Understanding The Innovation Adoption Lifecycle

Do you ever wonder about how the market adopts a new product? Is there a process? A hierarchy? Should you market your product differently to the early adopters and late adopters? More importantly, who are your early and late adopters? Do these terms even matter?

Knowledge of how an idea is adopted in the market and how it spreads among the communication channels is important to develop targeted marketing strategies for a new product. Innovation spreads in a systematic way, and those who understand it knows which route to take at every stage of the innovation adoption life cycle.

Innovation Adoption Lifecycle

Originated from a study on farmers behaviour, innovation adoption lifecycle states how an idea diffuses/spreads from the earliest adopters (innovators) to the laggards. It is a sociological model that describes the adoption of innovation according to the demographic and psychological characteristics of the target audience.

The concept was coined by Everett M Rogers in his book Diffusion of Innovations, where he classified adopters into five categories: Innovators, Early adopters, Early majority, Late majority and Laggards.



Innovators are your first customers (2.5%). They are the risk-takers who have big pockets and high status among their social network. These people love the possibilities of new ideas and new ways of doing things and often adopt the innovation/new product during its beta stage.

The product is usually expensive and not perfect when presented to the innovators. But their risk tolerance and financial resources allow them to adopt the new technology that might ultimately fail and let them absorb the losses.

Innovators are the influencers for both the manufacturers and the other users following them in the technology adoption lifecycle. They love testing new products, sharing reviews and feedbacks, and influencing the demand for that product.

A business should focus on one-to-one marketing when reaching out to innovators. Personalized emails, product listing, and meetings are a few techniques used by marketers to market their new innovation to the innovators.

Current day innovators include people who test and review your product on websites like Product Hunt, and niche influencers (bloggers, vloggers, and journalists) who test and review your product on their websites and Youtube, etc.

Early Adopters

Early adopters is the segment (13.5%) that tries/uses/experiences the offering way before most of the market try their hand on it. These users have the highest degree of opinion leadership and are the first ones to write reviews on websites, post comments and share their experiences with others. Besides this, they are usually financially stable, have a public figure and are loud about their stance.

The motivation behind why early adopters try new products can be anything from the recommendation from innovators, building social status, or just curiosity.

Although their risk-taking abilities are not as high as innovators they still seem to leave their mark on the market. They are the first impression on the market. The future of innovation depends on the early adopters as these users have good influencing skills. Take QR codes for example, which was considered the biggest failure by the early adopters and had to wait for almost 20 years to be adopted by the market.

Marketing to early adopters isn’t easy. There isn’t any rule of thumb strategy and the marketers need to get into their shoes to develop an effective marketing funnel. They need to understand early adopters’ expectations and reward them accordingly. For example: Paytm researched and found out that the early adopters would acknowledge cashback and would love to share the application with others when given cashback.

Current day early adopters include niche enthusiasts, status seekers and loyal customers who believe in buying the product during flash sales or during the initial days of the launch.

Early Majority

The early majority is the first sizeable segment (34%) of the target market to adopt the innovation. The people belonging to the early majority are not the risk-takers but have an above-average social status. They are often less educated less affluent and always look for cues from early adopters and innovators. They only adopt the innovation after being influenced by innovators and early adopters whom they follow or know personally.

People belonging to the early majority are not the opinion leaders. However, a variety of things and emotions motivate them to try innovation. These include social status, early adopters influence, love for new (but trustable) experience, etc.

Marketing to the early majority is fairly easy as compared to early adopters. The early majority usually believe in facts and stats as they are less educated than innovators and early adopters. They like to try new things and be a part of the social herd. They are attracted by the idea of a new experience that has been validated by the experts.

Current day early majority include people who follow the influencers on Youtube and review websites. These are the people who wait for 2 months for the reviews to come in and try the product.

Late Majority

Late majority is the last sizeable segment (34%) of the target market to adopt the innovation. This segment is made up of risk-averse adopters who only adopt the innovation when it is validated and assimilated as a part of daily life by a majority. People belonging to this segment are usually old, less educated and less affluent than the early majority.

People belonging to the late majority are very sceptical about new experiences, have below-average social status, and almost no opinion leadership.

The late majority believe early majority more than they believe in the marketing message. One has to appeal to the early majority first in order to reach to the late majority.

Current day early majority include people who wait for the next version to release before buying the previous version.


Laggards is the final segment (16%) of the target market to adopt the innovation. This segment is made up of seniors and those with very low socio-economic status who doesn’t like change and only accept new things and experiences when forced to.

People belonging to this segment don’t accept the innovation until all traditional alternatives are no longer available.  They are concerned with reliability, low costs, and ease of use. They belong to the very low-income group, are less educated, have low status and low social mobility.

Unlike the other groups, laggards are not reliant on the status quo. By the time they adopt the innovation, it has already become outdated and been replaced by newer versions.

Many marketers ignore laggards because of their disinterest in trying the products but since these people form 16% of the total customer base, they are a segment which could prove very useful when the product reaches its maturity.

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