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product adoption curve illustrates stages of client's evaluation of product

Product Adoption: How Experts Guide Their Customers From Browsing To Buying

Phillip Reinhardt

As you aim to grow your company, organization, or brand, you likely know that in today’s market wise entrepreneurs make use of multiple digital portals.  When constructing the profile you want consumers to see, look at it through their eyes and examine what factors might spark a desire to learn more about you.  Marketers are no strangers to psychology—standard or abnormal, depending on your target audience–but you may not know that purchasing decisions actually result from a well-studied and predictable mental pathway.  We’ll go through the steps of a typical decision-making process for buyers collected from numerous studies through the years.  Knowing the intricacies of this process can give you an advantage to better communicate what you have to offer.

Six Stages of Product Adoption

product adoption stages of awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, adoption, post adoption

Whether investing in a product involves mere pocket change or a sizable chunk of their cash, people generally go through a mental process to make the decision of whether to part with their money.  The process may move rapidly or slowly, but its stages take the consciousness from curiosity to ownership.  During the product awareness stage, the potential customer hears about the product’s existence in the market.  If they continue reading, viewing promotional material, or actively seek to know more, they have entered the interest stage.  In the evaluation stage, the details they learned are digested and they begin to consider whether the product could be a good fit for them.  They move into the trial stage when they want a demonstration to see for themselves how the product works.  Actual purchase of the product happens in the adoption stage, while the post adoption phase goes a step further.  If the product helps the customer enough that they consider it a remarkable asset, they’ll recommend it to others.

When you and your illustrious team put the finishing touches on your new product and ready it for the market, it will face the same life cycle as all other products, passing through phases of introduction, growth, maturity, and then, unfortunately, decline.  It goes without saying that the force which moves the product up and down this curve is the total number of purchases.  Communicating to the public that your product can solve their problems and offer improvements and upgrades from others of its kind is key to changing consumer behavior, which provides the lifeline for your product.  New products must fight to be known and get attention.  New customers will buy other similar products unless they not only know about yours but have reason to believe yours is better, and longtime customers within the niche may have already settled into a comfortable routine of purchasing a competitor that has been around longer.  Successful marketing teams find a way to change consumer behavior using detailed knowledge of the product adoption process.

Awareness

Beginning with a commercial, a social media post or blog entry, or an introductory email offer, the potential customer first hears about the new product.  Along with designing websites and social media posts that customers will respond to, research shows that email campaigns often bring in even more business.  This introduction will hopefully plant the product’s name in their minds for whenever a need may arise as well as provide a brief run-through of the most important details the customer can easily absorb in passing.  Knowledge about the product will be scant, but potent first impressions can go a long way.

This simple understanding of either a brand-new product or an improved style or version should lead to the customer looking it up online or asking friends whether they have heard of it.  Ride the wave of appeal that comes with unveiling a fresh new idea, which is even easier when bringing out a new product or new version of an item as part of an established brand.  In this case, however, it’s essential that you know the product will live up to expectations and really shine, because missteps could tarnish the brand.

Interest

If an initial mention of the product has gotten a potential customer’s attention, their ears will likely perk up during further advertisements, offers, and other informational outlets.  Even better, they may recognize it as a possible asset to better their lives.  In the interest stage the customer starts out not knowing much about the product beyond salient highlights from ad campaigns, but it seems appealing enough that they want more details.  They will be receptive to emails about it and will likely take the time to browse the website.

Evaluation

At this point buying the product is a definite possibility.  Important information has been gathered, namely the product’s purpose, how it works, and the advantages it might offer as compared to similar products in the market.  The potential value of any item to a consumer is basically the benefits of the purchase minus the cost, so in this stage they will likely go a little deeper in their consideration of whether the purchase will be worthwhile.

Trial

Beyond perusing the product online or seeing it in person, this stage marks the first real interaction with the item.  This often involves a demonstration in which customers can try out the product for themselves.  It’s an important step in proving the product’s worth and assuring that the company’s claims stand on more than just empty advertising buzzwords.  With the myriad types of products out there, trying one out can mean a physical sample, a smaller-scale purchase, or limited-time usage.

If a potential buyer has gotten this far in their deliberation, a successful trial of the item stands a good chance of resulting in a purchase.

Adoption

The consumer decides the product will meet their needs and is worth the price.  A full-scale purchase is made and the item is put to use.  Product adoption and application of its benefits in the customer’s home and life will either further solidify their positive opinion or, if it does not perform as well as during the trial, create a negative impression that could show up on reviews.  While this stage may be thought of as clinching the deal, it’s also another critical point in the decision process as well.  Building up initial and continued positive experiences with the product once they own it can lead to repeat and long-term purchasing.

Post Adoption

This stage holds particular value as a marketing tool.  In the post adoption stage the customer becomes a frequent purchaser and feels comfortable suggesting to other people that they would benefit from it as well.  Potential customers hearing rave reviews from satisfied and unbiased customers gives your product the best possible press.

Who Buys When?

Let’s talk about how understanding your clients’ thought processes can guide you in tweaking your marketing strategy.  The term product diffusion describes how an item (hopefully) spreads through social groups and the population over time.  Different types of consumers tend to be interested in purchasing the item at different stages of its life, and knowing more about these categories can shape the way you target potential buyers with marketing campaigns.

Innovators

These people will most likely be the first of their group to own a new product as soon as it hits the market or even pre-order it.  They feel comfortable with the risks associated with being first because their interests lie in experiencing new technology, exploring all that’s out there, and staying current and cutting-edge.  Fortunately for you this group is more likely than other types of shoppers to impulse-buy, and even though most are highly intrigued with technical information they may care more about trying out what’s new than about poring over research pre-purchase.  This group is normally small in size but gets sales rolling.  To attract these buyers, show off the features that make your product new, different, and maybe even groundbreaking.

Early Adopters

This group of buyers still purchases ahead of their friend group but their reasons have less to do with trying out new technology for technology’s sake.  They’d like to see testimonies from a few others first, but still want to be leaders who try something potentially revolutionary.  People in this category are seen as influential and ahead-of-the-curve, but they generally go about purchasing in a slightly more calculated way, wanting to see their risk pay off.  Tap into this group by highlighting the competitive edge they’ll gain with your product.

Early Majority

This type leans more toward practicality, going after products that have already gained reviews.  Recommendations don’t have to be numerous but they do need to be from trustworthy sources.  Early majority buyers are more likely to do business with the market leader and usually buy at the height of the product’s popularity.  These folks will respond best when you summarize all your good reviews in ad campaigns.

Late Majority

This large chunk of your purchasers doesn’t much care for risk and wants the assurance of numerous positive experiences by others before committing.  At this point in your product’s life cycle whatever sales you’ve gotten can build on themselves simply because many people want to just keep up with what the majority seems to be doing and buying.  This group tends to be price-sensitive but may just have needed more proof of the product’s worth before spending the money.  Talk about the item’s popularity in an all-inclusive, everybody-needs-one way.

Laggards

People who are last to buy represent a way to extend the life cycle of your product as technology may be moving on or you may be developing new and different iterations.  Laggards typically chalk up marketing language as fluff.  Offer them a deep discount and they’ll likely hop on board, looking to capitalize on the best bargains.

Put Product Adoption Strategy To Use

combined tools such as SEO form your marketing strategy

If you’re among the many who find math painful, don’t clench too hard at the line-graph representation of the product adoption curve.  Fruitful marketing starts with a deeper understanding of potential customers to the point of predicting products they’re most likely to go after.  The product adoption curve breaks down the way in which people evaluate a new product, giving you a window into how to tailor it to their mindset during each step.