The Link Between Involvement, Use Innovativeness and Product Usage

S. Ram, University of Arizona
Hyung-Shik Jung, University of Arizona
ABSTRACT - Product usage plays a central role in consumer behavior. Unfortunately, the utility of the concept is yet to be realized due to poor conceptual definition and inadequate operationalization. In this paper, the authors identify two important dimensions of product usage - usage frequency and usage variety - and develop reliable, valid measures for each. They use a longitudinal study to examine the relative influence of two consumer characteristics - Involvement and Use Innovativeness on both dimensions of usage. The results highlight the need to distinguish between usage frequency and usage variety when studying usage. The implications of this study for future research are discussed.
[ to cite ]:
S. Ram and Hyung-Shik Jung (1989) ,"The Link Between Involvement, Use Innovativeness and Product Usage", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 16, eds. Thomas K. Srull, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 160-166.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 16, 1989      Pages 160-166

THE LINK BETWEEN INVOLVEMENT, USE INNOVATIVENESS AND PRODUCT USAGE

S. Ram, University of Arizona

Hyung-Shik Jung, University of Arizona

ABSTRACT -

Product usage plays a central role in consumer behavior. Unfortunately, the utility of the concept is yet to be realized due to poor conceptual definition and inadequate operationalization. In this paper, the authors identify two important dimensions of product usage - usage frequency and usage variety - and develop reliable, valid measures for each. They use a longitudinal study to examine the relative influence of two consumer characteristics - Involvement and Use Innovativeness on both dimensions of usage. The results highlight the need to distinguish between usage frequency and usage variety when studying usage. The implications of this study for future research are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Product usage has been studied, in the past, in conjunction with expertise and involvement (Zaichkowsky 1985b), and is shown to affect product class knowledge and consequently the extent of information search (Bettman and Park 1980, Johnson and Russo, 1984). However, the evidence in the literature relating product usage to other constructs such as expertise and involvement seems incomplete because past studies have looked only at frequency of usage (how often used), and not at variety of usage (different ways in which used). This raises two important research questions, which we seek to address in this paper: What are the dimensions of product usage? How do we develop reliable, valid measures of usage?

A related research issue is how two key consumer characteristics, Involvement and Use Innovativeness, influence product usage. Some researchers have examined how usage frequency is affected by Involvement (Bloch 1981; Zaichkowsky 1985a, 1985b) and Use Innovativeness (Price and Ridgway 1983), but have ignored the effect on usage variety. Further, no study in the past measures Involvement, Use Innovativeness (UI) and Product Usage concomitantly, so there is little evidence on either the relative effects of Involvement and UI on product usage or on the extent to which Involvement and UI interact to affect usage. One of the objectives of this study is thus to explicitly examine the linkage between these constructs.

DIMENSIONS OF PRODUCT USAGE

Typically, product usage has been mentioned in the literature in relation to information strategies used by the consumer before the focal purchase. For example, past usage experience has been considered as an important influence on future purchases (Bettman and Park 1980; Johnson and Russo 1984). Few research studies have, however, looked at product usage as post-purchase consumption behavior. The manner in which a customer actually uses the product is likely to have an impact on the post-purchase evaluation (e.g. satisfaction) process, which in turn has implications for repurchase. The importance of studying product usage vs a consumption experience is thus evident.

We have classified product usage as having two dimensions:

(1) Usage Frequency; and,

(2) Usage Variety.

This is analogous to the two dimensions of product usage suggested by Zaichkowsky (198Sb): depth of consumption and breadth of consumption.

Usage Frequency refers to how often the product is used. regardless of what it is used for.

Usage Variety refers to the different ways in which the product is used, and to the different types of situations in which it is used.

We will illustrate the differences between the two types of usage with an example. Consider two consumers: one who uses a personal computer for two hours everyday, just for word-processing; another, who also uses the personal computer for two hours each day, but for video games on the first day (personal entertainment), for numerical spreadsheets on the second day (office work), for word-processing on the third day (personal), and so on. Both consumers have an identical usage frequency; however, the second consumer uses the product in multiple ways and in a variety of situations, and therefore has a higher usage variety. Usage variety is thus an important aspect of multifunctional products such as personal computers or VCRs. These products offer consumers the use of multiple features or functions. However, little research has been conducted on the variety dimension of product usage.

Further, post-purchase usage of multi-functional products may involve more than mt rely using the product. Product usage may require operational knowledge, which has to be acquired in some fashion: from a manual, or from other family members or friends, or by observing other users. For example, in the case of VCRs, the consumer may easily operate the basic functions such as "play" or "rewind", but may have to learn how to use special features such as the preprogrammed recording feature. These information acquisition methods, used by consumers during post-purchase consumption, have not been addressed adequately in past research.

INVOLVEMENT AND PRODUCT USAGE

Several researchers in marketing have examined the relationship between Involvement and product usage and usage-related behaviors (Bloch 1981; Tyebjee 1979; Zaichkowsky 1985a, 1985b). Bloch (1981), in a study using automobiles, reported significant relationships between involvement and usage-related behaviors such as seeking product usage information, performing repairs and maintenance, and taking intensive care of the product. Zaichkowsky (1985b) also found a positive relationship between involvement and usage frequency. However, any possible link between involvement and usage variety has not been explored, and we intend to investigate if such a linkage does exist.

USE INNOVATIVENESS AND PRODUCT USAGE

Involvement is not the only construct to explain the degree and types of product usage. Of the three types of variety seeking behaviors identified in the literature, viz. variety seeking in purchase, vicarious variety seeking, and Use Innovativeness (UI), UI has been shown to have a relationship with product usage (Hirschman 1980; Price and Ridgway 1983). Price and Ridgway (1983) demonstrate that UI is related with aspects of product usage such as "the use of a previously adopted product in a single, novel way", or "using a currently owned product in a variety of ways". They argue that UI leads to variety seeking behavior in the usage context, since consumers with a high UI tend to have high creativity and may try to use the product in multiple ways. Thus we expect UI to have a strong relationship with usage variety, especially in the case of multifunctional products.

Based on our discussion, we hypothesize on the following relationships between UI, Involvement and Usage:

H1: Involvement and UI each have a positive relationship with usage frequency and usage variety; however, Involvement has a higher positive impact than UI on usage frequency, but a lower positive impact on usage variety.

Involvement relates to the consumer's degree of product interest, and to his/her readiness to talk to others about the product (Bloch 1981; Richins and Bloch 1986). Thus, a highly involved consumer is more likely to resort to interpersonal communication about the product Involvement does not necessarily require expertise: an involved individual may use the product for the same purpose over and over, thus having a high frequency but relatively low variety. Use innovativeness, on the other hand, relates to the different, new ways in which a customer wants to use a product. This is more likely to create the need for building operational knowledge about the product. Further, the use innovative person is more likely to be independent and creative and seek information from sources such as user manuals, which tend to be more technical in the case of multi-functional products. This leads us to Hypothesis 2.

H2: Involvement has a higher positive impact than UI on usage-related interpersonal communication, but UI has a higher positive impact on information search from manuals.

METHOD

Five multi-functional products were used for this study: VCRs, personal computers, microwave ovens 35mm cameras, and food processors. The choice of these five products was based on several reasons: (a) they are likely to be used frequently within a household; (b) they offer scope for usage variety due to their multiple functions/features; (c) they may be relatively complex to operate and therefore require some amount of learning effort prior to usage or during usage.

A convenience sample of 575 households participated in the study. Each household was used for collecting data on one product. A key respondent was chosen in each household to report on the usage (See table 3 for # of respondents for each product). The respondent was typically the male or female head of household, and had been involved in the purchase of the product, and was currently one of the primary users of the product. Care was taken to ascertain when the households had acquired the product, and which households had acquired the product as a gift. For the data collection, a questionnaire and a diary were developed. The questionnaire contained-measures of UI, Involvement, Product Usage, and demographic information. The diary was designed to collect the following information regarding product usage: the specific purpose for which the product was being used, the usage situation, the exact time and date of usage, the length of time for which the product was used in each case, and which family member(s) had used it.

Prior to the data collection, the sample was randomly divided into two equal parts for each product. At the start of the study, the questionnaire was administered to one half of the sample. Two weeks later, all respondents were given diaries and asked to record their product usage as and when it occurred. The diary study was conducted for a period of six weeks (42 days). The diaries were collected from the respondents every two weeks. After the diary study, the questionnaire (self-report) was administered to the other half of the sample. This before-after design was used to control for the testing effect.

MEASURES OF PRODUCT USAGE

Product usage measures were obtained from two sources:

(1) subject's self-report (questionnaire)

(2) subject's daily diaries of actual usage

In the self-report, usage frequency was measured by asking respondents to classify their usage into one of six categories (ranging from "more than once a day" to "less than once a month"). For usage variety, respondents had to classify themselves into one of six categories ranging from "used all available functions" to "used hardly any functions" (See bottom of Table 2).

In the diary study, usage frequency was calculated on the basis of the actual number of days (out of a maximum of 42 days) for which they used the product. Usage variety was obtained on the basis of the number of different functional uses over the six week study. The respondents reported all the applications for which they had used the product as well as the different functions which had been used each time (See Table 1). For cameras, usage variety was classified by the number of features or functions used such as electronic flash, light exposure, shutter speed, telephoto lens, etc. Similarly, for a VCR consumer who used just "movie rental " the usage variety score was 1, even though the usage frequency score based on watching rented movies could be very high (e.g. every day).

TABLE 1

MEASUREMENT OF USAGE VARIETY FOR FOUR PRODUCTS FROM DIARY DATA

Most multi-functional products were used by more than one individual in a household. Only the target respondent's usage data was used for the analysis. We also determined the mode of acquisition of the product (purchase vs. gift) since this could potentially affect product usage.

in addition, measures were developed for several usage-related behaviors: the frequency with which the user referred to a product manual, the frequency with which (s)he communicated with friends/peers in order to learn how to use the product.

MEASURES OF INVOLVEMENT

In this study, we wished to measure enduring product usage, or usage over time. We also wished to capture both dimensions of usage: usage frequency and usage variety. In the context of product usage, involvement must, therefore, comprise enduring involvement and situational involvement (Zaichkowsky 1985a). Enduring involvement refers to fundamental ongoing interest with a product (Bloch 1981; Houston and Rothschild 1978). While enduring involvement is relatively stable over time, the situational involvement is contingent on the situations encountered. Situational involvement results from importance of the intended use of the product, brand availability, time constraints, presence of significant others, product cost, and product complexity (Houston and Rothschild 1978; Antil 1984; Bloch and Richins 1983). Of these, the first three factors typically affect only pre-purchase behavior, while the last three factors can affect post-purchase usage behavior as well. The semantic differential scale developed by Zaichkowsky (1985a) captures both enduring involvement and situational involvement. Hence, we have used the same scale to measure product involvement for our study. Another advantage of the semantic differential scale was the ease of administration across the five product categories.

TABLE 2

CORRELATIONS BETWEEN SELF-REPORT USAGE AND DIARY USAGE

MEASURES OF USE INNOVATIVENESS (UI)

UI was measured using a 44-item scale devised by Price and Ridgway (1983). The items were meant to capture the five dimensions of UI: creativity/ curiosity, risk preferences, voluntary simplicity, creative re-use, and multiple use potential.

MEASURES OF USAGE-RELATED BEHAVIOR

The following measures of usage related-behavior were obtained from the respondents: (1) how often they had referred to the product manual since purchase; (2) how often they had referred to the manual to find new uses for the product; and, (3) how often they had talked about operation of the product functions and different applications of the product with someone else. Of these, the first two measures relate to manual reference, while the third relates to usage-related communication.

RESULTS

The Involvement scale was found to be reliable and valid. Coefficient alpha was 0.92 and item-total correlations showed similar magnitudes across the five product categories as in Zaichkowsky (1985a).

Since Use Innovativeness is a personality characteristic, independent of a particular product category, the respondents of the five product categories were aggregated for checking the validity and reliability of the UI scale. As found in Price and Ridgway (1983), four factors were identified for UI and relatively high item-total correlations were also found in this study. Generally, coefficient alphas for each of the five subscales and correlations between the subscales and total UI scale exhibited a similar pattern, but were higher than those in Price and Ridgway's (1983) study.

No significant differences were found (on the scores for Involvement, UI and Usage) between the two groups - one which had responded to the self-report questionnaire before the diary study, and the other which had responded after the diary study.

Interestingly enough, no differences in usage patterns were found (within each product) between those who had acquired the product as a gift vs. those who had made the purchase. Also, no differEnces in usage patterns were detected based on length of ownership of the product (for instance, between those who had the product for three months vs. those who had it for five years). This seemed to suggest that usage patterns stabilized at fairly early stages of the ownership.

TABLE 3

RELATIONSHIPS OF INVOLVEMENT AND UI WITH PRODUCT USAGE AND USAGE-RELATED BEHAVIOR

The correlation between Usage Frequency and Usage Variety, obtained from the diary data, was low across all product categories (< 0.3). This seems to suggest that while usage frequency and usage variety can be expected to have some correlation, they represent two different aspects of usage.

Correlations of Usage Frequency scores on the self-report and the diary were consistently high and significant (See Table 2). The validity of the usage frequency measures thus seem to borne out by the convergence in the two methods.

The self-report scores on Usage Variety did not match very well with the diary scores. Most subjects reported that they had tried all or most of product features or functions across the five products, while the diaries suggested that they used only a few of the features available. For instance, we found that very few households used sophisticated features such as slow motion picture and pre-programmed recording features of a VCR, or the delayed cooking and temperature probe features of microwave oven. Hence, the low correlation between the usage variety scores on the self-report and the diary. This seems to indicate that, at least for this study, the diary was a more reliable and valid method of measuring usage variety.

On a product-wise basis, the correlations of involvement and UI with usage frequency, usage variety, and usage-related information strategies are shown in Table 3. Note that both the self-report scores and diary scores have been considered for usage.

Most propositions in Hypothesis I found support. The results show that Involvement and UI are positively related to Usage Frequency and Usage Variety, and in most cases the relationship is statistically significant. Involvement consistently had a higher impact than UI on usage frequency. However, both UI and Involvement seemed to have a significant impact on usage variety. Even though Involvement is product specific and UI is a general personality trait, UI seems to have a similar effect on usage variety in a relative sense. However, the interaction effect of UI and Involvement on usage frequency or usage variety was not statistically significant.

Hypothesis 2 also found partial support. Involvement had a statistically significant relationship with interpersonal communication resorted to by users of the product, and the magnitude of this relationship was higher than that of UI. However, in the case of referring to product manuals, no clear relationship emerged. Although UI was related with information search from manuals in the case of three products (p < 0.1), so was Involvement in the case of two products. A possible explanation is that the search for technical information could have been mediated by the user's current operational knowledge levels. Since we did not control for this variable, we cannot ascertain the veracity of this speculation.

LIMITATIONS

The study may have certain limitations. Because of the nature of the product usage, more female subjects were used for two products: microwave oven and food processor. In general, the subjects belonged to the high education, high income bracket: however, the demographic variables did not create any significant differences in UI, Involvement or Product usage; nor did the demographic variables mediate any of the hypothesized relationships. Primary users of the product were allowed to self-select themselves in each household and this could have created a problem. For the categories of camera and food processor, a larger percentage of subjects acquired their product as gift (although no differences in involvement or usage were found between those who purchased the product and those who acquired it as a gift). Finally, it was not possible to control for history effects on product usage during the six-week diary study.

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS

In this study, we have shown the need to study both dimensions of product usage, Usage Frequency and Usage Variety, especially in the context of products which offer the potential for multiple use. In the case of multi-functional products, it is important to differentiate the functional features (such as auto defrost, auto temp and pre-programmed cooking of a microwave oven) from product attributes or benefits (economy, efficiency). Usage Variety is based on the functions available in a product. The evidence also seems to indicate that product-specific involvement, rather than Use Innovativeness, is the dominant consumer characteristic in explaining product usage, especially usage frequency and usage-related behavior.

In the past, the impact of usage on variables such as amount of information search has been studied using just usage frequency. Usage variety is a rich construct that offers the potential to explain certain aspects of consumer behavior such as variety seeking and associated information search, or exploratory consumption (Holbrook and Hirschman 19825.

Product usage has, till now, been measured using subjective self-reports rather than objective usage records (Price and Ridgway 1983; Zaichkowsky, 1985a and 1985b; Bloch 1981). In this study, we have used a self-report procedure as well as a diary data collection method. The validity of the usage measures was established by comparing the data from the two methods. Based on our findings, we suggest the use of a diary method to study variations in actual usage patterns over time.

The study also showed that while the consumers reported a high usage variety on the self-reports, their actual usage variety was much less. For example, only 4 households reported that they had used the preprogrammed recording feature of a VCR. This rather heavily advertised feature is the basis on which some of the models are differentiated Yet, the low usage may suggest that ownership of such features (for later usage) may be more important for the consumer rather than actual usage. Future research needs to look at whether consumer satisfaction is driven by the ownership of a variety of features, or by actual usage of such features.

Oliver and Bearden (1983) found a significant relationship between involvement and post-purchase evaluation, but wonder why this relationship exists. We suggest that since there is evidence from past studies (Bloch 1981; Zaichkowsky 1985b) as well as cur study to suggest that involvement is related to product usage, a research issue worthy of investigation is whether product usage mediates the relationship between involvement and post-purchase evaluation.

While the disconfirmation paradigm has been the most effective in explaining consumer satisfaction, the unexplained variance is still large. One variable which may help out is product usage. If consumers invest a large sum in a product which has sophisticated auxiliary features, but find that they use only a few of these features, the low usage may lead to dissatisfaction. Also, if a consumer bought such a product expecting to use it frequently, but never did, the resulting usage disconfirmation may result in dissatisfaction. This type of phenomenon can be expected more often in the case of durable or "important" products (Bloch and Richins 1983), which offer usage variety.

This study examines the product usage of only the primary users in each household. However, in the case of multi-functional products such as the VCR, product usage extends across several family members including children. In fact, it is possible that the higher the usage of the product among the entire household, the higher the satisfaction of the head of the household who purchased the product. Joint usage of products is thus an area worthy of research especially since it has implications for consumer satisfaction.

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