What are Adopter Categories

Adopter categories are classification of individuals based on their willingness to try out a new innovation or new product. It is related to the Diffusion of Innovations Theory and has been applied to a number of studies, including marketing, organizational studies, knowledge management, communications and complexity studies, among others.

Breaking Down Adopter Categories

The adopter categories were first named and described in the landmark book "Diffusion of Innovations" by sociologist Everett Rogers in 1962. According to Rogers' research, there are five adopter categories — innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Rogers identified key characteristics of each adopter category, such as the fact that early adopters have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the adopter categories, while the laggards are likely to be the oldest and most traditional individuals. The concept of adopter categories is widely used in present-day marketing, especially that of revolutionary new products or services. One contemporary area adopter catgories are especially relevant to is social network analysis.

Adopter Categories: Characteristics

In Rogers' adopter categories, he acknowledges that not everyone possesses the same motivation to adopt new technologies.

  • Innovators: These individuals adopt new technology or ideas simply because they are new. Innovators tend to take risks more readily and are the most venturesome.
  • Early Adopters: This group tend to create opinions, which propel trends. They are not unlike innovators in how quickly they take on new technologies and ideas, but are more concerned about their reputation as being ahead of the curve.
  • Early and late majority: If an idea or other innovation enters this group it tends to be widely adopted before long. This group makes decisions based on utility and practical benefits over coolness. The late majority shares some traits with the early majority but is more cautious before committing, needing more hand-holding as they adopt. Those who study Diffusion of Innovations consider the early and late majorities two separate categories.
  • Laggards: This group is slow to adapt to new ideas or tech. They tend to adopt only when they are forced to or because everyone else has already.

When comparing these groups the progression of adoption clearly is gradual and logical. Most marketers and business developers find that bridging the gap between early adopters and the early majority is their most vexing task. It represents a fundamental change in behavior to adopt something because it is new and cool and then progress to judging and adoption some new innovation because it is valuable, useful and productive. In the case of the early majority, coolness might actually be a detriment.