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Successive Innovation in Digital and Physical Products: Literature Review, Conceptual Framework, and Future Research Directions”

Authors/Editors: Spanjol, J.
Xiao, Y.
Welzenbach, L.
Published: 2018
Type: Articles in Books and Non-Refereed Journals
Published by: Rajan Varadarajan and Satish Jayachandran (eds.): Review of Marketing Research, vol. 15, Innovation and Strategy. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Ltd., 31-62


Companies are increasingly leveraging digital technologies toward innovation strategies that deliver novel features to customers sequentially through successive new product generations (i.e., successive innovation). Extant literature examining successive innovation is both limited and fragmented across marketing and management literatures. Our goal is to synthesize literature on concepts related to successive innovation (such as versioning and upgrades) to identify the core dimensions of successive innovation and provide a cohesive framework to guide future research in this domain.

Given the equivocality in understanding the conceptual domain of successive innovation, we review and synthesize literature across three disciplinary domains: marketing, management, and information and decision sciences. Based on the emerging patterns from the literature review, we develop a conceptual framework of successive innovation with the aim of moving the discussion toward greater theoretical clarity.

Based on the literature review and synthesis, we identify three core-dimensions that define successive innovation and compare these across digital and physical product realms: coexistence, embeddedness, and adoption controllability.

Research Implications
Our proposed conceptual dimensions of successive innovation, and discussion of differences across physical and digital product domains, offer important directions for future research and a common vocabulary.

As physical and digital successive innovations can differ in coexistence, embeddedness, and adoption controllability, firms need to consider relevant barriers to adoption of successive product generations and select appropriate strategies to promote and communicate successive innovation. Our proposed successive innovation conceptual dimensions help managers comprehend the complexity of arranging such innovation in business and consumer segments.

Our contribution to the emerging literature on successive innovation is threefold. First, by conducting a comprehensive literature review, we integrate insights from different fields of inquiry (i.e., marketing, management, and information and decision sciences). Second, based on the synthesis of the literature, we offer a conceptual framework of successive innovation, which aims to move the discussion toward greater theoretical clarity. Third, based on our review and conceptual framework, we discuss a set of future research directions to guide academic research efforts.

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