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Early Adopters

What are Early Adopters?

The Anglo-Saxon term Early Adopters describes people who want to use innovative products as early as possible. Loosely translated it means “first or early adopters”. Today, the term is mainly used in technology marketing. Companies use Early Adopters as a “trendsetter” to publicize a new smartphone, for example. However, the term originally came from Everett M. Rogers’ 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations. Back then, the term had a different meaning.

The original concept for the Early Adopters

Rogers wanted to describe the life cycle of a product from its point of view. This was to show when it comes into contact with which customer groups. Within this framework, he brought in Early Adopters in second place:

  • Innovators
  • Early Adopters
  • The early majority of buyers
  • The late majority of buyers
  • Laggards

Building on this work, targeted research was conducted on the individual groups. For first-time or early adopters, this revealed a number of advantages in the area of technology and thus points of contact for marketing:

  • They also accept products that are not fully developed.
  • They are willing to pay higher purchase prices.
  • They have a positive self-image and describe themselves, for example, as “adventurous” or “enthusiasts” (in some research, however, this group is now also separated from the early adopters and included with the innovators).
  • They are particularly susceptible to the “FOMO” effect (“Fear of Missing Out”).
  • Early adopters target “share” effects. This “share” effect describes the sense of grandeur of being publicly the first to use new products.
  • Early adopters are excellent multipliers. They spread their affection for new products massively via social media, for example.


First-time or early adopters have a genetic trait that makes them suitable for this purpose. The “D4 receptor” is particularly strongly expressed in them. This regulates the release of the happiness hormone dopamine when people take a risk or venture. This means that it feels good for early adopters to acquire the product. They just need to be convinced by a suitable message that it is a worthwhile innovation.

Disadvantages in dealing with Early Adopters

However, some downsides also exist when dealing with early adopters:

  • They are quickly disappointed. Early adopters have a deep sense of having a problem to solve. They can accurately describe that problem. If the product cannot solve it, they quickly turn away.
  • They rarely show brand loyalty, but are easily willing to switch to the competition.
  • They are easily bored, which becomes a problem when they are asked to book subscription services.
  • They demand “special status” with the company they buy from because of their self-image. Many companies have had good experiences with open betas in this regard on the software side.

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