Technology

Product Adoption Curve: Connecting with Different User Types

To attract different types of users to your product and retain them, you need to understand how the product adoption curve works. Read on to learn the answer.

Introduction

It’s enough to launch a quality product to make users fall in love with it, right? 

Wrong.

However good your software is, you need to find a way to communicate its value to different types of users, in different stages of the product lifecycle.

To do it, you should understand how your product adoption curve looks. Not sure what we’re talking about? Then you definitely need to read on.

This article covers the five phases of the product adoption curve and explains how you could support each type of user on their way to adopting your software.

What is product adoption?

Product adoption occurs when a user realizes the product's value and understands how to achieve their goals by using its features.

The concept of product adoption is closely related to the so-called “aha!” moment.

The “aha!” moment is a point at which a user understands how a given product resolves their problem. 

But while the “aha!” moment is more about the emotional reaction of a user to a delightful discovery, product adoption is a continuous process. When adopting your product, users may have multiple “aha!” moments with different features and workflows.

What is the product adoption curve?

The product adoption curve is a model that visually represents how different types of users implement your product. 

The curve illustrates five types of customer segments based on how fast they adopt new products and technology:

  • Innovators.
  • Early adopters.
  • Early majority.
  • Late majority.
  • Laggards.

The bell curve perfectly illustrates how consumers have been adopting new technology for years, from the first telephone to the TikTok app.

When a new product is launched, it’s never met with enthusiasm by majorities.

Only a tiny percent of people (innovators) are willing to be the first to test the new technology.

Slowly, the product reaches the point where more people get interested in it and test it, with cautiousness (early adopters).

As the hype spreads and the product takes the shape, a large part of the audience (early majority) decides to adopt the product.

When the product is tried and tested well, the most cautious audiences (late majority) finally respond to peer pressure.

And lastly, the most resistant to change segment (laggards) adopts the product because it clearly makes their lives easier.

This is how product adoption throughout the product lifecycle looks. Therefore, you can’t address only one category of users when deciding on your product trajectory, developing a training program, or writing marketing content.

Product teams need to understand their product adoption curve to be able to adjust feature releases, messaging and the timing of that messaging to increase product adoption among different types of users.

5 Types of users on the product adoption curve

Below you’ll find all five customer segments explained. You’ll also learn how to adjust your product adoption strategy to increase adoption among each segment.

Innovators

Innovators are typically tech-savvy enthusiasts eager to beta-test new products or features. 

It’s psychology that distinguishes this customer segment from the other ones. Innovators want to be the first to experience new technology and — in a way — contribute to creating products that might change the technology landscape. To attract them, you need a truly unique value proposition.

They’re considered to make up just 2.5 percent of the market, but we haven’t found the source of this statistic. So you just have to believe — innovators are a teeny-tiny percent of your target audience.

This audience group usually doesn’t have a serious pain point they need to solve urgently. Most often, they test products out of curiosity. That’s why you aren’t likely to get money from them — these people move too fast to stick to one specific brand. 

You may also find innovators in your existing customer base. These are typically loyal customers that are happy to test new features before you release them.

How to address innovators

Here are three tips that will help you increase the adoption of your product by addressing innovators with the right positioning and messaging.

  • Make them feel unique: It’s unlikely that you find innovators without proactively reaching out to them. So you’ll need a good outreach message first. In your pitch, stress that the people who beta test your product are the first to access the game-changing technology. Emphasize that this opportunity is exclusive. 
  • Reward them: Innovators understand they’ll have to wade through bugs and issues of a brand-new product or feature. But to make sure they don’t churn too fast, give them a reason to stay. Should it be a large discount for a premium plan of your product or an Amazon gift card? It’s for you to decide.
  • Have technical documentation in place: Innovators are tech-savvy, but they aren’t magicians. To figure out the workflows and troubleshoot, they need instruction manuals

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This is where Scribe will be handy. Use Scribe to get auto-generated training guides and step-by-step instructions, complete with screenshots, instructions and clicks. 

  • Be there to support them: Innovators are going to face a lot of difficulties with your product. And you should be there to help them. Engage customer support in the process to help out innovators promptly and train your support team to handle common issues.
  • Collect their feedback: If most of them will never become your paying users, why would you lay yourself out to attract them? The feedback you can get from your innovators will help you build a product all the other types of users will want to try.

When you have innovators on board, reach them with surveys, watch their behaviors, and meet with them to collect insights that your product team will use for further product development.

Early adopters

Early adopters are less risky than innovators, but they’re ready to commit in the early stages of the product lifecycle. They represent a bigger chunk of the market than innovators — about 13.5 percent.

These people are also tech-savvy and know how to troubleshoot if necessary, but they fit your ideal customer personas better than innovators. Early adopters are more likely to pay for a premium plan and stick to your product if they like it.

This group expects your product to be customized around their specific needs and to deliver on its promised value fast. Early adopters are willing to tolerate some technical issues, but they’re going to need a greater level of support than the innovators.

How to address early adopters

Here’s what you should do to make the most of your early adopters.

  • Implement in-app guidance: This user segment appreciates personalized product experiences. Create in-app onboarding flows, walkthroughs and tooltips to spark early adopters’ joy once they log into your app for the first time. Use in-app guidance to show them how your software solves their pain point in a revolutionary way and bring them to the “aha!” moment.
  • Acknowledge their contribution: Similar to innovators, early adopters love to feel exclusive. Show them you appreciate their contribution to the development of your product by offering them valuable gifts, discounts and other perks.
  • Talk to them often: Early adopters’ feedback is no less valuable than innovators’. To build a product that attracts the early majority, ask your early adopters to tell you about their experience with your product and share what kind of features they would like to see next. 
  • Collect their reviews: Together with early adopters, you can develop a lot of marketing assets. Place their testimonials on your website, record video reviews, and write your first case studies based on the data your early adopters share with you. 

Oops, what’s the chasm?

There’s a gap between the early adopters and early majority categories, called the chasm.

Since the early majority is way more demanding than the early adopters, you need to do a lot of work before you can attract the early majority to your product.

The only way to bridge the gap is by acting on the feedback you’ve collected from the innovators and early adopters. Once you get your product ready to meet the early majority, you cross the chasm. 

Early majority

The early majority is the most pragmatic audience group. They make up 34 percent of the market, and winning their love will be a huge success for you. 

This type of users is slow to make buying decisions and relies heavily on good references from existing customers. But once they adopt your product, they may become your most valuable and loyal customers.

The early adopters don’t necessarily need a revolutionary product. They need a practical solution to their problem. 

How to address the early majority

Follow these tips to attract and retain the early majority.

  • Eliminate bugs: The early majority won’t tolerate constant bugs and glitches. Make sure to take care of it before you onboard this segment.
  • Design a comprehensive knowledge base: Contrary to the innovators and early adopters, the early majority isn’t eager to talk to your support team too often. They want to be able to find all the necessary information in your knowledge base. 

To attract and retain the early majority, create comprehensive end-user documentation that will support them throughout their entire journey with your product. Don’t forget to use Scribe to generate your guides on autopilot.

  • Position yourself as an obvious fit: In the previous stages, you could question each of your actions to make sure you’re setting the right trajectory. Now, you need to position your product as the only perfect fit for your audience. 
  • Encourage referrals: However skeptical your early majority may feel about your product in the early stages of the customer journey, this is the category of people who are most likely to turn into your brand advocates. 

Create an affiliate program to encourage the early majority to recommend your product to their network and reward your loyal customers.

Late majority

The late majority are incredibly reluctant to change and aren’t ready to take any risks. They make up a surprising 34 percent of the product adoption curve, which means you have to find a way to address them with your product adoption strategy. 

This category knows their pains and how your product solves them, but they’ll never sign up for a product that hasn’t been approved by peers.

These people usually have a tighter budget than the early majority and will pay for a premium plan only if it’s absolutely necessary (yet it’ll take a lot of time for them to say “yes”).

  • How to address the late majority: The late majority makes up about one-third of your audience — you have to find a way to build lasting relationships with them if you want to thrive.
  • Implement a free trial version: People in this category won’t convert unless they’ve experienced the benefits of your product and reached the “aha!” moment (for free!). Use a free trial or a freemium plan to attract the late majority to your software.
  • Offer discounts & perks: This is a category of users that will wait for the Black Friday deals or the Christmas discount to switch to new software. You’ll attract the late majority’s attention by promoting discounts through retargeting ads and emails.
  • Develop a comprehensive product: Multi-functional products are a hook for the late majority. They don’t like using several apps to resolve one problem. By making your product more comprehensive, you’ll have way more chances to win these people’s love.
  • Write product comparisons: The late majority is most likely to have a solution for their problem(s) in their tech stack. They’ll switch to yours only if they’re absolutely sure it has the benefits no other software has. Create product comparison tables to convince the stubborn late majority to try your app.

Laggards

Laggards are the last to join your customer base. They might be late to the party, but it doesn’t mean they have no value for you. They make up about 16 percent of the curve, which is rather a significant audience chunk.

These people adopt new products only when they see that everyone around them already uses the product. The laggards will watch the brand from the distance and read a lot of marketing resources before they convert into paying users.

How to address laggards

Here’s how you win the laggards’ attention. Mind that you shouldn’t invest too much time in actively targeting the laggards.

  • Use social proof: It’s important to position yourself as a market leader to attract the laggards. Add customers’ logos on your website, publish more case studies, and partner with other big brands to dispel any doubts about your brand reputation.
  • Build strategic partnerships: To capture the laggards’ attention, you need to build a very strong online presence. Ideally, you’ll partner with their favorite brands to win their trust and stay on top of their minds. 
  • Invest in content: Use top-funnel marketing content, tutorials, and user guides to support the laggards through their customer journey. These people appreciate quality content that helps them guide their decision-making.

Support each user on the product adoption curve

No matter what phase of the product adoption curve you’re in, your users need good product documentation.

Scribe is your partner in designing a comprehensive knowledge base in no time. Use Scribe to auto-generate technical documentation and user guides for all types of customers.

Sign up for Scribe today.