Consumers in demand: the relationship between innovativeness and use of information sources

Frank J. van Rijnsoever

Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 4 Research NOT TU/e / Graduation NOT TU/e)


As bounded rational agents, consumers face many uncertainties during the process of innovation adoption. The consumers that face most uncertainties are the ones that first adopt new products. These so-called ‘innovators’ are important for the innovation diffusion process. They take the risks for others by adopting early, they partly test the products’ functionality, they contribute to further improvement of the product, they familiarize others with the product and they can contribute to the build-up of sufficient critical mass for the diffusion process to become self sustaining. To reduce the uncertainties that are attached to innovation adoption, consumers engage in a search for information prior to adoption. When searching, consumers can consult multiple information sources. Since innovative individuals are the ones that first take the risk of innovating, it is crucial to understand how their information search patterns using various channels differ from other individuals. Based on a literature review and empirical findings four external sources of information are identified: interpersonal sources, mass media, the World Wide Web (WWW) and retailers. Until now the link between innovativeness and the use of information sources was only poorly understood. To improve this understanding, this thesis consists of five empirical studies that investigate the relationship between consumer innovativeness and the use of information sources in two product domains: consumer electronics and automobiles. In the first two studies, based on qualitative and quantitative survey data, it is found that consumer electronics is a low risk multiple product domain f in which several clusters of products can be identified that are owned in combination together. Automobiles are considered to be a high risk single product domain. In the third study it is found that in a low risk domain such consumer electronics, innovative consumers get their information from outside a social system through specialized channels such as mass media and the WWW. In the fourth study it found that in a high risk domain such as cars consumers balance their search effort among the different information sources. A final study reveals that within the domain of automobiles three types of preferences for cars be identified: preferences for environmental friendly cars, for high performing cars and for convenient cars. These preferences were found to be related to consumer innovativeness and use of information sources: consumers with strong preferences for a high performance car are more innovative and make more use of mass media and WWW when searching for information. These media can be used to target the specific segment of consumers with a preference for high performance (and often more polluting) cars, using communication campaigns, in order to influence their preferences. The result further demonstrates that the preferences of innovators are not always representative for the entire population. For more successful innovation development it is recommended that, explicit attention is paid to the preferences of non-innovative consumers in the innovation process.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Dijst, M.J., Promotor, External person
  • Castaldi, C., Copromotor
Award date26 Feb 2010
Place of PublicationUtrecht
Print ISBNs978-90-8891-150-7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

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