People Differ in Readiness to Try New Products

Rogers defines a person's innovativeness as "the degree to which an individual is relatively earlier in adopting new ideas than the other members of his social system." In each product area, there are consumption pioneers and early adopters. Some people are the first to adopt new clothing fashions or new appliances; some doctors are the first to prescribe new medicines; and some farmers are the first to adopt new farming methods. Other individuals adopt new products much later. People can be classified into the adopter categories shown in Figure 2-6. After a slow start, an increasing number of people adopt the innovation, the number reaches a peak, and then it diminishes as fewer nonadopters remain.

Rogers sees the five adopter groups as differing in their value orientations. Innovators are venturesome; they are willing to try new ideas. Early adopters are guided by respect; they are opinion leaders in their community and adopt new ideas early but carefully. The early majority are deliberate; they adopt new ideas before the average person, although they rarely are leaders. The late majority are skeptical; they adopt an innovation only after a majority of people have tried it. Finally, laggards are tradition bound; they are suspicious of change, mix with other tradition-bound people, and adopt the innovation only when it takes on a measure of tradition itself.

This classification suggests that an innovating firm should research the demographic, psychographic, and media characteristics of innovators and early adopters and direct communications specifically to them. For example, innovative farmers are likely to be better educated and more efficient. Innovative homemakers are more gregarious and usually higher in social status. Certain communities have a high share of early adopters. According to Rogers, earlier adopters tend to be younger in age, have higher social status, and a more favorable financial position. They utilize a greater number of more cosmopolitan information sources than do later adopters.45

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