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Feb 2014

CES 2014: B2B's Role in Crossing the Chasm

CES 2014: B2B's Role in Crossing the Chasm

The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has come and gone. Vendors demonstrated how wearables, 4K OLED TVs, and 3-D printing, among many other categories, would change our lives. And no doubt one day some of them will. But not so fast. Lots of cool stuff, but for some categories, mass consumer adoption lies further down the road. Although these "consumer" products are being launched at the CES, in order to cross the chasm many of these are in reality going to be selling to business for some time to come. The Technology Adoption Life Cycle (TALC) can serve as a compass for how to navigate the waters of both consumer and business adoption. For disruptive innovations, consumer adoption may eventually happen, but only after the category crosses the chasm in business.

Here's how it plays out:

  • Technology enthusiasts (B2C / B2B) will adopt just because the product is cool (think consumers with extra cash) or they want to learn more about it (think R&D in business).
  • Visionaries in business (B2B) will adopt in order to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Pragmatists in business (B2B) will adopt in order to solve a broken business process. Once the price gets to the right point, and the whole product is complete for a consumer segment, then and only then will pragmatist consumers (B2C) begin to adopt.
  • Conservatives in both B2C and B2B markets will eventually fall in line as the existing paradign just doesn't work well anymore, the price is reasonable, and the solution is simple.

It happened in the last decade with HDTVs. These were first adopted by technology enthusiasts(B2C) who wanted a cool TV in their living room or businesses (B2B) who wanted to learn about their potential use. Next, visionaries (B2B) gained competitive advantage by being the first in their industry to use them. Think the first trade show booths at a business conference, the first use in the lobby of a company, the first sports bar in a market to offer HDTV, the first conference room demos / presentations, the first health club chain, the first real-time fast-food get the message. To cross the chasm, HDTV vendors selected one or more of these examples to target and met a compelling business need. So pragmatists (B2B) in these and more segments began to adopt HDTV. This paved the way for the move to the consumer market (B2C) as prices became reasonable and the whole product for consumers (think HD programming) was complete.

And so it will go with other "consumer" enthusiasts (B2C with some extra cash or B2B for research) may initially purchase, then some visionaries (B2B) in a myriad of different use cases will find a way to get competitive advantage, then pragmatists (B2B) will adopt to solve a broken business process. As prices decrease and the whole product for consumers gets completed, then and only then will the consumer market (B2C) get traction. Why? Consumers don't typically have a business need that can be met by an ROI on a reletively expensive product. So for now, once you're beyond selling to technology enthusiasts andvisionaries, consider crossing the chasm in B2B. Find segments that have broken, mission-critical business process that can be addressed by your solution. Once the category gets traction, and volumes increase to the point that the price is low enough and the product simple enough for consumers, then they will adopt. But not until then.

Here are a few to watch from the 2014 CES:

Agree? Tell me more. Disagree? Tell me why.

Coming next: How and why some products introduced at the 2014 CES will NOT have to cross the chasm.



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Chasm Institute LLC helps high-tech teams learn, apply, and implement best practices in market development strategy. These best practices are based on Geoffrey Moore's best-selling books Crossing the Chasm, Inside the Tornado, Living on the Fault Line, Dealing with Darwin, and Escape Velocity plus hundreds of client engagements with high-tech companies. 

Chasm Institute helps companies align their product development, marketing, and sales functions to achieve and maintain market leadership in their categories.


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