What are Adopter Categories?

Adopter categories divide consumers into segments based on their willingness to try out a new innovation or product.

Key Takeaways

  • Adopter categories divide consumers into segments based on their willingness to try out a new innovation or product.
  • Adopter categories, as a term, is part of the Diffusion of Innovations Theory and has been applied to several studies, including marketing, organizational studies, knowledge management, communications, and complexity studies, among others.
  • The adopter categories were first named and described in the landmark book Diffusion of Innovations by sociologist Everett Rogers in 1962.

Understanding Adopter Categories

Adopter categories, as a term, is part of the Diffusion of Innovations Theory and has been applied to several studies, including marketing, organizational studies, knowledge management, communications, and complexity studies, among others.

The adopter categories were first named and described in the landmark book Diffusion of Innovations by sociologist Everett Rogers in 1962. According to his 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 older, conservative, and more price conscious. The concept of adopter categories is widely used in present-day marketing, especially for revolutionary new products or services. For example, adopter categories are especially relevant to social network analysis.

Adopter Categories: Characteristics

In Roger's 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 tends 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 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.
  • Late majority: The late majority shares some traits with the early majority but is more cautious before committing, needing more hand-holding as they adopt.
  • Laggards: This group is slow to adapt to new ideas or technology. They tend to adopt only when they are forced to or because everyone else has already.

When comparing these groups, the progression of adoption 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 adopting some innovation because it is valuable, useful, and productive. In the case of the early majority, coolness might be a detriment.