Is This The End of the Early Adopter? (Part 1 of 2)

Posted By Rick Saletta on 10/03/2017 at 11:36AM

For forty-four years, business schoolers and marketers have been taught that consumers fit into market segments defined by the classic adoption curve, and, that product lines should target individual market segments. However, with the emergence of the web-app economy, the classic adoption curve had begun to break down.


With classic product development methodology, it was generally understood that product marketers would refine features in an “alpha” testing process for a select few, trusted testers. After which, a feature complete “beta” product would be released to a larger group of testers who would benefit from early access and who were also willing to submit feedback to help eliminate bugs and improve product quality, prior to a general release.

However, Google’s multi-year beta process for Gmail essentially devalued the definition of the "beta” process by keeping software users in an indefinite beta period while adding and removing new features during the beta period. While an indefinite beta period is a trial of sorts, it is not unlike keeping a crime suspect indefinitely in-prisoned without a trial. Extended public betas keep customers in limbo, causing the deferral of substitute purchases and deployments. "Just get it into public beta” is the mantra. Extended public betas are becoming the new norm in the web app economy, yet quality does not appear to be increasing.

Innovators and early adopters have always been somewhat willing to tolerate the flaws in early release products to get access to the newest and coolest stuff. But, the web app economy has been driven by the democratization of app development. As often seen in democracies, the voters’ choices boil down to the lowest common denominators. Low quality. free software aka “crApps” in the app-stores is the new normal. Apps that have not been tested by the masses and reviewed in an App Store are too risky for most to install on a mission critical devices such as a personal cell phone or laptop for fear of malware, caching problems that will slow the device to a halt, stealing ones address book or even a virus. Yet, most consumers do not calculate the risk until after their devices crash or grind to a halt. It takes a telecom six months to test an app on a phone before releasing it, but only sixty seconds for a consumer to install an untested app.

Simultaneously, the trend among large corporations and start-ups alike is to release what is called an MVP, a "Minimally Viable Product,” as quickly as possible. And, here’s the catch. More and more of these device MVPs are targeting millenials. But, millenials don’t buy. They don’t buy cars (Uber) they don’t buy vacation homes (AirBnB), they don’t buy movies (NetFlix). While this trend is permeating the older generations, it is the Baby Boomers and Generation X consumers who now have the pocket cash to buy but are concerned that new technology won’t be secure and wont work with existing infrastructure. They have the experience and have seen this act before. Everything is an IT project, or to be buzzword compliant, an IoT project.

As for IoT adoption, the connection of mission critical home products such as refrigerators and door locks poses greater risk than reward. Educated consumers have seen this cycle before. Do you really want a minimally viable product running in your phone, your car or your home?

Despite the risks, we find ourselves in a web app beta culture with perpetual software updates, bug fixes and installation glitches. Even more so, independent developers and corporations alike will frequently use these updates as an opportunity to reset consumer privacy permissions and mine device for data. Thousands will stand in line to get the new iPhone 7. But, educated consumers (formerly early adopters) are learning to defer their purchase cycle and wait for the remaining early adopters to be used as crash test dummies while their Samsung batteries catch on fire. Like riders in the Olympic velodrome, there is a strategic advantage to staying behind.

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Tags: iot early adopter adoption curve smart home consumer

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