Growing Up with Early Adopters - Consumer Group that Matters

Let’s take a look at how people adopt innovations and what role do influencers play in the process.

February 25, 2019

Let’s take a look at how people adopt innovations - something known as the Diffusion of Innovation Curve.

My Dad was a computer geek in the time and place where this concept didn’t exist (the Republic of Georgia in the 1980s.) Back then he was getting his PhD in Psychology and Sociology and in his free time building PCs from scratch. He would bring home boxes and boxes of parts and then make a PC, using a small Russian made TV as a monitor. Needless to say, my Mum didn’t like the building part, but she was fascinated by the machine once it was up and running (Early Majority). I was 4 and had no idea what exactly this thing was for, but loved making it work, launching basic commands in MS-DOS. Windows reached us around the 1990s and the Late Majority in a 6-year-old me didn’t want to switch from MS-DOS, but I had no choice, Dad said Windows was the future!

Everet Rogers’ theory of Diffusion of Innovation.

What I am describing above is what marketers know as Everet Rogers’ theory of Diffusion of Innovation. The graph below represents the adoption curve, showing how consumers adopt new technology. People, companies and even industries, can be on different stages at different times, but in its essence, any new technology goes through this curve, until it is adopted and takes the biggest share of the market.

Rogers’ book divides them into 5 groups.

Innovators - They are the smallest group, they usually have the closest connection to the scientific sources and often start using the product from its BETA version.

Early adopters  -  The second smallest group, but the fastest growing. They are curious, risky, willing to try new things as soon as they can.

Early Majority - Adoption time takes longer for this category, they only try it once the first two groups have tried and successfully used the innovation. But this group is the most important, this is the group that brings the market share up and until an innovation reaches them, it is still in danger of disappearing and never becoming a mainstream tool.

Late Majority - They will eventually adopt, but reluctantly and very sceptically.

And Laggards - We all know them, still refusing to use smartphones and unable to log into their emails. In my family, it was my Nan, smart for her time, but convinced that me using Dad’s PC would make my brain rot and I would not do well at school. She’s managing to stream soap operas now.

So why are we focusing on Early Adopters?

This group is small and their excitement in the innovation does not mean it will be successful but, they are the crucial group for getting the product into the market. If they are not happy with your product, the chances are no one will be. If you are developing a new product/technology and are trying to reach a new market, you need to get the Early Adopters onboard first. They are considered as very outspoken and take pride in their natural curiosity to try and experience new things.

The reason I mentioned my Dad earlier is because I watched him adopt more and more innovations as they came to exist. He had no manuals, there were no classes he used trial and error while teaching himself how to use PowerPoint (which he had so much fun doing when it first was launched.) For him, each new programme was a puzzle, a game  - something he needed to solve using logic.

While my Dad was having Early Adopter fun, teaching himself new programmes and enjoying the journey, I was 6 and behaving like the Late Majority group. Slamming doors and throwing cushions because I didn't want to use the new programme, I didn't want to use the new software. I was happy with my MS-DOS and I didn't want that to change.

As marketing becomes more digital and Social Media continues to take over, Early Adopters become even more important. They are what we now call Influencers, willing to try your product and then talk about it online, expressing their thoughts and opinions to encourage their followers to get involved too. Nowadays, Early Adopters are the ones who write reviews, record Youtube videos, tweet, share and therefore INFLUENCE! They influence the Early Majority group to come and join in on the party, which they're more likely to do once the product has been tried and tested and approved by others.

The interesting part of the above curve is that it doesn’t only apply to people, the same can apply to companies and industries. Every time, say a new Software as a Service (SAAS) is launched, the adoption curve grows. Today's marketers live in an interesting time - in the last 10 years, we’ve had a boom of innovative tools that have changed the way we work forever and adopting early is crucial for us. As for our clients and their consumers, we have to reach out to them using these new tools, convincing the Early Adopters to pass the word around - to like, share, comment and influence. As the digital world grows and changes, Early Adopters are becoming more and more important. They are the initial, loyal group to penetrate the market and secure the sale and influence.

After all, if it wasn’t for guys like my Dad, we would now still be playing this in MS-DOS.

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Tamara Edgar

A Media, PR and Marketing professional with a creative and passionate approach, as well as extensive experience in international broadcasting, branding and content production.

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