Evaluating the need for product adaptation

Consumer goods such as food products or clothing, however, some variables are not relevant. In the case of such products, factors like level of income, climatic differences, customs, creed and convenience assume paramount importance in deciding the product adaptation requirements. For example, the machine washable garment technology is increasingly becoming standardized in the European markets. Woolen garments which do not carry the machine washable label do not find buyers in Nordic countries. Indian industry has to be, therefore, equipped to meet the demand for high fashion machine washable knitwear.

Irrespective of the nature of the product, however, a firm will have to evaluate the need for the product adaptation on a continuing basis. Illustrated are following points by citing two examples:

Non durable Product: In the US cereal industry, the age group distribution of consumers is changing, because of the declining birth rate, the number of children below the age of 13 still the most voracious breakfast food eaters is falling. On the other hand number of people in the age group of 19 and above is steadily increasing. As a result nine new cereals, mostly high in fiber and relatively low in fat and calories and aimed primarily at adults, are now being launched. Promoting new adult cereals demands is an entirely different approach. TV advertising is in early evening shows or afternoon soap operas rather than on Saturday morning cartoons. Also, pages no longer carry picture of gremlins or pixies to grab kid’s attention. A box of adult cereal Total, for example, carries enough charts and statistics to satisfy a computer programmer. Since adult people are interested in low fat, low cholesterol diet, these products are in demand.

Durable Product: Nissan is always trying to fill special segment – small cars where its brand “Datsun” has remarkably little US competition. Now with the US manufacturers going to manufacture small cars, Nissan is trying to find new ways to remain distinctive. To compete with US manufactured new generation cars (fuel efficient and small size), Nissan is considering broadening its US line into mid size models, crammed with electronics. Their micro processors cut fuel consumption by 10 percent automatically prevent a car from skidding and even activate a gentle, stimulated woman’s voice to remind forgetful drivers: Please turn off your lights.

Americans believe in planned obsolescence. Products should seldom be designed today to last a life time, as export markets are increasingly going to demand something new, something redesigned and something improved, in place of traditional goods.

To try to aid its sales, Westinghouse modified its washing machine. The company discovered that European housewives, long accustomed to boiling clothes, prefer hotter water in washing machines than their American counterparts do. So Westinghouse installed special heating elements in its machines being exported to Europe.

Product adaptation may also be used as a strategy to enter a market which is dominated by the existing manufacturers. A slightly modified product will have a better chance of success in getting a toehold ion the market than a product which is similar to the existing product in all essential aspects. The modifications in the product will serve as the selling points. If the process of adaptation results in cost reduction, that will be an additional advantage.

The success of some Japanese manufacturers in the lower end of the copier markets provides an excellent example. During 1974-77, Japanese companies like Ricoh and Canon had captured about a quarter of the world market for slow copiers mainly at the expense of Xerox. One of the principal factors behind their impressive success was that “the Japanese machines use liquid ink or ‘toner’, instead of the powder Xerox favors, which means they can dispense with the complex mechanisms used to apply and fuse dry toner to paper. Such simplicity makes for lower manufacturing cost of about $60 per machine.

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