Factors Affecting Product Adaptation

by Dennis Hartman; Updated September 26, 2017
Products shipped abroad are often different from those sold domestically.

Product adaptation is an essential business process in which a company alters or "adapts" an existing product. Product adaptation may be a way to stay competitive in an evolving domestic marketplace, or a way to sell products abroad that might not be appealing to foreign consumers without small, or large, changes.

Standard of Living

Foreign markets are likely to feature a different standard of living than that found in the region where a product was first sold. This may mean a need to lower the price, or an opportunity to raise it. Adapting a product to use different materials and meet different standards of quality is one way that product adaptation addresses the needs of new markets.


Selling products abroad may be an essential factor in product adaptation when government or industry regulations require products to meet certain standards. This is the case with many foreign automobiles, which must undergo a major product adaptation to meet strict American safety and emissions standards before being sold in the United States. Manufacturers also need to adapt electronic equipment to meet the voltage requirements of new markets.

Usage Conditions

Product usage conditions can affect product adaptation in a number of ways. The climate, altitude and distance of a new market may require manufacturers to develop new solutions that allow a product to function as intended, or new packaging that will allow the product to reach its destination in good condition.

Storage and sales trends in a new market can also require product adaptation, with manufacturers providing new versions of a product that can be stacked, hanged or displayed according to regional conventions. Food containers are a good example of this, with manufacturers needing to provide bottles and boxes that will fit in the refrigerators and cabinets of consumers in a new market.

Cultural Condition and Style

Sometimes a product needs only superficial adaptation in order to fit into a new market. Different cultures assign meaning to colors, words and numbers very differently, for example. This may mean that a manufacturer will have more success changing the name or color of a product while leaving its functional components unchanged. Manufacturers may also need to change the name of a product to avoid confusion in the translation into a new language or to avoid using a name already copyrighted or associated with a different product in the new market.

Photo Credits

  • Container ship and tag boat in the harbour image by Carabay from Fotolia.com
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