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Strategic Direction

To defeat feature fatigue the right way, understand it first
Mohammad Rahman M. Manzur Rahman

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Mohammad Rahman M. Manzur Rahman, (2009),"To defeat feature fatigue the right way, understand it first", Strategic Direction, Vol. 25
Iss 6 pp. 26 - 28
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their managerial guideline to reduce features can be grossly mistaken in many. customers wanted many features. n almost universally applicable phenomenon is that of diminishing marginal utility: there can always be too much. to explain the fundamental oddity in the phenomenon. The Rust team acknowledged this lower initial sales side effect. School of Business. many situations. 26-28.000 consumers in the USA and UK. Our recent research effort. they argued. the theme is obvious: ‘‘a host of missing features . A term first coined by Professor Roland Rust at the University of Maryland. however. Further. would result in higher customer satisfaction and hence repeat purchases. The number of features and options that are packed onto products should be no exception. Ergo. This. 6 2009. if much of the market is disappointed by the bland nature of products. In the recent lukewarm reviews of the i-Phone. however. Or worse. if disappointed customers balk in favor of purchasing competitors’ products that come jam-packed with neat features Admittedly the Rust team did a splendid job of identifying feature fatigue. About 85 percent of users reported they were frustrated by the difficulty of getting a new phone up and working.’’ The problem is reducing features can disappoint customers. . North South University.’’ A A recent BBC article reports results from a survey of 4. even of a good thing.Viewpoint Downloaded by BIBLIOTECA CENTRALA UNIVERSITARA MIHAI EMINESCU IASI At 06:43 29 October 2014 (PT) To defeat feature fatigue the right way. much more than the number included by Apple. Consequently. Their main managerial recommendation was to offer simpler products to narrower market segments. understand it first Mohammad Rahman and M. Dhaka. The real-world problem: bland products perform poorly on the market We can see the Rust team’s recommendation at work in Apple’s design of the i-Phone. 25 NO. Bangladesh. left us wanting more. consumers can suffer from ‘‘feature fatigue. even though they could anticipate the resulting feature fatigue. Bangladesh.1108/02580540910952190 . Manzur Rahman is Head of Strategy and Planning (Marketing Division). Grameen Phone Ltd. Rust and his team of researchers discovered that people purchased products packed with features. has revealed that the Rust team’s study covers only one side of the story. Why do consumers prefer PAGE 26 j STRATEGIC DIRECTION j VOL. In a carefully designed experimental study of consumer behavior. ‘‘feature fatigue’’ represents the phenomenon of overwhelming consumers by including too many features in products. M. Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Manzur Rahman Mohammad Rahman is Assistant Professor. Banani. and investors. pp. They failed. but argued that overall firm profits would be higher from repeat purchases by satisfied customers. It is hard to argue that a firm will earn higher profits from repeat purchases by few satisfied customers. As expected. 95 percent said they would try more new services if phones were easier to set up. . ISSN 0258-0543 DOI 10. thereby increasing product variety.

When their model is modified appropriately to account for the low-initial-sales effect. First. and not the features Since features cannot be reduced without losing consumer favor. After purchase. The flaw in universally applying this recommendation stems from two assumptions in the analytical model they used to derive the optimal number of features. Yet. when faced with a purchase decision again in the future. Consequently. and experience fatigue from the rest. This preference for features will be pronounced when consumers purchase products having shorter life cycles. The key to doing that lies in the brilliance of the product design.feature-filled products in the first place despite their awareness of feature bloat? And it is only after a solid understanding of the phenomenon that appropriate guidelines can emerge. when an individual buys a cellular phone today. This uncertainty will encourage him/her to choose the cell phone that comes packed with all. As an example. On the other hand. or most of these features. 6 2009 STRATEGIC DIRECTION PAGE 27 . He/she promises to purchase something simpler. In the presence of competition. even if it subsequently leads to feature fatigue. their model assumed that the number of features only affects a consumer’s satisfaction level. And once again. A Swiss-army knife is a symbolic example. is in retrospect. he/she becomes aware of which features he/she found most useful and resents the extra features he/she needlessly paid for. edge data connectivity. This understanding of consumers’ preferences for features despite fatigue has two important managerial consequences. explanation is that if consumers are uncertain about the future utility of features. if the initial customer disappointment is high. firms should defeat feature fatigue by reducing the ‘‘fatigue’’ in consumers’ experiences. however. j j VOL. These two consequences can lead managers to right way to defeat feature fatigue. but at the time of his/her next purchase. but not the purchase decision. he/she will indulge in the product that has the highest number of features. Subsequent to use. a very different result is obtained. he/she may not be aware whether he/she will ever need a camera. but revealing. or the alarm function in the future. A closer look: understanding feature fatigue Downloaded by BIBLIOTECA CENTRALA UNIVERSITARA MIHAI EMINESCU IASI At 06:43 29 October 2014 (PT) A first step after acknowledging feature fatigue should be to explain the pattern of behavior revealed by the Rust team’s seminal experimental study. consumers will definitely be disappointed with fewer features. Bluetooth. The Rust team. such as computers and cellular phones. First. as models with more features (tools) sell for higher prices. on the other hand. they will gradually learn which features are more useful. they will generally prefer more features before purchase to minimize future regret. and fewer after use? A simple. a firm will face a serious threat of usurping by competitors if it opts to offer fewer features. there are new phones with new features he/she is unsure of. Its strategy is to brilliantly accommodate the features in tucking and folding supplementary tools without compromising the quality of the primary toolset. Second. paving the way for competitor firms to increase market share. if firms reduce the number of features. their result ignores the low-initial-sales effect of reducing features. customers can very likely be disappointed. consumers will need to be forward-looking and may again prefer feature-filled products. A second omission in the Rust team’s analysis of feature fatigue was the role of competition as they used a monopoly model to derive optimal conditions. It has effectively defeated feature fatigue. This fatigue. That is. then firms should saturate products with features. 25 NO. The right way to defeat feature fatigue: reduce the fatigue. their model is of a monopoly. Why do consumers prefer more features before purchase. recommended a reduction of features to minimize fatigue. Second. competitors can capture this market of disappointed consumers.

November. ‘‘Feature fatigue: when product capabilities become too much of a good thing’’. Otherwise their products can disappoint consumers and perform poorly on the market.cnet. A one-size-fits all product may be a desirable market alternative. opening an opportunity for competitors.W. increasing product variety will actually tend to increase the ‘‘fatigue’’ experienced by consumers. 25 NO. Journal of Marketing Research. but by improving product designs that reduce the fatigue.V. D.com/reprints j j PAGE 28 STRATEGIC DIRECTION VOL.bbc.The wrong way to defeat feature fatigue: increasing product variety Increasing product variety after reducing the numbers of features in products is unhealthy for two reasons. as we have already seen.V. (2006). Summary Rust and his team of marketing researchers were quite right in identifying the problem: too many features can lead to fatigue.T. 6 2009 . First. The consumers will have to face learning curves in assessing the features to make a good product selection. A busy individual. may need to purchase a brand new handheld device and an associated data-line subscription. and Hamilton..com/smartphones/appleiphone-8gb-at/4505-6452_7-32309245. Corresponding author Mohammad Rahman can be contacted at: mohammad. R. 431-42.W.rahman@gmail. February. R. R.emeraldinsight. R. Thompson.stm CNET (2007). Thompson. While a good product design will reduce these learning curves. firms should attempt to defeat feature fatigue not by reducing features. available at: http://reviews.m. available at: http://news. January 19. Harvard Business Review. Downloaded by BIBLIOTECA CENTRALA UNIVERSITARA MIHAI EMINESCU IASI At 06:43 29 October 2014 (PT) Second. pp. ‘‘Defeating feature fatigue’’. The source of fatigue is always ignorance (how to use the feature) in the presence of uncertainty (when the feature might be needed). R.com To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight. reducing the number of features is unsafe in the presence of competition. Keywords: Product design. ‘‘New phone features ’’baffle users’’. for example. ‘‘Apple iPhone 8GB AT&T’’.co. increasing the product variety will impose search costs.uk/ 2/hi/technology/7833944. Hamilton.com Or visit our web site for further details: www. (2005). she may experience considerable fatigue in selecting which of the many options will best suit her needs. and Rust. 42.. Consumers will complain about features because utilizing or even familiarizing with them will involve learning curves. But with increasingly demanding consumers and ever-shortening product life-cycles.html Rust. When faced with a variety of products. Vol. Consumer behaviour Further reading BBC News (2009).

[CrossRef] 2. International Journal of Production Research 52. A multi-objective genetic algorithm approach for solving feature addition problem in feature fatigue analysis. Liya Wang. [CrossRef] 3. 2013. Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing 24:6. Feature fatigue analysis in product development using Bayesian networks. [CrossRef] .This article has been cited by: Downloaded by BIBLIOTECA CENTRALA UNIVERSITARA MIHAI EMINESCU IASI At 06:43 29 October 2014 (PT) 1. Expert Systems with Applications 38:8. 2011. 2014. Mingxing Wu. 1197-1211. Liya Wang. Liya Wang. An integrated methodology for robustness analysis in feature fatigue problem. Ming Li. Ming Li. 10631-10637. 5985-5996. Mingxing Wu. Ming Li.