Why Do Innovators and Early Adopters Always Get Screwed?

As Amy mentioned a while back, “innovators” and “early adopters” are the first to purchase items when they’re released. What she didn’t mention is that this group of consumers typically gets screwed six ways till Sunday. They’ll stand in line at Apple stores for days for a new iPad. They’ll buy the newest 3D TV the day it’s released. They’ll pre-order Madden NFL (insert iteration number here) months in advance. And what do they get for their dedication? They get the same product that just a few months later everyone else in the world will get for much cheaper. They get the buggy versions that are a few updates away from reaching their potential. Or worse yet, they’re greeted with waiting lists and short supplies and end up leaving empty-handed.

You would think that companies would want to make these consumers happy. Most products are determined as successes or failures almost instantly. Pre-orders tell companies how many items need to be shipped, and if first month sales for big items aren’t up to par they run the risk of being left in the dust by the next big item. So it would be wise to make those innovators want to stay innovators and not “wait and see-ers.”

Amazon rewards innovators and early adopters!

$20 off game purchases? $1 for release-day delivery? Yes, please.

All hope isn’t lost, though. Always on the forward-thinking side, Amazon recently identified this issue as an opportunity and seized it (I swear they’ll take over the world someday). The retail giant started offering $20 off future game purchases with pre-orders for many video games, which is something most brick-and-mortar stores just can’t match. But then came one of the best moves I’ve ever seen from an online retailer: for just $0.99 the buyer gets release-day DELIVERY. Factor in the lack of sales tax, and even without the $20 credit there’s almost no reason to buy anywhere else. No lines or fruitless searches at multiple stores — just pure awesomeness in your mailbox on release day.

I’m also proud to report that one long-beloved video game company finally did right by early adopters as well. When sales of Nintendo’s new 3DS were way below the expected numbers, they slashed the price by $80 just a few months after its release. Did they say “oh well” to everyone that paid the higher price? No. They offered them TWENTY free games (through their download service) instead. Now that’s how you thank customers for supporting you!

It seems like more and more companies are slowly catching on that it’s best to be proactive and maximize those early sales instead of only offering deals as a last resort. That’s refreshing news.

So, what can be done when it comes to keeping innovators and early adopters happy? To make a long story short, DO understand that early purchasers will most likely determine your success, DO give them substantial incentives to buy early, and DO NOT make them regret being your biggest supporters. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Maybe you should try it out sometime.

What do you think? How else can retailers give innovators and early adopters the benefit of the doubt?


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  1. Jenna Markowski

    For many of the reasons that you listed, I have always been a “wait and see-er.” Props to Amazon though for acknowledging that huge group of people who are innovators and early adopters. It makes total sense, and I agree that it seems like it would be foolish to get new releases any other way! (Although I’m sure some people will still wait in line for hours no matter what) 🙂

    • JPorretto

      I think the waiting is almost just a ritual at this point. There are SO many ways to get your hands on products early other than wasting hours braving the elements.

    • Amanda

      I am also a wait and see-er, Jenna. I never trust the first edition of new products and always want to buy once the price has gone down. But I too, can see the appeal for some to have things as soon as they’re released–and can see how Amazon’s new plan is a game changer! I’m with Jeff–why would anyone want to stand in line when you can have it delivered on release day? That’s so awesome–you don’t have to leave your house, pay sales tax, and you get a $20 coupon! Sweet! =)

  2. Kyle

    Speaking of early adopters getting shafted… This reminds me of the recent price drop of the Nintendo 3DS. Early adopters dropped a hefty $250 on the new system, but just months later it’s now only $170. Come on Nintendo, I used to love you as a kid… Bring back the magic!

    But anyways, those amazon deals sound pretty unbeatable. I rarely buy games when they’re released and usually just wait for price drops, but with those incentives I might have to reconsider. I’ll definitely look into this. Thanks, Jeff!

    • JPorretto

      What a great example Kyle! If only someone would have mentioned that in the 4th paragraph of a promotional products blog post it would have been even better! ;P

      I pre ordered Gears of War 3 with the $20 credit. First pre-order in yeeears, So it must be working.

      • Kyle


        I swear I read every word of this post EXCEPT for that paragraph somehow…. Haha anyways, I heard that Nintendo offered free games, but I didn’t realize it was 20. I just figured it was a couple here or there. I suppose that eases the pain a bit, but I think $250 was just a bit too much to ask for in the first place.

        I stand corrected. Thank you for pointing out my total brain fart, Jeff. Just one of those days I guess…. 😛

  3. Doc

    I used to be one of those guys who would camp out at Gamestop all night anxiously awaiting the latest edition of the Madden franchise just so I’d get the first crack at it. But there was never any incentive to pre-order the game. I’m glad that Nintendo and other companies are reaching out to those loyal customers who can finally benefit from getting ahead of the curve.

    • JPorretto

      You and me both, man. Now the pre-order incentive is the ability to use pro bowl teams. Woo frickin’ hoo.

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    There are moments (like right now) when I wish that I were among the early adopters of the 3DS, as the purchase would have finally paid off. Nintendo could have easily thrown two or three games at 3DS owners and called it a day. Instead, they opted to give away over 100 dollars worth of content to those early adopters — free of charge. It was a bold move (and one that Nintendo probably wasn’t too comfortable making), but it was necessary.

    Kudos to the Big N on this one!

    Hmmm… now that I think about it… $170 is an awfully tempting price tag!

    • Jill Tooley

      Don’t you do it, Joe…

    • Vern-Matic

      It is decisions like that, that make Nintendo the King!!!

  5. amy

    Great post Jeff! (thanks for the shout out too 😉 ) I agree that it’s wrong for companies to treat their innovators and early adopters like free guinea pigs and then reward the early and late majority consumers with better prices and better products. It’s great that some companies are going against the grain though and giving back to the customers who anxiously wait in line for days or pre-order items months in advance. Hopefully, this will become the norm in the future.

    • JPorretto

      No, Thank YOU! I had this post in the back in my mind forever, but your post coupled with Nintendo and Amazon’s recent actions gave me all the ammo I needed to see it through to fruition.

      • Amanda

        Nice post Jeff. I’m glad you finally got to work in “Amazon will take over the world someday” into a blog. Well done. =)

    • Jill Tooley

      Fact: I <3 guinea pigs!

      That’s all I’ve got. 🙂

  6. Vern-Matic

    I have just recently become the guy that literally waits until the game has been returned like 4-5 times and is now $15. I STILL play my 1st gen DS, never bought into the slim DS or even the 3DS. The games still work so I never could think of a reason to update.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I bought my DS Lite just months before they dropped the prices on all of their 2D DS models. So much cursing…so much…

  7. Rachel

    This reminds me of those Best Buy commercials advertising that they’ll buy back the gadget you’re purchasing now if you buy the newer one later–you know, the ones with that guy buying a 3D TV only to see a 4D one down the street or something. I would think those kind of buyback programs provide consumers the incentive to buy newer models right now, because even if something better comes out soon, you’ll get it a little cheaper with the trade-in. Regardless, I still tend to be a “wait and see-er” like Jenna; I’ll let everybody else tell me the thing is worth buying before I put down the cash. 🙂

    And that’s awesome about Nintendo giving away games like that! And Amazon’s delivery upon release day is pretty exciting as well. Great post, Jeff!

    • JPorretto

      I nod my head in agreement with that commercial every time. Just… “Oh come on!”

  8. Jen

    Great post Jeff!

    I will always be a “wait and see-er”. The “early adopters” may have the cool new stuff, but something better is just around the corner…

    I still cannot convince myself to get an iPhone =)

  9. Jill Tooley

    Nice, Jeff. I’d say you’ve more than accurately summed up how I feel about innovators/early adopters as well! Amazon’s preorder initiative sounds incredible and I hope that other companies follow suit. Like you said, it’s aggravating to pay full price for a product I’m extremely adamant about supporting only to discover that the late bloomers get it for half off a few months later. Sure, I could wait for it, but where would they be if ALL of their customers waited?

    Thanks for the head’s up on this deal. Amazon and Nintendo are trendsetters in this regard!

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