Early customer input on applications that use radically new technologies is crucial for gaining an understanding of the benefits
and value of these new technologies. Potential customers should have a clear understanding of a new technology application
before they give their input on it. Prototypes provide a clear picture to the customer, but are seldom available in the early
(predevelopment) stage. Therefore, a customer research technique that provides valuable input is needed. The aim of the study
is to show that product narratives provide valuable input from customers in the predevelopment phase of a discontinuous new
product development (NPD) process.
This study compares a product narrative with a benchmark condition of a working
prototype, a nonnarrative, and two conditions that have been added to make a comparison possible. Confirming this study's
prediction, the analysis of variance results show that no differences are present between the narrative text with drawn images
and a prototype demonstration on all dependent variables (i.e., evaluations of the product, interaction, ease of use, and
aesthetics). Differences in customers' evaluations are only present when the narration is removed from the text with drawn
images. Regression analysis confirms that narration is the key variable that predicts the evaluations of the product, interaction,
ease of use, and aesthetics. The mediating role of narrative transportation provides explanation of these findings. Narrative
transportation is a mixture of attention, imagery, and feelings that people experience when they watch a movie or read a narrative.
According to narrative transportation theory, transported consumers immerse themselves in what they watch or read and have
vivid images in their mind, see themselves in the scene of the action, experience emotions, and forget the world around them.
study shows that without narration, texts with drawn images are insufficiently vivid to transport the reader to enable him
or her to imagine using the really new product, and consequently, provide evaluations similar to prototype evaluations. The
narrative character of the utilized technology application presentation provides vivid imagery of the technology application,
thereby compensating for a lack of realism. To conclude, an easy-to-apply product narrative successfully explains a technology
application that uses a radically new technology to a customer before prototypes have been completed.