Time-perception, Innovation, and Adoption

18 September 2017 12:54

Time-perception, Innovation, and Adoption

Time is one of few resources which you cannot save for later use. Sometimes time passes by slowly. Sometimes fast. Sometimes we have too much time available. Sometimes we have too little. The fact is that time impacts every aspect of our lives – also the services we decide to integrate into our lives. Paradoxically, while concrete, time resides in the measuring of it, which makes it solely a property of the human mind.

«Time flies. We must be having fun! »
«We’re having fun. Time must fly! »
«It must be fun to have flies! »


In the award-winning article “Trend-spotting and service innovation ”(Andreassen, Lervik-Olsen and Calabretta 2015), the authors identified eight consumer trends that over time would gain momentum and impact consumers’ and households’ decisions. One trend was identified and named “Return on Time” (RoT), i.e. a goal oriented behavior targeted at acquiring and spending time over a set of chosen activities with the purpose of increasing subjective well-being.

The initial idea is that consumers with a low RoT (i.e. they do not spend their available time optimally) will take measures to improve RoT. Andreassen, Lervik-Olsen and Calabretta (2015) identified three individual consumer traits that influence RoT from using services:

  • Time saving: Consumer tendency to free up time using measures that do not cost anything. Examples include reducing the number of times people go to the gym per week, or ask friends or family to help bringing children to and from activities. In this way, they free up time which they can spend (or not spend) on other more fulfilling activities.
  • Time buying: Tendency to make financial investments in equipment that will improve productivity. Examples include buying a smartphone, tablet, dishwasher, washing machine, robot, or a car. The common denominator is multitasking. Checking emails while travelling. Cleaning the house while the laundry is washed, lawn is mowed, etc.
  • Time spending: Tendency to spend the time available on a set of chosen activities with the purpose of increasing subjective well-being.

In our follow-up study on RoT (Survey on Perceptions of Time among Norwegian consumers, 2016), we wanted to a) test this conceptual thinking empirically and b) look at the effect of RoT on adoption of products or services. Because time plays an important role in consumer well-being and happiness, time is likely to be a criterion when evaluating and choosing services. Bottom line: An innovation that has a significant positive impact on RoT, will be adopted.

From the literature, we know that speedy and efficient delivery of service creates value for consumers, that time utility is acknowledged as a central element of perceived service convenience, and that consumers are risk averse when it comes to management of time and prefer services offering less uncertainty/less waiting time.

In our model, we defined the three consumer orientations towards time management: time saving, time buying, and time spending as drivers of Return on Time and ultimately willingness to adopt a service. To make it more complete, we introduced two moderating factors: promotion focus and need for cognition. This study was conducted in Norway based on 901 respondents in the age group 18-83 with a mean age of 46 and male/female respondents 50/50%.

Our findings can be summarized as:

  • Time buying appears to be a stronger predictor of RoT RoT relative to time saving or time spending orientations.
  • The effects of time buying and time spending on RoT depend on consumer perceptions of the service category, i.e. the service related to pleasure (e.g. restaurants and spa and well-being services) versus being more functional (transportation and handy-man services).
  • RoT of a specific service category is a strong predictor of intentions to adopt a new service in that category.
  • Consumers may look for increasing RoT to a greater extent when forming intentions to adopt new pleasure related services relative to functional ones.

For managers, our study can be summarized as:

  • Time buying consumers may be more optimal targets groups, relative to time saving or time spending segments, when it comes to introducing services that offer an increased RoT.
  • Another alternative is to develop strategies to leverage time buying orientation of consumers.
  • It is imperative for service providers to leverage RoT of their services to increase consumer adoption of innovations.
  • Choice of strategy will depend on consumers’ need for information (high vs. low).

This means that the success rate of service innovation will increase if consumers’ need for optimizing RoT is catered to in the development of new services. A simple segmentation of the market based on life cycle logic - Young free and single (living with parents, single), Chaos in my life (married incl children), and Got my life back (children left the house) - indicate that Chaos in my life segment is most responsive to services and products that will allow them to be more efficient. Simplicity in all aspects of the service and in the interaction with the firm. Time-constrained customers will integrate a new service into their life when and only when they feel that by so doing their RoT is improved.

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