Companies love so-called high-value customers, or brand evangelists — folks who buy products repeatedly, leave glowing reviews online, and tell everyone they know to do the same.
In recent years, research has suggested that a certain fraction of consumers are particularly skilled at picking out products that are destined to fail, or get discontinued.
In 2015, a team of researchers at Northwestern and MIT analyzed 6 years’ worth of transaction data from 130k customers at a large national retail chain.
They found that ~25% of customers consistently buy products that end up flopping within 3 years. Think esteemed artifacts like:
When companies forecast the success of their products, their projections are usually based on an initial window of sales. High sales numbers are seen as a beacon of future success.
While lead users tend to identify breakthrough products early on before they hit, harbinger customers seem to have a unique talent for picking epic failures.