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Diffusion of Innovations Theory

Vishwadeep Khatri

Message added by Mayank Gupta,

Diffusion of Innovations Theory is a hypothesis proposed by Everett Rogers on how, why and at what rate the people in the population adopt a new idea or a product or a technology.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Subodh Tripathi on 12th Feb 2021.


Applause for all the respondents - Vikram Kenjale, Jayanth Sura, Subodh Tripathi, Santosh Sharma


Q 338. Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovations Theory helps explains how, why and at what rate the new products and services get adopted by customers. Explain the theory along with the various types of adopters.


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) is a theory popularized in 1962 by Everett Rogers, the American communication theorist and sociologist, which seeks to understand how, why, and the pace at which a product, service, or process spreads through a population or social structure. The diffusion of innovation, in other words, describes the pace at which new ideas and technologies spread. Marketers extensively use the diffusion of innovation theory to consider the pace at which customers are likely to embrace a new product or service.


The introduction of a new product, service or concept is not an instantaneous phenomenon; in a social environment, it does not occur equally among all individuals. Consumers who accept an innovation earlier exhibit different characteristics than those who embrace an innovation later, according to studies. Therefore, recognizing the features of each segment that will either assist or impede the acceptance of an innovation is critical for marketers.

There are five adopter groups in the diffusion of innovation theory:


1. Innovators: Characterized by those who want creativity to be the first to try it.


2. Early Adopters: Characterized by those that are comfortable with change and new concepts that are embraced.


3. Early Majority: Distinguished before the average citizen by those who embrace fresh technologies. However, there is a need for proof that innovation works before innovation is implemented in this category.

4. Late Majority: Characterized by those who are wary of change and would only embrace an idea after the majority of the population has generally embraced it and adopted it.

5. Laggards: Characterized by those who are very traditional and conservative – they are the last to make the changeover to new technologies. This category is the hardest to appeal to.


The distribution of the five adopter groups is given by Rogers as follows: innovators account for the first 2.5 percent of the group to embrace an invention, followed by 13.5 percent as early adopters, 34 percent as early majorities, 34 percent as late majorities, and eventually 16 percent as laggards. Notice that the size of the category of laggards is much greater than that of the category of innovators at the opposite end of the continuum.


Understanding Early Adopters and Customer Adoption Patterns



Let's look at each type and how they vary from one another:


1. Innovators: Those who want to be the first to acquire a new product or service are innovators. They are risk-takers, price-insensitive, and have a high degree of volatility to deal with. For the success of every new product or service, innovators are crucial as they enable it to gain consumer acceptance.  For example, innovators are considered to be people who stay overnight outside a movie theatre to be the first to buy the first show for a movie.

2. Early Adopters: Early adopters are those that are not quite as risk-taking as innovators and usually wait before making a purchase for the product or service to receive some feedback. Early adopters are referred to as "influencers" or "leaders of opinion" and are also considered within their social structure as role models. They are important in helping to reach "critical mass" in the spread of a product or service.  Consequently, if early adopters of a product or service are limited, it is possible that the total number of people who accept the product or service will also be small. Early adopters are known to be individuals who wait a few days and spend some time reading reviews before going to see a movie.

3. Early Majority:  The rest of the market reflects the early majority, 34 percent. The early majority are not risk-taking and usually wait until a trusted peer checks or uses a product or service. These people are cautious and want to buy stuff that is known to work. Early majorities are people who go to a movie after it's been out for weeks and received positive reviews and made money at the box office.

4. Late Majority: A large proportion of the market, 34 percent, also reflects the late majority. The last big group of customers to enter the market is the late majority. When making a purchase, they are considered conservative and are often technologically shy, very cost-sensitive, cynical, and cautious. Furthermore, the late majority is often forced by peers to buy the product or service. People who are waiting to make a movie available online or on Netflix are known to be the late majority.

5. Laggards: The last to accept a new product or service are Laggards. They resent change and may, until they are no longer available, continue to rely on conventional goods or services. In other words, when practically compelled to do so, they usually only accept the latest technology. Laggards may eventually catch a hit movie on network TV when it's shown.



The diffusion of the theory of innovation describes the pace at which a new product or service will be accepted by customers. The theory therefore helps advertisers understand how patterns arise, and helps businesses determine the probability of a new introduction's success or failure. Companies can anticipate which categories of customers will buy their product/service and build successful marketing campaigns to drive acceptance into each category by using the propagation of innovation theory.

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Diffusion of Innovations

This theory by Everett Rogers explains how a new idea, product, technology or behavior gains a momentum and spreads over the time through specific set of population or social system. The end result of this diffusion is that people, as part of a social system, adopt a new idea, product, technology or behavior. Adoption means that a person does something completely different to what they had previously (example buy a new product etc.). The key to adoption is that the person must perceive the new idea, product, technology or behavior as new or innovative.


Adoption of a new idea, product, technology or behavior (i.e. innovation) does not happen at the same time in a social set up. Some set of population adopt an innovation early while others take longer time for adoption. The people who adopt early have different characteristics than people who adopt later. There are five adopter categories viz. Innovators, Early Adopters, Pragmatists (Early Majority), Conservatives (Late Majority) and Laggards. The typical spread for these categories is shown in the graph below;



The characteristic of different adopter categories as follows;


Hence, while promoting an innovation, there are different strategies used to appeal to the different adopter categories.


As per Geoffrey A. Moore, in between Early Adopters and Pragmatists lies a chasm. This is mainly because the both these adopter categories represent very different expectations and for crossing the chasm, detailed deliberate efforts are to be made by choosing a target market, understanding the whole product concept, positioning the product, building a marketing strategy, choosing the most appropriate distribution channel and pricing.


Sources : a) 280 Group OPP, b) Boston University School of Public Health

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Diffusion of Innovation (DOI):- DOI is one of the pioneer theory s which explains how a products or a service been accepted by its end users and the growth curve of that product's acceptance.


DOI is developed by E.M. Rogers an American sociologist in the year 1962.


Any products or service for that matter will be used or accepted by very few in the early stages. The growth curve of the product's acceptance will be based the feedback from the early users.


In the whole journey of the product's acceptance to obsolete, it will under go different phases and each phase is associated with different kinds of adopters. They are as mentioned below.


1. Innovators:- Innovators are the set of people who accept new innovations / products. The inquisitiveness of the innovators is the prelude for the success of any product.  Innovators are venturesome and interested in new ideas.


2. Early Adopters:- Early adopters are usually leaders who are open for changes and slick enough to embrace changes and use them as opportunities. They use new services and products after Innovators and will carry the product's success on their shoulders.


3. Early Majority:- These set of people are the next batch who takes over the relay stick of the new product / service from early adopters. At this stage the growth of acceptance of the product / service will grow rapidly and the product will get exposed to the world to the maximum extend.


4. Late Majority:- Late majorities are the people with little inertia to changes and they only accept after the product/service been accepted by early majorities. 


5. Laggards:- Laggards are often rigid for changes, unlike "Late Majorities", laggards refuse to use new products and service unless they are cornered by circumstances like survival issues. 


This theory will help the R&D and marketing team to find their target audiences at each stage of the product / service's acceptance growth.


R&D teams can work closely with marketing team to fix challenges based on the feedback from "Innovators" to ensure the product / service will reach the world flawless.



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What is The Diffusion of Innovation?
This model helps businesses to understand how a buyer adopts and engages with new products or technologies over time. Companies will use it when launching a replacement product or service, adapting it or introducing an existing product into a replacement market.
It shows how the merchandise are often adopted by five different categories/customer types and therefore the thanks to interact as a business with these kinds of people:



Of course, the emergence of latest digital technologies and marketing techniques means the diffusion of innovation model is particularly relevant to digital marketers. Analysts Gartner have an extended standing report showing the stages of adoption of latest technologies that's useful for digital strategists to follow.

Returning to the DOI, what characterises each of the groups of adopters, generally they have these characteristics, see the primary work by Everett M. Rogers for more details.
1. Innovator. they're alittle group of people exploring new ideas and technologies. It includes "gadget fetishists!" during an internet marketing context there are many specialist blogs & media platform to interact them, Engadget and Gizmodo for examples.
2. Early Adopters. Considered to be Opinion Leaders who may/will share positive testimonials about new products and services, seeking improvements and efficiency. Engagement requires little persuasion as they're receptive to vary . Provide guides on the way to use the product/service.
3. Early Majority. These are Followers who will read reviews by earlier adopters about new products before purchasing and that they are often engaged with reviews and via various Media, where they go to look for your products.
4. Late Majority. To generalise, these are sceptics who aren't keen on change and may only adopt a replacement product or service if there is a robust feeling of being left behind or missing out. they will be engaged with providing marketing material, evidence, reviews from Opinion Leaders and case studies to means how it works.
5. Laggards. The descriptor says it all! Typically they like traditional communications and may adopt new products when there aren't any alternatives. Laggards will come on board when 'others' have written about your products/services, they need research evidence, statistics or felt pressure from others.

How to use the Diffusion of Innovation?
If you're launching a replacement tech product, like software, you'll use this model which may help with identifying the marketing materials needed for each group.
The Adoption theory is most useful when watching new product launches, but it are often useful when taking existing products or services into a replacement market.


Examples of how it are often applied to digital marketing strategies?
This is an example supported launching new software to the varied groups.
Innovator: Show the software on key software sites like Techcrunch, or Mashable. Providing marketing material on the online site , with relevant information and cause potential sales with downloads.
Early Adoptor: Create guides and increase the most software sites, providing marketing material like case studies, Guides and FAQs.
Early Majority: Blogger outreach with guest blog posts and supply links to social media pages, key facts and figures, and 'how to' YouTube videos.
Late Majority: Encourage reviews & comparisons and share press commentary on your website. Provide a press section & social proof with information and links to reviews, testimonials, third party review sites etc
Laggards: It's probably not worth trying to appeal to the present group!

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