A company can make a product that’s ‘ahead of its time’, right ‘on trend’, or an improved version of something ‘tried and true’. Wherever your product lands in this range affects where you’re starting off on the adoption curve of your consumers.
The adoption curve is a popular concept that explains the waves of purchasing we see in the marketplace. Ideally, most businesses wish to enter the market while the first half of the population is purchasing—the innovators, early adopters and early majority.
There are some difficulties faced by the average entrepreneur, though.
1. Most people aren’t trendsetters. It’s actually really hard to come up with something new before anyone else does—especially if you’re not a giant corporation with a market research department.
2. The early majority and the late majority can be really similar in appearance. So we see a lot of entrepreneurs entering a marketplace that’s already saturated with this trending product, and tired of spending money on it. A good example would be bracelet-style fitness trackers.
3. Not all products last. Some people have trouble differentiating between a product that has longevity, and a ‘fad’ product. Fad products move more quickly through the adoption curve and end up petering out at a potentially deadly rate—that is, unless you were aware your business was part of a fad. If so, hopefully you planned for that and jumped on board early, and exited before the curve started to fall.
Managing effort versus profit
If your product is so new that no one has yet heard of it or used it, you’ll find it takes longer to hit your breakeven point, because it will simply take longer to get the majority on board. The payoff will be that you should benefit from the greatest spike of sales.
If your product is behind the curve but is a feasible and intriguing addition to the market, you may have an easier time wrangling sales, because customers are already out there buying them. However, the chances of your product dominating the marketplace are lesser and your competition will be steeper. A good example is yoga pants: when we think of yoga pants, we think of Lululemon—the brand that drove them from a niche item to an everyday essential. How many other yoga brands can you name? Because Lulu was ahead of the curve, they will forever remain synonymous with trendy yoga gear.
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