The product adoption curve demonstrates the timeline across which different types of users begin to use your product. It’s rare for everyone to immediately jump on board the moment a new kind of product is released. Usually, different types of users trickle in at different phases of the product’s life according to their needs.
If you search the internet for a definition of product adoption, you might find a few different product adoption meanings. The product adoption curve looks a little bit different for each industry, but it can always be broken down into five phases:
Let’s explore these five phases and how they fit together in more detail.
Product Adoption Curve Definition
The product adoption curve (sometimes called the technology adoption curve or innovation adoption curve) tracks the way different types of users adopt a product at different phases in the product’s life. Let’s analyze each phase of the product adoption curve in detail from the perspective of a B2B SaaS company.
Innovators are the very first group of users to adopt your software. They make up the smallest percentage of the user adoption curve by far. Usually, innovators of SaaS products are very tech-savvy individuals who love trying out new products just for the fun of experiencing the newest technology. They may not even have a problem that needs solving — they’re just eager to take part in pioneering new tech.
Above all, innovators are risk-takers who don’t mind trying out an imperfect product. They typically expect that the software is not completely refined and are willing to try it out anyway. They don’t necessarily expect it to deliver exponential value, they’re just interested in new tech solutions. Innovators are a great source of early feedback because they don’t mind investing time in unproven products. People who sign up for beta tests are examples of innovators.
After innovators come early adopters. Early adopters also love to try out new, relatively unproven products, but they’re slightly more risk-averse than innovators. Early adopters wait for the first few positive reviews to roll in before they adopt your software. They’re interested in pioneering new products, but they also have practical needs they have to meet for their business. Waiting for the innovators to help smooth out the product’s wrinkles first gives them more assurance that they're actually getting a finished product that will provide reliable value.
However, early adopters are still bigger risk takers than most of the product adoption curve. Early adopters are often tech-savvy thought leaders like startup founders with enough capital to spend on cutting-edge solutions for their companies.
The early majority is a much larger group, typically around a third of the full product adoption curve. Crossing the “chasm” between early adopters and the early majority is a significant milestone for your business’s growth. At this point, it’s often necessary to pivot from marketing to startup founders and other risk-takers and start marketing instead to practical, mainstream users.
Members of the early majority typically want to see a bit of a reliable track record from your business. They're open to innovation but aren’t necessarily interested in trailblazing new tech — they’re more interested in reliable, finished products that provide new solutions.
The early majority waits for innovators and early adopters to test new software, but once it’s been proven, they’re more than happy to jump aboard. They often rely on references from innovators and early adopters in their networks.
When there’s a lack of communication between the first two groups of users and the early majority, marketers have to find other ways to introduce the members of the early majority to new products.
The late majority is also a fairly large group that makes up another third of the product adoption curve. These users are not risk takers, sometimes because they don’t have the budget to allow it. The late majority adopts new software solutions out of necessity, not because they’re curious about new technology.
Generally, the late majority has already heard of your product because, by this point, your product is no longer new. However, they still aren’t convinced it’s worth adopting. They often continue doubting a product’s value even after seeing positive reviews from other users. A major motivator for members of the late majority is the fear that they’ll be at a competitive disadvantage if they’re the last to adopt your product.
Laggards make up a much smaller percentage of the product adoption curve than the early or late majority do. The laggard group is closer in size to the early adopters' group. Laggards tend to dislike change and are frequently skeptical of new technology. They may even avoid adopting a new software solution simply on principle.
Most people in the laggard category aren’t very familiar with technology and have no interest in learning. Your product’s popularity doesn’t convince them, and they’ll likely only adopt it once they feel they have no other option.
Usually, this happens when disruptive technology shifts an industry so drastically that doing business without it becomes nearly impossible. For example, companies that have avoided establishing a social media presence until very recently fall into the laggard category.
Product Adoption Process
The product adoption curve is an important tool to help you visualize your product’s adoption process. Understanding each phase of the product adoption curve is crucial for marketing your product effectively to the right audience.
The reason the product adoption curve is called a “curve” is because of the way the percentage of users in each phase combines to form a bell curve. It starts with very few innovators, then gradually rises with early adopters, rises sharply and peaks with the early and late majority, then quickly tapers off again with the laggards.
There are a lot of ways you can improve your product adoption. One effective method is to invest in user education. Often, a user’s decision whether or not to adopt your product comes down to value. How much value will the user get from your product if they adopt it? If users don’t understand the value your product can offer, they aren’t as likely to try it.
By offering online access to extensive resources that demonstrate the value of your products, you can improve product adoption. Potential customers who are better educated about what your product can do for them are more likely to adopt the product fully.