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Nils Levsen focuses on the international diffusion of product and service innovations for elderly users. In particular, the existence and location of lead markets is being investigated. Lead markets are characterized by their early adoption of innovations and their influence on design choice in a subsequent international diffusion process. Finally, two boundary conditions to the applicability of lead market theory are being identified and described.



1. Introduction

Pointing toward the population aging trend undergone by many advanced economies as a major demand driver and catalyst for age-based innovation seems uncontroversial at best, possibly even verging on the commonplace. Nevertheless, evidence is abundant – and will be presented in the course of this study – that the sheer growth and affluence of elderly populations within these countries will lend increased commercial relevance to the development and commercialization of products and services designed to address their particular needs.

Nils Levsen

2. Phenomenological Background

Extant research into lead markets can be subdivided into a number of categories. In the following, these will be introduced and described in an attempt to fittingly describe the current state of the field and the research work leading up to this status quo. Specifically, the strands of research that laid the foundations for lead market theory will be described (Chapter 2.1.1), and be followed by a section dedicated to the major theory building effort in lead market research undertaken by Marian Beise and fellow researchers (Chapter 2.1.2).

Nils Levsen

3. Case Studies: Early Adoption Patterns and Lead Markets

The following case studies address research questions 1 and 2. With regard to RQ1, the success criterion that is needed to support or dismiss the existence of a lead market is based on the lead market definition in Chapter According to Beise, “lead markets have the characteristic that product or process innovation designs adopted early become the globally dominant design and supersede other innovation designs initially adopted or preferred by other countries” (Beise 2001, p. 10).

Nils Levsen

4. Integrated Analysis of Lead Market Candidates Based on Extant Theory

From a business perspective, showing that lead-market-lag-market patterns may generally occur in the realm of age-based innovations (as in Chapter 3) is an initial insight, which may have a bearing on a number of business decisions with regard to innovation and commercialization of age-based products and services. Companies may, for instance, look out for characteristic lead-lag-patterns and conclude that particular country markets are significantly advanced compared to others – diffusion has a geographic imbalance, not taking place evenly across countries.

Nils Levsen

5. Market Participant Study

The market participant study documented in the following chapter addresses the fourth research question, investigating the views that market participants in the field of age-based innovations take on lead markets. While the previous chapters already incorporate some information empirically gathered in personal communication, they do not reflect a broader market participant perspective on lead markets in age-based innovations: Are lead markets in age-based innovations an academic concept only or do market participants also perceive country-specific differences and cross-national diffusion patterns? And if so, which factors do market participants perceive as drivers of this phenomenon? Are there specific countries that are consistently perceived as leaders in adoption and diffusion or do country roles of leader and laggard change? Do common factors drive lead market development for the entire class of age-based innovations or are there noticeable differences between the diverse products and services covered by this term?

To date, lead market research has methodologically been largely relying on two types of investigations – first, the study of longitudinal adoption and diffusion patterns based on sales data and second, the analysis of lead market potentials for individual innovation commercialization projects.

Nils Levsen

6. Intermediate Results

So far, research into the early adoption of age-based innovations has demonstrated not only the vast diversity of products and services in this field but also great differences with regard to the lead market locations and the underlying drivers for lead market development. Nevertheless, a number of recurring observations appear to emerge with regard to country-specific early adoption patterns. As, however, these observations seem to be limited to particular sets of age-based innovations, it is necessary to create sub-groups in a way that gives proper consideration to these limitations.

Nils Levsen

7. Expert Interview Series

Within this chapter, approach and results of a series of expert interviews have been documented. This expert interview series has been conducted based on the propositions derived in Chapter 6 which, in turn, hark back to the original research question 5 (Chapter 1.2) as well as findings from case study research (Chapter 3), the integrated analysis of lead market candidate countries (Chapter 4), and the market participant study (Chapter 5).

Nils Levsen

8. Discussion of Results, Implications, and Limitations

As a necessary prerequisite for any investigation, this study initially set out to establish – or prove false – the existence of lead markets within the context of age-based innovations. While lead markets may have implications on a larger economic scale, a demonstration of lead market existence required a nearly microscopic approach: International adoption and diffusion patterns needed to be understood not only at the level of a product or service category but – even more specific – on the level of various innovation designs potentially competing within that category.

Nils Levsen


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