Do you consider yourself a trend-setter, or do you tend to go with the flow? When new technologies or trends are introduced, sometimes we can be hesitant, and other times we are jumping right on the bandwagon. Believe it or not, there is a scientific theory that classifies the types of people who are more or less likely to adopt something new. It’s better known as the innovation adoption curve.

Every one of us falls into a certain consumer group. Learn more about which you belong to and why it matters!

What is the Innovation Adoption Curve?

The Innovation Adoption Curve classifies consumers by their willingness to adopt new ideas, technologies, or trends. Developed in 1962 by E.M. Rogers, it’s also known as the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, Consumer Adoption Curve, or The Rogers Adoption Curve.

The Innovation Adoption Curve is represented by a bell-curve graph, which is used to show deviations within a group. The highest point on a bell curve indicates the majority; the early majority and late majority make up most of the population.

Chart of the innovation adoption curve
34% of consumers fall in the early majority and late majority group according the adoption curve.

In school, your teacher might have used a bell curve when grading tests. They may have taken the class average of test scores and altered the grading scale accordingly.

The Innovation Adoption Curve works in a similar way, only the bell-curve is used to explain how new ideas spread, and at what rate. The theory is most popularly used in marketing, but it’s also been applied to agriculture, public health, and criminal justice.

What Are the 5 Adopter Categories?

The Innovation Adoption Curve has 5 categories: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Each category features different characteristics, which shed light on whether or not consumers will be on board with something new, whether it’s a new drink flavor from a soda brand or a new style of car.

The Innovation Adoption Curve categories include:

  1. Innovators
  2. Early Adopters
  3. Early Majority
  4. Late Majority
  5. Laggards

Innovators

Innovators are the risk takers. They are the people who are willing to try the newest app, lifestyle habit, or fashion trend. Innovators tend to think outside-the-box, and you likely won’t find them going with the flow. It’s estimated that innovators make up 2.5% of the population.

Are You an Innovator?

If you possess a willingness to try just about anything, you might be an innovator. Typically, individuals in this category don’t need a new idea or product to be proven, and often will come up with new ideas on their own. An innovator must be willing to take risks despite the chance of failure. If you’ve ever bought a unique piece of clothing or downloaded an app before your friends, you’re likely an innovator.

Early Adopters

In order to be an early adopter, you also need to be somewhat of a risk taker. These people are more informed than innovators and tend to push a new trend or technology to a wider audience. Making up roughly 13.5% of the population, early adopters typically have some degree of persuasive power or leadership status.

Are You an Early Adopter?

You might be an early adopter if you consider yourself a leader. Early adopters recognize the need for change and improvement, and therefore welcome new ideas and technologies. If you like to be on the frontier of change, it is likely you are an early adopter. Maybe you’re willing to check out the new restaurant you drive past every day, or you asked for the latest Bluetooth headphones for Christmas. Either one, would make you part of the early adopter crowd.

Early Majority

Making up about 34% of the population, the early majority needs time to pass before adopting something new. While they may have some relationships with early adopters, they take significantly longer to welcome new products or trends into their lifestyle.

Are You in the Early Majority?

The early majority still adopts ideas sooner than the average person, but they just require more evidence that something new is working. If you like to know that a new product or innovation works before giving it a shot, you might be in the early majority. For example, someone in the early majority would read lots of reviews before making an online order, or would ask for recommendations before deciding on a new coffee maker.

Late Majority

Those in the late majority require more extensive research and proof before adopting a new product, technology, or trend. Making up 34% of the population, the late majority tends to accept something new due to peer pressure because everyone else has already made the change.

Are You in the Late Majority?

If you tend to be skeptical of change, you are most likely in the late majority. Individuals in this category want to know an innovation has been successful and are unlikely to take risks. Do you find yourself hating Facebook but having an account anyway because everyone else does? Consider yourself in the late majority.

Laggards

Laggards are not only the last group to adopt an innovation, they’re also resistant to change and prefer tradition. Surprisingly, this group makes up 16% of the population. By the time a laggard has come around to adopting an innovation, if at all, it may be obsolete.

Are You a Laggard?

You’re maybe thinking of your stubborn grandparent and classifying them as a laggard. While most laggards are Baby Boomers, that does not represent the entire group. If you refuse to get a smartphone because your flip phone works just fine, or don’t want an electric car because you think it’s a hassle, chances are you’re a laggard.

The consumer category you fall into can change depending on the product, idea, or trend. Just because you might be in the late majority with one product, doesn’t mean you won’t be in the early majority the next.

What is the Purpose of the Adoption Curve?

The Innovation Adoption Curve affects business owners. It can help you understand your consumers and give you insight into how your new products or technology might be accepted. It is fairly accurate in determining how different adopter categories (groups of consumers) will react to now innovations, so take this theory into consideration before marketing new products.

Consumers, meanwhile, can use the Innovation Adoption Curve to understand their buying habits. The category you fall into impacts the way you feel about a new product or technology. For example, someone may be willing to try new energy-saving technology in their home, but not as willing to purchase the latest smartphone.

Overall, the Innovation Adoption Curve is more relevant than you might have previously thought. The theory provides beneficial insight into people’s behaviors and preferences.

Resources

Boston State University of Public Health. (2018). Diffusion of Innovation Theory. Retrieved August 20, 2019, from https://sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/MPH-Modules/SB/BehavioralChangeTheories/BehavioralChangeTheories4.html

The Economic Times. (2019). Definition of ‘Innovation Adoption Curve’. Retrieved August 20, 2019, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/innovation-adoption-curve

Maeli, John-Pierre. (2016, May 6). The Rogers Adoption Curve and How You Spread New Ideas Throughout Culture. Retrieved August 20, 2019, from https://medium.com/the-political-informer/the-rogers-adoption-curve-how-you-spread-new-ideas-throughout-culture-d848462fcd24

On Digital Marketing. (2018). The 5 Customer Segments of Technology Adoption. Retrieved August 20, 2019, from https://ondigitalmarketing.com/learn/odm/foundations/5-customer-segments-technology-adoption/

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