In the article Rethinking ‘Crossing The Chasm’ by Alex Iskold, the author discusses the idea that the vast increase in high-tech products and rapid technological advances threaten the traditional view of a business ‘crossing the chasm’. He argues this by stating an abundance of products compete for the early adopters attention. And the attention of the early adopter segment is crucial as they are essentially the chain that links to the early majority and mass market.
The mention of the rapid growth of technology and competition for attention got me thinking, how do these early adopters discover new products and what makes them actually adopt them?
Sticking with the theme of rapid technology growth, I think the boom in the use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram has even further widened the competition for attention but at the same time has developed a platform for members of ALL segments in the technology-adoption curve to discuss and promote a new product. But the question remains, is discussion and ‘hype’ of a product enough? And how can this ‘hype’ be transformed into actual adoption of a new product, instead of merely discussion?
The Hype Cycle
One way to answer these questions is to examine what is known as the Hype Cycle created by Gartner Research. To my (very limited) knowledge of the hype cycle, the main purpose is to decipher the hype of new technology and to weed out the losers from the winners. The cycle consists of five parts as taken directly from Gartner’s website:
Technology Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories—often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.
So as shown above, it is often the case that hype can over exaggerate a new technology before it is proven. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can potentially eliminate the weaker technologies and concentrate user focus on the more appropriate technologies. Another positive aspect of ‘hype’ is the abundance of information it can provide. As I mentioned above, social media has drastically enhanced the ability to discuss and promote a product. Using this hype, businesses will be able to better detect whom is more likely to become an early adopter of their product and therefore better target their needs via segmentation and forming persona’s.
So, is hype really all a new technology needs to cross the chasm? Probably not. But if looked at correctly, it can serve as an opportunity to target early adopters and concentrate their focus, which is a necessary step in creating a successful link to the mass market.
On a side note, here is an interesting (but terrible quality video) of a visual representation of crossing the chasm. Check it out!