Habit slips: when consumers unintentionally resist new products

Abstract

Consumers’ existing habits are a key driver of resistance to new product use. In an initial survey to identify this role of habit, consumers reported on products that they had purchased intending to use. They also reported whether or not they actually used them. For one-quarter of the products they failed to use, consumers slipped back into old habits despite their favorable intentions. However, consumers effectively used new products when integrating them into existing habits. A four-week experiment with a new fabric refresher confirmed that habit slips impeded product use, especially when participants thought minimally about their laundry and thus were vulnerable to habit cues. However, slips were minimized when the new product was integrated into existing laundry habits. Thus, in launching new products, managers will want to consider consumer habits that conflict with product use as well as ways to embed products into existing habits.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    The variance inflation factors (VIF) for the regression model were sufficiently low to rule out concerns about multicollinearity: habit-cued use (1.46), standard implementation intentions (1.51), and thought (1.05).

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Julia Cooperman and Kerry Zweig for their assistance with data collection, Timothy Hayes for his help with data analysis, and Joseph Priester and Stephen Read for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the article.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wendy Wood.

Additional information

This research was supported in part by Procter & Gamble’s Corporate Products Research Division along with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the funders’ views.

Rebecca Hamilton served as Area Editor for this article.

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Appendices

Appendix 1: Product use strategies (replication study)

Measures

Ownership of common items

Participants indicated whether or not they currently owned or had owned in the past seven common products (featured in Amazon’s Best Selling Products lists 2009, 2010: Swiffer Sweeper; Kindle, Nook or other E-Book reader; pedometer; Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, or other video game system; musical instrument; non-prescription sunglasses; and dental floss).

Strategies to use new products

For each product participants owned, they indicated whether or not they spontaneously tried to integrate the new product into an existing habit: “I made a plan to use it every time I was doing certain relevant routines or habits.” They also reported on other possible use strategies: “I put it where I would be sure to see it so I would remember to use it;” “I put reminders on my calendar to use it;” “I made a plan to use it in a certain context or at a particular time of day;” “I asked a friend, family member, or roommate to help remind me to use it;” “I really liked it and wanted to use it, so I just remembered;” or indicated an “Other” strategy.

Results

Greater use of the new product was associated with the habit integration strategy (“I made a plan to use it every time I was doing certain relevant routines or habits,” b = 0.59, SE = 0.20, t(363) = 2.96, p = .003), as well as positive product evaluations (“I really liked it and wanted to use it, so I just remembered,” b = 0.89, SE = 0.17, t(364) = 5.33, p = .003). No other strategies promoted product use.

Appendix 2: Table of intercorrelations (Study 2)

Table 4 Summary of intercorrelations (Study 2)

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Labrecque, J.S., Wood, W., Neal, D.T. et al. Habit slips: when consumers unintentionally resist new products. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 45, 119–133 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-016-0482-9

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Keywords

  • Habits
  • Resistance
  • Action slip
  • Implementation intentions