When the entry point of technology is new, enhanced or existing, the technology acceptance by the customer will be different. The revised Technology Adoption Life Cycle is a model for understanding the acceptance of new technologies. The model describes the market penetration of any new technology product in terms of a progression in the types of consumers it attracts throughout its useful life as a bell curve.

As illustrated, the way to develop a market is to work the curve left to right, focusing first on innovators, growing that market, then moving on to the early adopters and so on through the early majority, late majority and on to the laggards. Innovators (technology enthusiasts) pursue new technology products aggressively. Early adopters (visionaries) buy into new product concepts early in their life cycle, but, unlike innovators, are not technologists. The early majority (pragmatists) share early adopter’s ability to relate to technology, but are driven by practicality. The late majority (conservatives) share all the concerns of the early majority, but wait until something has become an established standard. Finally the laggards (skeptics) do not want anything to do with new technology. The idea is to keep this process moving smoothly to maintain momentum in order to create a bandwagon effect that makes it natural for the next group to want to buy in, and to keep ahead of the next emerging technology. 

The biggest gap, the Chasm, is between the early adopters/visionaries and the early majority/pragmatists, where marketing could lose momentum and miss the transition to the next segment, never gaining profit-margin leadership in the middle of the bell curve. The basis for the sale and what must be delivered, is radically different to each group. The early adopter buys as a change agent; they seek a breakthrough not improvement. The goal of pragmatists is a percentage improvement, an incremental, measurable, predictable progress. Pragmatists focus on standardization and tend to be loyal; they want to buy from market leaders, but when a company crosses the chasm, it is not a market leader. Because of these differences, early adopters do not make good references for the early majority. Early majority’s concern is not to disrupt their organization; good references are critical to their buying decisions and the only suitable is that from another member of the early majority, but no upstanding member of the early majority will buy without consulting several suitable references. 

The biggest problem crossing the chasm is the lack of a customer base that can be referenced at the time of making the transition into a new segment. Fundamental differences between visionaries and pragmatists that compound the situation can be summarized as below.

  • Lack of respect for the value of colleagues’ experiences. Visionaries are the first in their industry segment to see the potential of the new technology. Pragmatists, value the experience of colleagues in other companies.
  • Taking a greater interest in technology than in their industry. Visionaries are defining the future. Pragmatists do not put a lot of stake in futuristic things.
  • Failing to recognize the importance of existing product infrastructure. Visionaries are building systems from the ground up. Pragmatists expect all these things.

The principle for crossing the chasm is to target a specific niche market and focus resources on achieving leadership in that segment as quickly as possible. A company should cross the chasm by targeting a very specific niche market where it can dominate from the outset, drive competitors out of that market niche, and then use it as a base for broader operations (Moore, 1991). The goal of the company during this stage is to create a reference-able pragmatist customer base. Breaking into a new market is to establish a strong word-of-mouth reputation among buyers, pragmatist buyers, along the industry lines. The focus must be on the concerns of the pragmatists, not the visionaries.

As products move through the Technology Adoption Life Cycle, the domain of greatest value to the customer changes. In the early market, where decisions are dominated by visionaries, the domains are technology and product. In the mainstream, where decisions are dominated by pragmatists and conservatives, the domains are market and company. Crossing the chasm represents a transition from product-based to market-based values.

The model works for established companies because of the well defined infra- structure they possess. When crossing the chasm, the main corporate objective is to secure a channel into the mainstream market with which the pragmatist customer will be comfortable. Crossing the chasm is a B2B model. To bring a disruptive technology to market, institutions must be active early in the life cycle, hence the widespread applicability of this approach.

Source: Geoffrey A. Moore, 1991, “Crossing the chasm”.

Source: Lettl, 2007, “User involvement competence for radical innovation”.

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