According to a study published recently by Marketing Science, the country where you launch your product has a measurable impact on its uptake.
As AdAge reports, the study, entitled “Global Takeoff of New Products: Culture, Wealth or Vanishing Differences,” analyzed data from 31 countries, including developing countries and ranked the countries based on how long it usually took for 16 consumer products to “take off” over the past 50 years.
The results might be surprising to some.
The fact that Japan is the country quickest to embrace new products probably isn’t a surprise. After all, Japan has always been a strong adopter (and producer) of new technologies. One need look no further than its mature and robust mobile market to see that.
But who follows – and doesn’t follow – Japan on the list might be surprising. One might economic powerhouses like the United States and United Kingdom to come next.
Instead, Norway and Sweden follow Japan, respectively. The US landed in sixth place and the UK was closer to the middle of the list.
Interestingly, rising economic powerhouses like China and India were at the bottom of the list (China found itself in last place).
The authors of the study, Gerard J. Tellis of University of Southern California and Deepa Chandrasekaran of Lehigh University, found that time-to-takeoff varies substantially between countries and “both culture and wealth drive takeoff, along with product class, product vintage, and prior takeoffs.“
The data for this study has numerous implications for internet entrepreneurs and the authors provide a number of suggestions in their paper:
Roll-out strategy should be dictated by product-type. Consumer products such as electronics devices and other “gadgets” are adopted differently than work products – the study found the former usually require seven years to take off while the latter take 12 years.
For consumer products, Tellis and Chandrasekaran recommend a “sprinkler” strategy in which products are rolled out simultaneously in multiple countries. I personally refer to this strategy as “spray and pray.”
For work products, Tellis and Chandrasekaran observe that cultural factors play a larger role and therefore products should be rolled out in “staggered” fashion where each roll out is tailored for the target country.
Details are important. Even though consumer products tend to have some universal appeal, the study makes it clear that the devil is in the detail. Culture, wealth and a whole host of other country-specific factors play a roll in adoption and they should not be ignored. I’ve discussed some of these before when discussing “going global.”
As an example, I’d point out that Western social networks like MySpace and Facebook have not been very successful in Japan (relatively speaking) while homegrown social networks like Mixi have done extremely well because they’ve catered their functionality to the needs of the local market.
Some of the countries with the greatest appeal and potential are tough to crack. The fact that India and China found themselves at the bottom of the authors’ “innovativeness metric” highlights this.
Obviously, these are two countries that, because of their massive populations, rising standards of living and rapidly-growing consumption, have fast become two of the most attractive consumer markets in the world.
Yet companies (and investors) looking to roll out products to the Indian and Chinese markets who ignore the difficulties of breaking into them do so at their own peril.
Perhaps the most interesting discovery made by Tellis and Chandrasekaran was that “time-to-takeoff is shortening and takeoff is converging across countries.”
In today’s global and interconnected economy, this isn’t entirely surprising but the fact that products sink or swim faster and that countries are adopting or rejecting products at increasingly similar rates offers some tangible benefits to entrepreneurs while at the same time posing some significant challenges.
Most importantly, this means that entrepreneurs will increasingly have the opportunity to bring new products to market rapidly and find out relatively quickly whether or not they will fly. On the other hand, it also means that markets move quickly and there’s less room for error.