Navigating the purchasing power gap in new product development in multinational corporations

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Multinational corporations (MNCs) face a significant purchasing power gap of customers between developed and emerging economies. In R&D intensive industries making physical products, MNCs can benefit from economies of scale. Therefore, managers strive to achieve a product standardization–adaptation (S‐A) balance when navigating the purchasing power gap. Through focusing on five MNCs headquartered in developed countries, I examined how MNCs can achieve such a balance through new product development (NPD). I found that (1) an S‐A balance can be achieved through three NPD strategies (product simplification, product retaining, and reverse innovation); (2) managers need to take into account five key factors when choosing NPD strategies (product complexity, product modularity, brand strategy, position in local competition, and internal technical standards); and (3) the NPD strategies can be implemented through structural separation, temporal separation, and a shared value. This research reveals the complexity of achieving an S‐A balance when managers navigate the purchasing power gap in NPD. Different NPD strategies have certain advantages and shortcomings. High product complexity and product modularity can serve as favorable conditions for a product simplification strategy. A brand strategy of leading‐edge technologies can serve as an adverse condition for a product retaining strategy. Strong local competitors in emerging markets can be a motivation for a reverse innovation strategy, while stringent internal standards for safety can be an adverse condition. This research also reveals the nuances of implementation of NPD strategies in terms of managing innovation and refinement activities. MNCs may need temporal separation when adopting both downhill and uphill NPD strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-834
Number of pages16
JournalR & D Management
Issue number5
Early online date08 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


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