Why people don’t buy your product

i-heart-my-roomba (WinCE)
I was quoted in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, considering the potential for e-readers (after our Reading Ahead research)

For the concept of a device that allows books to be read electronically, “this is the year we get it,” said Steve Portigal, the head of Pacifica consumer research firm Portigal Consulting. “But there’s this huge psychological chasm we have to cross before people buy them.”

Of course, this was part of a larger discussion and I wanted to share some of it here. As much as new products are tangible objects that we can exchange money for, they are also (and perhaps more importantly so) ideas. In my assessment, the digital book has reached a state similar to the Roomba. We’re aware of them, we probably even know someone that has one, and we find the basic premise compelling. And we can probably be satisfied with that vicarious experience for a good while, knowing that we live in a world where robots clean our floors without any effort by us and computers let us carry around a lot of books. So the product will show up in the daily comics, and in plot lines on network television; it’s a meme. But for us to actually purchase and integrate it into our lives requires a much closer examination of the proposition and a consideration of whether or not it fits who we are or want to say we are. And neither Roomba nor the e-Reader are there yet. So, yes, we “get it” now, but we don’t necessarily all want it, just yet.

You can see this phenomena in the common situation where market research reports that people were highly likely to purchase an upcoming product but actual sales don’t match that intent.


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