Consumers to Tech Companies: Please, Stop the Flood of New Gadgets

  • Share
  • Read Later

In a new survey, nearly half of consumers (48%) “feel high-tech manufacturers bring new products to market faster than people need them.”

In “Navigating the Product Mindset,” a new study from Underwriters Laboratories, 89% of manufacturers say they are “at or ahead of the curve” when it comes to innovation. But could manufacturers actually be so ahead of the innovation curve that it’s off-putting to consumers?

That’s how it looks based on another part of the study, in which 48% of consumers say that new products are released too quickly. Two-thirds of those surveyed also “feel manufacturers do not conduct thorough testing before launching new products.”

In other words, consumers aren’t anti-innovation. Instead, they’re against unnecessary and poorly thought-out innovation—which, when you think about it, isn’t all that innovative. No wonder people aren’t welcoming to such “innovation.”

(MORE: Is Amazon Due for a Backlash Due To Its ‘Evil’ Price Check App?)

The New York Times Bits blog takes the position that perhaps the problem isn’t that innovation is too fast—but that genuine innovation occurs too slowly:

That is, the new offerings companies are pushing out the door every six months or so are me-too products or ones with a just couple of new features or design tweaks. Marketing schedules, not product innovation, are driving the corporate train.

In other words, the new gadgets and “upgrades” typically pushed on consumers today aren’t substantial enough innovations to warrant the name. Consumers want substance—game changers, not marginal adjustments.

Understandably, all those demanding consumers also want new electronics to work as advertised, without the bugs or glitches that so often must be dealt with by early adopters. Many owners of the new Amazon Kindle Fire are feeling these frustrations right about now.

In very related news, Accenture has just released a study revealing that today’s shoppers are often unimpressed with electronics in the marketplace. The return rate is between 11% and 20% (and rising) for consumer electronic devices. Nearly $17 billion worth of electronics will be returned in 2011, a rise of 21% since 2007.

Of these returns, in 95% of the cases, the products functioned properly—the returns were “ultimately unconnected to product defects,” according to the study. That sounds good; at least the devices weren’t broken.

(MORE: Techland’s Last-Minute Gift Guide)

But wait: What this means is that the buyers returning electronics basically just realized they didn’t want the product at all. More than one-quarter (27%) cited “buyer’s remorse” as a reason for the return, while others didn’t offer any particular reason.

Perhaps the device just didn’t seem innovative or worthwhile enough to keep. Or perhaps, by the time the shopper got the gadget home, there was already a newer model being sold.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.