Technology Adoption Curve

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Understanding the adoption or acceptance of new products or services by your potential market and the companies, organisations and people who influence them can have a significant impact on the success of your innovations.

 

Introduction

The original technology curve, created by Bohlen, Beal and Rogers at Iowa State University, was widely adopted following its publication in Roger’s book ‘The Diffusion of Innovations’ in 1962. It is a sociological model that identified 6 distinct groups of people and their attitude to adopting new technology or services:

 

 

Figure 1: Roger’s Technology Adoption Curve 

(Taken from the website www.joycehostyn.com)

Modified Model

This initial work was further developed by Geoffrey Moore to better represent innovation, by inserting a gap or chasm between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority.

 

 

Figure 2: Moore’s Technology Adoption Curve with Chasm 

(Taken from the book Crossing the Chasm)

 

Understanding the different groups of the technology adoption curve and their interests in and benefits from your technology  is essential to optimising your chances of success. The earliest adopters are the Innovators.

 

Innovators

Commonly called ‘The Tekkies’; these are a diverse range of technology enthusiasts who exert a strong influence over the acceptance of new technology and its subsequent adoption.  Innovators may seem a confusing title to Inventors who see the term Innovator as referring to the developer of the technology and not the first adopters.  They account for approximately 2.5% of the overall market.

 

Tekkies accept that there may be bugs or limited functionality in the technology at the early stage when they first get to use the technology.  They may be a good source of reporting such glitches and additional needs for functionality that could influence the advocacy of Early Adopters and desire of the Early and Mature Main Majority.

 

The endorsement and validation of your product by Innovators can significantly speed up your progress along the technology adoption curve and raise  awareness, the first stage of the selling process, amongst the early adopters and span the chasm into the early main adopters.

 

Innovators may have complimentary technology or products to your innovation; getting their ‘buy in’ may help open up your technology to the market quicker or to markets, either geographic or technology sectors, that you would struggle to access on your own.

 

Example

A good example of this is the DVD; in order to get mass market acceptance, the developers of competing formats, the Multimedia Compact Disc backed by Philips and Sony, and the Super Density Disc backed by Toshiba, Time Warner and others, collaborated together and with computing companies such as IBM, Apple, Microsoft and many others to make the new disc system as versatile and beneficial as possible.

 

This ensured that the development of DVD technology was endorsed by makers and distributors of the films that the developers needed to make the DVD a success.  Having such a relationship meant an easier task of getting other distributors to adopt DVD and the success of the DVD player encouraged the re-release of their back catalogues on the DVD format, which in turn, would have encouraged more consumers to buy a DVD player.

 

Early Adopters

 Opinion is a huge factor in the success or failure of technology.  Who are the Early Adopters of your technology and how do you get them to advocate your technology to their peers?

 

This group is heavily influenced by the Innovators and their opinions on the latest technology.  They exert an influence over their peers by being the first of their group to have the latest gadgets.  Rather than give opinions, this group gives advice.  They recommend  products to their friends and colleagues, based on their perceived benefits of the latest technology and the needs of their friends and colleagues, who become early main adopters of the technology.  Early Adopters represent approximately 13.5% of the overall market.

 

The bugs and limited functionality that could be overlooked by Innovators become a bug bear with Early Adopters.  These issues may deter Early Adopters from advocating your technology to the Early and Mature Main Majority.   Responding to the feedback from Innovators and addressing bugs and functional requirements will mitigate the risk of failing to meet the approval of Early Adopters and getting their advocacy of your product and brand.

 

Example

Nintendo launched the successor to the extremely successful Wii console, called the Wii U, at the end of 2012, which encountered a series of bugs that caused Early Adopters to take to social media and blogs to vent their frustration and pass on patches and work-arounds.  The console asked for a rather large firmware update, between 1GB and 5GB, on its launch and Nintendo’s servers struggled with the demand.  There was further consternation after users discovered that if the system crashed or was manually powered down during this update, the entire system “bricked” and became completely unusable.

 

This would undoubtedly have influenced opinion of the Early and Mature Main Majority and if it did not deter their purchase it certainly would have deferred their purchase, even if they did not hear about the glitches through social media, when it made the news.

 

The Early Main Majority

Managing “The Chasm” between Early Adopters of your technology and the Early Main Majority, will determine if your technology is ultimately successful or not.

 

The Early Main Majority is the last group in the technology adoption curve to be directly influenced by other groups.  The Early Adopters play a significant role in the commercial success of your technology through their influence on the Early Main Majority,  who account for approximately 34% of the overall market.

 

Geoffrey Moore modified Roger’s Technology Adoption Curve to add a chasm between the Early Adopters and the Early Main Majority.  This acknowledges the criticality of this stage in the technology adoption curve, due to the high percentage of the market that comprise the Early Main Majority, and its significance in the technology being accepted by the market and getting a strong foot-hold in the market.

 

At this stage, the Early Main Majority expect the risks associated with their adoption of your technology to be low and their expectations will be high.  The technology will be sufficiently developed that the Early Main Majority expect a smooth adoption process with robust technical support and advice.

 

Accessing the Early Main Majority and the subsequent Late Main Majority can have dramatic effects on the commercial success of your technology through:

 

Reducing Costs and Sales Prices

Manufacturing costs depend on the number of units being made due to the material costs, tooling, production set-up, staffing requirements, etc.  Increasing the batch sizes when manufacturing can dramatically reduce the unit cost.  This reduced selling price may make the technology attractive to the Late Main Majority and Laggards who were previously put off by the price.

 

Free Marketing

Imagine your technology is a new driver golf club that drives the ball further and straighter.  An Early Adopter who uses your club, and usually sprays the golf ball all over the golf course, plays with his 3 friends who notice his driving is straighter and longer. One of his friends tries the driver, likes it and buys one for himself. He then plays with his friends who notice his improvement and try the driver that made it possible.  This is a powerful and cheap endorsement of the benefits of your technology.

 

Promoting Benefits

More exposure, whether through marketing campaigns, internet posts, blogs, website reviews, word of mouth, access to early adopters, etc. raises awareness of the technology.   Awareness of the technology quickly identifies the features of the technology and the benefits we would gain from using the features.  Our desire for these features will determine our desire for the technology and whether we make a purchase.

 

Creating exposure to your technology gives more opportunities for your market to become aware of the potential benefits, which drives a desire to own the technology. These benefits will become even more important in furthering your sales as you turn your attention to the Late Main Majority who are more concerned with the benefits rather than the features of your innovation.

 

The Late Main Majority

How do you build on early success, through getting your technology adopted by technology enthusiast, by tackling the late main majority who need to be convinced by benefits.

 

The Early Main Majority takes the running total to 50% so we are now looking at a mainstream technology.

 

The Late Main Majority are the first group to adopt your technology that have not been influenced by an earlier group.  This means the adoption process is much more subjective and you and your advocates have no or little influence over the decision process when the Late Main Majority finally adopt the technology.

 

More often than not, the push of the market towards a dominant technology and the bundling of complementary technologies into a product with a multitude of desirable features, that is easy to use and attractively priced are the driving factors.  Try buying a mobile phone nowadays which doesn’t have an integrated camera, internet access and Bluetooth connectivity.

 

Late Adopters

What defines a late adopter of technology and how do you meet their needs and convince them to purchase your product?

The consumer group of late adopters can be considered to be made up of a variety of smaller groups with different reasons to be considered late adopters.  Understanding their motivations and reasons for purchasing can help access this consumer group that makes up 13.5% of the market.

 

Conservatives

Certain people are risk adverse and will wait until technology is proven and all the faults are ironed out and the benefits fully understood before acting.  These are typically the type of buyer who will not buy a brand new car but will wait and purchase a trade-in after the latest car model has been out for a year or so.  This serves two benefits :

 

 

Transients

Many people only really show interest in technology when they have a need; for example when their car breaks down and it is too expensive or not worthwhile to fix.  Transients will then research technology and buy car magazines or search the internet to find out the best car to meet their needs.

 

Ironically, Transients may not actually be a Late Adopter of your technology but may simply be a Late Adopter of the technology sector.  They might actually buy your product shortly after the launch, if that is when their need arises.

 

For example, a Transient may have purchased a top of the range mobile phone a year or so before Smart phones were launched.  They may have had a 2 year contract before going on to pay as you go for another couple of years before deciding to upgrade their phone as it has developed a fault or that they want the new features that have been integrated into an iphone after the previous 3 years.

 

Early understanding of the motivations and reasons for purchasing of Late Adopters, through market research and consumer panels, will identify their requirements and help you extend the lifetime of your technology and get some of your Late Adopters to become the Main Majority.

 

Laggards

 

What defines a late adopter of technology and how do you meet their needs and convince them to purchase your product?

 

There is a small part of your consumer market who are skeptics and called Laggards (2.5%), who may be resistant to purchasing your technology.  They are happy with their lack of technology or continuing to use their antiquated  technology and difficult to dissuade from these choices.  They may only adopt your technology when they have no other choice or they may never adopt your technology.

 

Given the small size of the Laggard market and the difficulty in persuading them to adopt your technology, it may not be worthwhile focusing on this market. However, they are a part of your consumer market and either the benefits of your technology or your dominance of the market may get you their business but there is little to nothing you can actively do to persuade them.