Consumer Use Innovative Behavior: an Approach Toward Its Causes

Kyungae Park, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Carl L. Dyer, The University of Tennessee
ABSTRACT - This study attempts to understand innovative product usage behavior by investigating the causes of this behavior. Use and purchase in innovative behavior are compared to each other in terms of the causes of these behaviors. The conceptual model of use innovative behavior is tested for the clothing product. The model supports a causal link of innovativeness trait, interest toward the specific product category, communicated experience and innovative behavior (use and purchase). While use and purchase are related to each other, product attribute evaluation and spending on products appear to be the major antecedents of whether to use old products or to buy a new product.
[ to cite ]:
Kyungae Park and Carl L. Dyer (1995) ,"Consumer Use Innovative Behavior: an Approach Toward Its Causes", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 566-572.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 566-572

CONSUMER USE INNOVATIVE BEHAVIOR: AN APPROACH TOWARD ITS CAUSES

Kyungae Park, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Carl L. Dyer, The University of Tennessee

ABSTRACT -

This study attempts to understand innovative product usage behavior by investigating the causes of this behavior. Use and purchase in innovative behavior are compared to each other in terms of the causes of these behaviors. The conceptual model of use innovative behavior is tested for the clothing product. The model supports a causal link of innovativeness trait, interest toward the specific product category, communicated experience and innovative behavior (use and purchase). While use and purchase are related to each other, product attribute evaluation and spending on products appear to be the major antecedents of whether to use old products or to buy a new product.

Criticism of innovativeness research focused on initial purchase behaviors of new products has inevitably led to product usage behavior in the post-adoption process as a research area of concern to consumer researchers. Product usage behavior broadly affects consumer behavior such as consumer satisfaction, repurchase, brand or store loyalty and word-of-mouth. Hence, understanding a commitment to the product helps marketers pursue a long-term relationship with their customers and helps researchers understand the complete diffusion process. Especially for visible products such as clothing fashion, the effects of usage behavior on other consumers and the diffusion are conspicuous. Consumers are continuously exposed to new products and wearing clothes (usage behavior) mostly requires combinations of multiple items. In clothing products, taste and discrimination of relative beauty (benefits) depend on perceptions rather than do objective criteria (Petrosky 1991). Creative consumers frequently adopt new fashion by new coordination of existing clothes as well as by purchase of a new product. Such unique and creative use by consumers can be a source of new clothing fashion for apparel manufacturers who regularly observe street fashions for new inspiration. That is, fashion innovations can start from consumers as well as from industry (Sproles 1979, p.100).

Use innovativeness, since the introduction of the concept by Hirschman (1980), has acquired attention by recent consumer innovativeness and product usage researchers. Use innovativeness is innovative product usage behavior of a previously adopted product in a novel way and in a variety of ways (Price and Ridgway, 1983). That is, use innovativeness is innovative behavior relative to the product usage process while purchase innovativeness relates to the product purchase process. These two innovative behaviors need to be separated as "a consumer may purchase a product or instead not to purchase-stretching a currently owned product to additional uses....this decision to buy or not to buy represents nearly dichotomous manifestations of high stimulation needs" (Price and Ridgway 1982, p.57). However, "the highly creative consumers will be more adept at both types" of innovative behaviors (Hirschman 1980, p.289). Creative consumers, who have problem-solving capabilities in consumption situations, are competent to new product evaluation (Hirschman 1980). They may adopt the idea of the innovation but do not necessarily purchase a new product. Instead they may decide to utilize existing products in a new way. Such creative and innovative use by consumers can be a source of an innovation that generates a secondary diffusion. Furthermore, it can be an alternative behavior to purchase that generates a secondary adoption.

Faced with a new product, when do consumers decide to purchase and when to use? What affects such decision-making? That is, what are the causes of use innovative behavior and how are its causes different from those of purchase innovative behavior?

RESEARCH PURPOSES

The objective of the study is to understand consumer use innovative behavior by identifying the causes of use innovative behavior and examining its causes along with those of purchase innovative behavior. There has been no approach to investigate use innovative behavior parallel to purchase innovative behavior in that use can be an alternative to purchase (another way of adoption) in the consumer purchase decision-making process. Examination of the predictors for innovativeness (adoption/purchase) has a well-established research background. The approach of this study in investigating the causes of use innovativeness is to follow this rich innovativeness framework from which the relevant variables for this study are borrowed. Such an approach appears to be reasonable in understanding both innovative behaviors as well as use innovative behavior.

RESEARCH BACKGROUND

Innovative Behavior: Its Causes

One of the major contributions in innovativeness research provided by recent researchers (Carlson and Grossbart 1985; Foxall 1989; Kirton 1989; Mudd 1990; Goldsmith and Hofaker 1991; Goldsmith and Flynn 1992; Midgley and Dowling 1993) is the conceptualization that regards innovativeness as an individual's latent trait for new and different experiences and distinguishes this trait from an actual adoption behavior. This conceptualization began with Midgley and Dowling (1978). They argue that psychological and sociological traits interact with the innovativeness trait and that between an individual's innovativeness (predisposition to acquire new products across product categories) and an observed adoption behavior exist intervening variables which include interest toward the specific product category, communicated experience and various situational effects (Midgley and Dowling 1978). They argue that situational effects imply a variety of situation-specific and person-specific factors like financial resources or a latent need for the innovation's perceived benefits. Therefore, for a new product, the observed behavior of adoption is a complex function of the innovativeness trait, product category interest, a network of information influence, an individual's situations and personal characteristics.

A number of researchers have sought variables to better understand and predict consumer innovative behavior. Innovative behavior has been related to higher income or higher spending on products (Mason and Bellenger 1973-4; Baumgarten 1975; Forsythe et al. 1991; Goldsmith and Flynn 1992); higher product interest (Schrank and Gilmore 1973; Mason and Bellenger 1973-4; Reynolds and Darden 1973, 1974; Goldsmith et al. 1987); higher communicated experience (Mason and Bellenger 1973-4; Reynolds and Darden 1973, 1974; Painter and Granzin 1976; Goldsmith and Flynn 1992); and higher perceptions of innovation attributes (Labay and Kinnear 1981; Holak 1988; Holak and Lehmann 1990). Therefore, in terms of the interacted effects of the innovativeness trait and the intervening variables on an adoption behavior, the relationships between each of these intervening variables and innovative behavior have been verified by previous research.

Use Innovative Behavior: The Concept and Research

Hirschman (1980) made a subtle distinction between components of innovative behavior: the actual adoption of a new product (purchase innovativeness); the acquisition of new product information (vicarious innovativeness); and the adaptive use of old products (use innovativeness). Through vicarious innovativeness, consumers can adopt the product concept without adopting the product itself so that they avoid the risk and expense relative to the adoption. Further, Hirschman (1980) explained use innovativeness with problem-solving capabilities of creative consumers who could construct alternatives when confronted by a new product. That is, innovative consumers are competent in product evaluation. Based on their decisions regarding whether actual purchase is desirable, consumers may take one of two actions: to purchase a new product that is perceived to be better for solving the new consumption problem or to utilize a previously adopted product in an innovative way (Hirschman 1980). Whether they decide to purchase or to use, consumers have presumably considered and adopted the concept of the innovation.

Price and Ridgway (1983) specified use innovativeness as two levels of product consumption behavior: novel uses and a variety of uses. Empirical research has examined use innovativeness as a product consumption behavior in post-adoption process and attempted to relate it with product usage variables such as use patterns, use frequency and use variety toward multi-functional consumer durables (Price and Ridgway 1983, 1984; Anderson and Ortinau 1988; Ram and Jung 1989; Foxall and Bhate 1991).

Innovative Behavior: Purchase Versus Use

Purchase innovativeness refers to buying a new product while use innovativeness refers to using a product (an old or a new product) in a new way. Price and Ridgway (1982) found that use innovativeness was not correlated with exploratory purchase behavior. They concluded that use innovativeness is expected to be separated from purchase behavior since a decision to buy or not to buy leads to two different behaviors. On the other hand, Hirschman (1980) implied a positive relationship for use and purchase when she mentioned that the innovative behaviors do originate from the same trait of novelty seeking, and creative consumers may exhibit both innovative behaviors on occasion. The question is: when do consumers decide to use old products rather than to buy a new product, and what affects such a decision-making? Clearly, creative consumers who engage in active product evaluations may decide it is not necessary to purchase a new product as they can adapt old products to adopt the concept of the innovation. Consumers involved in this way can logically be expected to be committed to products in the after-purchase process and to continuously try new ways to utilize products. Conversely, consumers who have higher financial resources (income or spending) will purchase new products on more occasions than they will adapt an old product regardless of the evaluation of the new product attributes. These tend to be heavy buyers (Gatignon and Robertson 1985). Therefore, while the innovativeness trait can be actualized into both types of innovative behaviors, financial resources and product attribute evaluation can explain either of the innovative behaviors: use or purchase.

CONCEPTUAL MODEL

Based on the review above, this study proposes a conceptual model of use innovative behavior (Figure 1). Innovativeness trait is an individual's predisposition to innovate (by acquiring new products) across product classes. The general innovativeness trait itself is not expected to have a strong relationship to the specific innovative behavior. Through interactions with some intervening variables, this trait is translated to an actual innovative behavior in a specific product category. Interest in the specific product categories (i.e., clothing, automobile, computers, etc.) leads to information seeking toward new products (communicated experience). When innovative consumers acquire information of a new product, they evaluate new product attributes to decide whether to buy or not. Innovative consumers who have higher financial resources and who tend to be heavy buyers do not necessarily engage in an extensive evaluation process while innovative consumers who have higher commitment to the products do not necessarily spend to buy a new product. Therefore, spending on products along with product attribute evaluation is assumed to differentiate use innovative behavior from purchase innovative behavior.

This model has some limitations: 1) While the innovativeness trait is not expected to have a strong direct relationship to innovative behaviors, the simplified model does not consider other person-specific variables such as psychological or sociological traits; 2) The relationship between purchase innovative behavior and use innovative behavior is not considered in the model; 3) The causal relationships of the intervening variables are constrained based on consumer decision-making process. A different direction of a causal relationship or an interaction between the variables might be suggested. However, the major goal of this study is to understand use innovativeness based on the limited research background. If this exploratory study finds support for this simplified test, more elaborate models considering the simultaneous relationship between purchase and use behavior may be developed in the future.

METHODOLOGY

Research Design

Clothing products were used to test the conceptual model. Survey by self-administrated questionnaire was used to gather data. The questionnaire was revised through the following steps: 1) Six graduate students participated in the focus group interview to evaluate the scales; 2) The revised questionnaire was pretested with 66 undergraduate students who were enrolled in a marketing class and six of them participated in the focus group interview. The pretest was statistically analyzed for reliability and validity; 3) The final questionnaire was revised based on the pretest and the focus group interview.

College students of a southeastern university were the subjects. Based on student demographics, seven classes were judged to represent the student population best. Data was collected during regular class meetings. The total number of responses collected was 586. Except unusable ones, 539 responses were used for the data analysis.

Variable Measurement

Hirschman (1984)'s Novelty Seeking scale was adapted to measure the innovativeness trait. The scale asked how willing the individual was to seek information that was new and different pertinent to 13 consumption areas with a 7-point scale. Schrank (1973)'s Clothing Interest Inventory was adapted to measure the product interest. It consisted of 5 items indicating agreement on a five-point scale on the extent to which the respondent was interested in clothing. The communicated experience scale developed, based on past research, consisted of three items representing information sources including print media readership, store display observation and personal discussion on a five-point scale by exposure hours to these sources. To measure the product attribute evaluation, the 16 item attribute inventory of the clothing product (price; quality; fashion; pretty/good looking; ease of care; comfort; sale item; versatility; looking attractive; matching other styles; fitting with physical appearance; fitting with image; appropriate for occasion; socially acceptable style; acceptable to others; and not getting bored) was developed based on past research. The respondent was asked to indicate how important each attribute was in purchasing and using a product on a 5-point scale. The one-item spending on products asked the extent of spending on wardrobe the last year. The purchase innovative behavior scale was developed based on the cross-sectional method. It asked the respondents: 1) to list the clothing items they had purchased in the last two months (Clothing type categories were provided to help the respondents remember their past purchases.); and 2) to evaluate the degree of novelty, on a five-point scale, for each item they listed. The number of actual purchases and the degree of novelty were multiplied. According to Rogers (1983, p.19), an innovation depends on the consumer's perception. That is, "the innovation need not to be new in an absolute sense. What is important is individual's perception of an object as new..." (Sproles 1979, p.99). Although similar measurements have been used, this method makes the respondent define an innovation as a style perceived as new. The use innovative behavior scale was developed based on the guideline by Hirschman (1980) and on the specific usage behavior and use pattern questions by Price and Ridgway (1983). The scale asked the respondents the extent to which they had used clothing in new ways and in a variety of ways in the last two seasons. It consisted of seven items on a seven-point scale. Again, the respondent defined what was a new way and what was a different way.

FIGURE 1

CONCEPTUAL MODEL FOR USE INNOVATIVE BEHAVIOR

ANALYSIS AND RESULTS

For reliability tests, Cronbach's alpha and item-to-total correlation were used. Alpha scores of all the multi-item scales were in the range of .80 and .93. Innovativeness trait had small positive correlations with innovative behaviors (r=.17, p<.01 for use, r=.14, p<.01 for purchase) as hypothesized. That is, a general trait to innovate by itself is not enough to predict an innovative behavior of a specific product class. Purchase and use behaviors were correlated (r=.32, p<.01). It indicates that a consumer who has a higher trait to innovate can exhibit both innovative behaviors depending on the occasion. To investigate the effects of the intervening variables on innovative behaviors, path coefficients were estimated for the following equations:

Product Interest = f(Innovativeness Trait)

Communicated Experience = f(Innovativeness Trait, Product Interest)

Product Attribute Evaluation = f(Innovativeness Trait, Product Interest, Communicated Experience)

Spending on Products = f(Innovativeness Trait, Product Interest, Communicated Experience)

Use Innovative Behavior = f(Innovativeness Trait, Product Interest, Communicated Experience, Product Attribute Evaluation, Spending on Products)

Purchase Innovative Behavior = f(Innovativeness Trait, Product Interest, Communicated Experience, Product Attribute Evaluation, Spending on Products)

A potential limitation is probable multicollinearity of the variables. Significant correlations between the variables may render path coefficients unstable. See Table 1. Table 2 shows the results obtained. The causal relationship of innovativeness trait ¦ product interest ¦ communicated experience was supported as hypothesized. Product attribute evaluation was a consequence of product interest, not of communicated experience. Consumers who were interested in the product category evaluated the attributes of a new product to decide to buy or to utilize. Such a commitment was observed regardless of information seeking. Spending on products was affected by product interest and communicated experience. All these preceding variables except spending on products were the antecedents of use innovative behavior. On the other hand, purchase innovative behavior was a consequence of communicated experience and spending on products. These consumers tend to make a quick decision in buying a new product when they are aware of a new product. Figure 2 shows the empirical model supported by the analysis.

DISCUSSION

The results indicate that the general predisposition toward innovation across product categories does not necessarily predict an innovative behavior of a specific product category. Through intervening variables, this trait is actualized to an observed innovative behavior within the specific product category. However, a small direct impact of innovativeness trait on use innovative behavior indicates that use innovativeness may be an exhibition of a genuine innovativeness. Innovative usage behavior requires an individual's involvement to products, higher creativity and problem-solving capability. Therefore, use innovative consumers have a higher intention to try something new and different with various product categories, which provides different experiences from which probably lead to innovative usage in a specific product.

However, these two innovative behaviors are not mutually exclusive. A positive relationship between purchase and use innovative behaviors implies that these two innovative behaviors do originate from the same personality trait of a higher order but differ due to the results of different effects of intervening factors. That is, innovative consumers may decide upon either action depending on the occasions they face.

The results show a causal link of innovativeness trait, product interest, communicated experience and innovative behaviors. The direct impact of product attribute evaluation on use innovativeness indicates that use innovative consumers, who are willing to innovate and are interested in a specific product category, tend to be more active in solving consumption problems. Using old products or adapting products instead of buying new ones requires higher involvement, not necessarily higher spending. Low importance of product attributes combined with impact of spending on products on purchase innovativeness indicate that purchase innovative consumers do not necessarily engage in product evaluation. They probably are impulsive heavy buyers.

Generally, the predictabilities of the model for both innovative behaviors are low. This can be explained: 1) Though an innovative behavior is a function of person-specific, situation-specific and product-specific variables, individual characteristics such as psychological and sociological traits are not included in the model; 2) Use-specific variables such as product involvement or usage patterns are not included to explain use innovativeness as a post-adoption behavior.

A major limitation of the study is the limited sampling. College students from a southeastern university cannot represent general consumer groups. Consequently, the results may not be generalized beyond the clothing product category for a subset of the student population. Nevertheless, this study partially supports the conceptual model and provides a valuable first step toward understanding use innovativeness in conjunction with purchase innovativeness. Specifically, this study contributes to the following: 1) While a general innovativeness trait appears to cause use innovative behavior, purchase innovative behavior appears to be more product-specific; 2) Use and purchase innovative behavior are related each other; 3) The consumer decision-making process toward innovative behavior, innovativeness trait ¦ product interest ¦ communicated experience ¦ innovative behavior is supported; 4) The impacts of spending on products along with product attribute evaluation on the distinction between innovative behaviors are supported.

Based on the results and discussions, the following implications are suggested for future studies: 1) Testing the model using several product categories will provide a closer examination of the model; 2) The stability of the model would be observed by comparing the model across several sampling groups; 3) The relationships of the variables incorporated into the model need to be more fully specified; 4) Use specific variables including knowledge, use experience and use patterns need to be included; and 5) Different analyses, such as discriminant analysis, considering the positive relationship of purchase and use behaviors would be more appropriate in investigating the relationships of the innovativeness trait, intervening variables and the two innovative behaviors.

TABLE 1

CORRELATION MATRIX

TABLE 2

PATH COEFFICIENTS

FIGURE 2

EMPIRICAL MODEL FOR USE INNOVATIVE BEHAVIOR

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