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Seeking Simplicity in Complexity: The Relative Value of Ease of Use (EOU)-Based Product Differentiation

Authors

  • Paul F. Burke


Address correspondence to: Paul F. Burke, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney, PO BOX 123, Broadway, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia. E-mail: paul.burke@uts.edu.au. Tel: +61 2 9514 3522.

Abstract

Models of category acceptance and diffusion, including Davis's technological acceptance model (TAM), have established that ease of use (EOU) is a significant determinant of technological product adoption. This supports user-centered design philosophies, where aspects of cognitive attractiveness (e.g., logical to use) and emotional attractiveness (e.g., lack of frustration in use) are essential, and contrasts traditional design practices where physical attractiveness dominates concern. These studies consider the impact of EOU on category (primary) demand. It is unclear whether firms should incorporate EOU into design and positioning strategies to differentiate their products from others in the same category that perform better on functional features. A random utility theory-based choice model is used to measure the relative value of EOU. In a new product category (DVD recorders; n = 496) and one that is more established (cell phones; n = 202), consumers were found to forgo functional features in preference for products better rated on EOU. With implications for segmentation, those seeking simplicity were older, female, educated, and with less product knowledge, while those already owning a complex phone made replacement decisions with less concern for EOU. The findings support EOU-based differentiation strategies as a legitimate alternative to other forms of differentiation.

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