’s actually secondary features that really deliver an audience. The iPhone built on the success of the iPod and that product delivered coherent file management as much as anything else. Pandora’s user experience is definitely simple, but have you read about what the peeps behind the scenes do to categorize music as data? It’s a monstrous meta tagging process that makes it work.
Thanks Fred. Always enjoy the discussion. -B