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Technology Adoption Curve and the Chasm

by | Mar 31, 2023 | Favorites, Management, Product | 0 comments

Summary of takeaways from Geoffery Moore’s book, Crossing the chasm. Since its first publication in 1991, it has been a canon for marketing and sales decision-making in product management.

The groups in the technology adoption cycle represent a unique psychographic profile related to introducing new technology. Customers’ personality characteristics concern the technology/product domain, not stereotypical defining attributes of the customer.

For example, a person, when it comes to a new restaurant in the neighborhood, would be conservative but enthusiastic about the latest smartphone developments.

Innovators

Aggressively pursue new products, sometimes seeking new products out even before the formal marketing has been launched. They like to tinker with new technologies and explore new device properties. They are intrigued by any fundamental technological advancement and are essential to win over since few innovators exist in any market segment. Winning them over is vital because their endorsement assures others that your technology works. They do not require your product to be fully developed, and they appreciate the truth in marketing literature. Given their technical inclination, they can test for and see through marketing exaggerations, preferring to shun products that waste their time with fluff. 

Early Adopters

They buy into product concepts very early, but unlike innovators, they are not technologists. They find it easy to imagine, understand and appreciate the benefits of new technology and marry these benefits to their other concerns. They do not rely on well-established references in making their buying decision. Instead, they rely on their intuition and vision.  Early adopters are the key to opening a new market segment because they are the first to envision significant unique benefits for technology. Early adopters are often early investors in the product because it is a means to solve their actual problem and gain a competitive advantage. This can concern product owners (managers) because the early adopters often supply significant funding and can steer product development toward solving a specific problem. Early adopters’ need for specialized solutions in products creates tension with creating a generalized product that solves the market problem.

Early Majority

A strong sense of practicality drives them. They are content to wait out fads. They value a product that works and provides functional utility. The early majority is less tolerant of product deficiencies and desires a product that improves existing operations’ productivity. Unlike visionary early adopters, the pragmatic early majority wants evolution that enhances established business ways. The early majority represents a large portion of the overall market segment, and they prefer references from others in the early majority. This catch-22 situation makes the adoption of technology from Early adopters to Early Majority a dangerous one.

 

Crossing the Chasm

Geoffrey Moore uses the analogy of taking a beachhead on D-Day from World War II to emphasize a product’s “life-or-death” situation when it is past the early market and has yet to break into the mainstream market. Once a product organization has decided to cross the chasm into the mainstream market:

 

  • it takes aggressive prioritization to identify a niche market segment to serve and prove the product’s usefulness to early majority pragmatists. A strategic choice to quickly become a significant player in a smaller market segment is more valuable than being an also-ran in a large market segment.
  • The purpose of taking beachhead is to establish reference-able customers that will help win other reference-able early majority customers. 
  • Sales, marketing, product development, and executives must commit to shared goals of making a toe-hold on the mainstream market. This strategic decision requires product development to make hard choices and say “No” to some or many customers.

 

Late Majority

They require a much easier path to adoption. Late adopters are less willing to become technically competent in using a new product, so the product needs to be made easier to adopt. Before considering technology adoption, they typically wait for a product to become standard and want an established ecosystem of supporting services, vendors, tools, etc. The late majority represents a large group of potential customers. It is a lucrative customer segment since their conservative stance reflects their reluctance to abandon your product once it is established with late majority conservatives.

Laggards

Skeptics want nothing to do with new technology for various reasons. The only time they buy the product is unknowingly when it is buried deep inside another product they already use. Laggards are considered not worth pursuing on any other basis.

Better late than never. This post has been in my “done” pile for more years than I dare admit. Ironic for a post on product management. Geoffrey Moore’s book has stood the test of time, the best test there is. A great book cannot be summarized, and this post only attempts to capture my cliff notes. I hope you find it helpful and piques your interest to pick up the book and dive into its excellent stories and examples.

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