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New Product Pioneers: Finding Early Adopters in Unexpected Areas
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New Product Pioneers: Finding Early Adopters in Unexpected Areas

Globally, more than six-in-10 respondents (63%) say they like when manufacturers offer new products, and more than half (57%) say they purchased a new product during their last grocery shopping trip. But while consumers across the globe are enthusiastic about new products, their purchasing patterns vary widely. In fact, the Nielsen Global New Product Innovation Survey found that respondents in developing markets are both more inclined to try new products, and lead the way in self-reported purchasing. More than half of respondents in Asia-Pacific (69%), Africa/Middle East (57%) and Latin America (56%) say they purchased a new product during their last grocery-shopping trip, compared with 44% of European and 31% of North American respondents.

We classified adopters into three groups: early adopters (the first to purchase new products); mainstream consumers (adopt new products at the same time as the majority of their peers); and late breakers (among the last to purchase). We found that out of 11 markets with the highest percentage of early adopters, nine are developing:

  • Brazil (39%)
  • Peru (30%)
  • Israel (30%)
  • Colombia (28%)
  • India (28%)
  • Latvia (28%)
  • South Africa (28%)
  • Bulgaria (27%)
  • Serbia (27%)
  • Croatia (26%)
  • Romania (26%)

Early adopters are an important segment for manufacturers for several reasons. They can serve as product testers, providing feedback and suggestions for improvement. Also, they’re often opinion leaders, and they can be powerful allies in spreading the word about new products.

“Developing countries can be attractive markets for new product expansion efforts due to their younger demographic composition, rising middle class population and strong appetite for ‘affordable luxuries,’” said Rob Wengel, senior vice president and managing director of Nielsen Innovation in the U.S. “But developing-market consumers’ needs, standards and expectations can vary dramatically from those in more mature markets, and finding the right mix takes a market-by-market approach. To win, you need a keen understanding of both consumer behavior and the retail landscape and be willing to creatively innovate to deliver products that reflect unique consumer dynamics.”

New products aren’t just for the young

When you hear “early adopter” what comes to mind? It may conjure up an image of a tech-savvy teenager or college student willing to wait in line for the latest gadget. But this image is only partially accurate.

While the youngest respondents are more likely to say they have purchased a new product during their last grocery-shopping trip than their older counterparts, those categorized as ‘early adopters’ only show a slight age bias. That is, compared to the total sample, younger respondents are only slightly overrepresented among early adopters.

“Early adopters aren’t just younger consumers,” said Taddy Hall, senior vice president, Nielsen Innovation in the U.S. “Consumers of all ages are looking for products that make their lives better, and all can be passionate advocates if they find a product that fills a need. While Millennials are garnering a fair amount of recent time and attention, consider casting the net wider, and do not lose sight of the needs across all age segments.”

The key is determining which needs are not being met for each age group. The types of new products consumers wish were available and their reasons for purchasing are largely consistent across generations, but there are some notable differences.

Consumers of all ages wish more affordable products were available, but they’re particularly appealing to the oldest respondents, who are nearing or have reached retirement age. Roughly half of Baby Boomer (ages 50-64) and Silent Generation (ages 65+) respondents say they wish more products were available at affordable prices, compared with 43% of Generation Z (ages 15-20), 40% of Millennials (ages 21-34) and 42% of Generation X (ages 35-49) respondents. Meanwhile, brand-name recognition holds more sway in purchase decisions for older respondents than younger ones. Twenty-seven percent of Silent Generation and 24% of Baby Boomer respondents say they purchased a product because it’s from a trusted brand, while only 17% of Generation Z, 21% of Millennial and 20% of Generation X respondents cite this as a reason for purchasing.

While younger consumers are also concerned about affordability, they still want the latest and greatest, and they’re willing to pay a premium if they think the benefits outweigh the cost. Twenty-three percent of Generation Z and 21% of Millennial respondents wish more premium items were available on the market, exceeding the global average of 18%. In addition, 26% of Generation Z and 21% of Millennial respondents say they have purchased a new product because they thought it was worth it, compared with 16% of Generation X, 12% of Baby Boomer and 9% of Silent Generation respondents.

“To balance their aspirations with the size of their wallets, Millennials are shopping smarter,” said Hall. “In response to financial hardship, they’ve adopted a trade up/trade down approach, spending more on the things they value most and seeking low-cost options when the purchase is less important.”

Other findings include:

  • The best sources of awareness for new products.
  • How established brands can leverage their reputation to ease new product apprehension. 
  • Strategies for winning with new products.
  • In-depth looks at the top regional reasons consumers try new products.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global New Product Innovation Report.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global New Product Innovation Survey was conducted between Feb. 23 – March 13, 2015, and polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on its Internet users and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers. It has a margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.