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Adoption rates is perhaps one of the most important issues facing anyone selling a new technology or product. What are the reasons why people would quickly adopt a new technology or product, as compared to putting it off?

Startup companies with limited funds, for example, need to get people to adopt their product quickly. But older companies also often come up with new and different products as well, and they also need to understand this question. If it's a brand new technology or innovation we're talking about, then this article is for you.

To be sure, there has been a lot written about this subject, and much of it written within the last few years. Take, for example, Geoffrey Moore's popular book "Crossing the Chasm" which essentially looks at how you get people to adopt a radical or new technology after the innovators, the people who tend to adopt any and all new technologies, have adopted it.

Well, you might think this is indeed a new topic and relevant for today's world. In fact, this has been examined throughout the 1900s for academic and highly practical reasons. The practical reasons are obvious, but the specifics are related to the adoption of farming techniques, of all things. Long ago, many people became interested in why farmers might adopt new types of seed corn and machinery. These were new products to be sure, and not much different in importance to the economy at that time than computers or wireless devices are today.

WHAT DO WE KNOW?

Research indicates that to fully explain why people might readily adopt a new technology you must consider a large number of issues. But we aim to boil this down and make this more useful for you by focusing on five simple ideas. Our discussion is based on the seminal ideas of Everett M. Rogers (The Diffusion of Innovations) and supported by several empirical studies, including several grand summary studies known as meta-analyses.

RELATIVE ADVANTAGE

This is simply the degree to which the new technology is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes. This is essentially the concept of a better mousetrap. This requires little discussion since most people focus on this dimension of any new idea. As you might think, the higher the perception of a relative advantage, the more likely the technology will be quickly adopted.

While many people stop there, the adoption rate is dependent on four additional dimensions.

COMPATIBILITY

This is the degree to which the new technology is perceived as consistent with existing values, past experiences, and the needs of potential adopters. The more compatible it is, the faster a new technology will be adopted.

Compatibility is often thought in terms of technical specifications. But as you can see, there may be aspects of technical compatibility here. For example, when what you sell is incompatible in a technical sense, then it's not consistent with the past experiences of potential adopters.

But compatibility is much more. Say you're selling a new dispensing device to hospitals that allows patients to self-administer drugs. Is this compatible? It turns out that such devices make nurses tend to feel less powerful in their role as care givers, thus the device is incompatible with the social structure in a hospital.

Something can be incompatible by requiring potential adopters to acquire a new set of skills, or even something less tangible. For example, one of the reasons why the Palm Pilot was more easily adopted than prior incarnations of personal digital assistants was that the language (Graffiti) was far more compatible with the way people write than were previous attempts.

In our article on The Problems with E-Books, we pointed out how compatibility with the way people read can be a deterrent to adoption.

Never underestimate the power of compatibility. It is often shown to have dramatic effects on the rate of new technology adoption.

COMPLEXITY

Technologies that are perceived as difficult to understand and use are more slowly adopted than those which are easy to understand and use.

For this reason, ease of use is an important characteristic of successful technologies. Never underestimate the power of ease of use.

TRIALABILITY

Can your new technology be experimented with on a limited basis? If so, it is trialable. Research indicates that this increases the rate of adoption.

For this reason, it is a good idea to let customers try out your site or software for free. Don't think of this as a giveaway, think of it as improving their rate of adoption by experimenting with your technology.

OBSERVABILITY

This final factor is the extent to which the results of the technology -- the benefits -- are visible. If potential customers can't easily see the results, they are less likely to quickly adopt a new technology.

So, think of ways to make the benefits observable to your customers. This obviously depends on the technology, but ask yourself the following question: If you were trying out the technology, what would you want to "see" that proves the technology is providing the benefits promised?

BOTTOM LINE

New technologies are more quickly adopted when potential customers perceive them to be: 1) better than what they used before; 2) compatible in all senses of the word; 3) easy to use; 4) easy to try out; and 5) easy to see the benefits.

These seem simple. But the landscape of business is littered with new and exciting technologies that failed to be sensitive to these five ideas. Don't let your technology fall into that trap.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is the founder of MarketingProfs as well as the founding teacher and director of Mindful USC, and a senior teacher at InsightLA.org where he has taught mindfulness classes for the past 12 years. He started meditating in the mindfulness tradition in 2005 and in 2011 his Basics of Mindfulness class at InsightLA was noted the Best in Los Angeles by LA Magazine.