Why are Early Adopters So Critical to Innovation?

When developing new ideas, it's easy to assume you know all that there is to know about the market demands and needs. But the best innovators work in 'partnership' with the early adopters of a new idea. Early adopters know they have a problem to solve, and are actively seeking a solution, while majority in the market are either not aware of their problem, or not yet seeking a solution. But first, let’s talk about a theory called Diffusion of Innovations or DoI. According to Everett Rogers, a professor of communications studies who popularized the theory, diffusion is the “process by which an innovation is communicated over time among the participants in a social system. The origins of the diffusion of innovations theory are varied and span multiple disciplines.”

In the process of DoI, there are four main elements that influence how an idea is spread: the innovation itself, communication channels, time, and the social system. In the graph below, the blue line shows the group of consumers adopting to the new technology while the yellow is the market share.


As seen in the graph above, there are 5 categories of the adopters: innovators, early adopters, late majority, and laggards. And as I’ve said earlier, the early adopters are extremely critical to innovation.

Who are the early adopters? “An early adopter is a person who embraces new technology before most people do. Early adopters tend to buy or try out new hardware items and programs, and new versions of existing programs, sooner than most of their peers.”

In a span of a decade of various innovation experiences, including startups, emerging markets and corporate products, I consistently see a direct correlation between the identification of early adopters and the adoption rates of a product or service. Putting it simply, those who work with an early adopter audience, build better products to suit the markets needs.

The key elements that make early adopters critical are:

  1. They are aware of their problem or pain: Throughout the phases of adoption, marketing messages change to match the physiological state of adopters. In the case of early majority, they maybe conscious of their problem or pain, but not currently actively seeking a solution. While the late majority may not even be aware they have a problem, hence they need to be convinced first.
  2. The are actively attempting to solve a known problem: Let's take for example building an app to help people quit smoking. Your early adopters are a segment of the market exhibiting a behaviour in an attempt to quit smoking. An active involvement in attempts to solve their problem make over twenty times more likely for them to consider a solution. And they'd be more than happy to share their experience to help refine 'how' it is solved.

Companies who want to improve and boost the products they are introducing to the market should know how essential early adopters are. They are basically the opinion leaders, those who pay attention to the innovation and see the practicality of the new idea or product. They could be the best partners since they could communicate well the utility of the innovation. They play a very important role in influencing the attitude and changing the behavior of the later adopters.

What about you? Have you been an early adopter? How did you influence other people into adopting a new product? Share it with me below!

References: http://study.com/academy/lesson/classes-of-adopters-innovators-early-late-and-laggards.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations#cite_note-Rogers5-1 https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=9U1K5LjUOwEC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false http://searchservervirtualization.techtarget.com/definition/early-adopter

1 https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=9U1K5LjUOwEC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations#cite_note-Rogers5-1

3 http://study.com/academy/lesson/classes-of-adopters-innovators-early-late-and-laggards.html 4 http://study.com/academy/lesson/classes-of-adopters-innovators-early-late-and-laggards.html