Early Adopter

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An early adopter (or lighthouse customer or trendsetter) is an early consumer of a given company, product, or technology; in politics, fashion, art, and other fields, this person would be referred to as a trendsetter. The term originates from communications scholar Everett M. Rogers’ 1962 sociology text, ‘Diffusion of Innovations.’ Early adopters often provide considerable and candid feedback to help vendors refine future product releases, as well as the associated means of distribution, service, and support.

The relationship is synergistic, with the customer having early (and sometimes unique, or at least uniquely early) access to a new product or technology, but also serving as a test subject. In exchange for being an early adopter, and thus being exposed to the problems, risks, and annoyances common to early-stage product testing and deployment, the lighthouse customer is sometimes given especially attentive vendor assistance and support, even to the point of having personnel at the customer’s work site to assist with implementation. The customer is sometimes given preferential pricing, terms, and conditions, although new technology is very often expensive.

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