Are customers uncertain about buying your products?

Topics: Market Understanding | Risk

As a marketer, reducing the uncertainty your customers may feel about your product is imperative. Uncertainty can take the form of needing more information, more experience with your product, and more evidence to assure them that it will perform as desired.  Uncertainty contributes to indecision on trying or purchasing your product.  There are different avenues that a marketer can take to reduce this uncertainty…read on…

One factor that drives uncertainty for the customer is the size of the investment.  The bigger the investment, the more risk your customer feels about purchasing your product [1].  For example, purchasing a new vehicle will cause more pause for thought versus purchasing a piece of fruit.  This, of course, is relative depending on the income/demographics of your targeted group.

There are two types of purchasing uncertainty that your customers experience:  Behavior- and Use-Related Uncertainty.

Behavior-related uncertainty refers to the way the company treats its customers.  Treatment during product acquisition signals how the company will treat the customer after the purchase [2].  To reduce behavior-related uncertainty, treat your customers well in the steps leading up to, during, and after the purchase.  A great way to overcome this uncertainty is by providing your potential customers with testimonials, test drives, and references from past clients.

Use-related uncertainty occurs when the customer cannot try out or experience your product before the purchase [2].  You can provide case studies, free trials, or a demo in the software world.  In the consulting world, you can provide case studies or free webinars.  You can provide free samples at the grocery store in the CPG world.

If your customer doesn’t have experience with your product (e.g., entirely new), you will have a new set of uncertainties to address.  Is it a product with an entirely new technology?  Is it a new product category?  New to the company?  Or are you going after a new market?  This is where the Diffusion of Innovation model fits in…read below.

Diffusion of Innovation

When you are releasing a new product/innovation/technology, you need to think about potential early adopters that can impact the diffusion of your product.  Everett Rogers developed an approach based on the innovation decision process [3].  This process lists the five major stages individuals go through to reduce uncertainty about a product when deciding whether to adopt it.

uncertainty in product development

In the knowledge stage, the person becomes aware of the product, how to use it and how it works, and its advantage over other products.

During the persuasion stage, the person becomes more actively and psychologically involved with the product, ultimately forming a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward the product.  Because there is uncertainty with a new innovation, at this stage, people need social reinforcement and confirmation that they are aligned with their peers.  Personal interactions are important at this point.

Once the person enters the decision stage, they engage in activities that lead to adopting or rejecting a product.  The ability to try out the product is vital in this stage.

If the person decides to use the product, they move into the implementation stage, where they put the product to use.  There is a lot of information-seeking at this stage, and the company needs to focus on providing assistance in using this product.  This stage ends when the person no longer considers the product new.

Even if the person has purchased the product, it doesn’t mean they have adopted it.  In the last stage, confirmation, the person seeks further reinforcement.  The company must provide supporting messages because negative messages may circulate encouraging alternative solutions.

When reducing uncertainty about your new product, keep the innovation decision process in mind. The key is to make your customers feel well-informed and confident from the knowledge to the confirmation stage, especially if the investment size is large.

If you want to learn more about uncertainty and product development, please read our recently published book, Learn & Adapt: ExPD an Adaptive Product Development Process for Rapid Innovation and Risk Reduction.

[1] Gaubinger, K., Rabl, M., Swan, S. and Werani, T. (2015) “Innovation and Product Management: A Holistinc and Practical Approach to Uncertainty Reduction,” New York: Springer

[2] Backhaus, K., & Voeth, M. (2010). Industriegütermarketing. München: Vahlen

[3] Rogers, E. (1995) “Diffusion of Innovations,” New York: The Free Press

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