Laggard or early adopter: Which one are you?

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CherylPearsonMcNeilbox

Were you one of the first to run out and grab an iPad when they hit the market this spring? If you’re a more affluent 25- to 36-year-old, you would be part of Apple’s most fertile consumer market. That’s according to The Nielsen Co.’s latest iPhone and iPad User Profiles. I work for Nielsen, which is a market research company; the largest one in the world. And we measure what you buy and what you watch—including mobile and online services. (And yes, television, which is still a strong contender in this growing technological universe. There are just more and more ways to watch it.) One of the perks of my job is being the recipient of the latest tech toys, which is how I have come to be the owner of an iPod, a Flip Video Camera, a Slingbox, a Kindle, and as of today, an iPhone 4.

I’m not an early adopter, which is the term for someone—about 14 percent of the population actually—who are the first to embrace new technology or any new idea before other consumers do so. I’m sure you know someone who’s gotta have “IT” first, no matter what “IT” is. Well, that’s never been me. When it comes to technology, you would call me just the opposite—a laggard. (It’s not as bad as it sounds, and the mon­iker isn’t one my mom would be embarrassed to have me called in public,) In consumer terminology, it just means I’m the person who is among the last to adopt a new idea or product. Personally, I’m only interested in a product after all the kinks have been worked out and the price has fallen so much it’s almost free! Me and others like me represent about 18 percent of the population. Which means you won’t find us rushing out to stand in anybody’s long line to buy the latest technology the day a product hits the market.

Most consumers fall in the middle between early adopters and laggards. You’re either the early majority—the 34 percent of the population that jumps on the bandwagon just after innovators and early adopters, but before the late majority and laggards—or the late majority, the other 34 percent who are a bit more cautious, but don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming like the laggards.

Nielsen research shows that while we laggards are not early adopters; we do adopt. Eventually. And like other consumer groups that are exposed to Apple’s cool IOS technology that allows you to play with all those fun apps, once we’re exposed to either an iPhone or an iPad, there’s no turning back. So while the more affluent 25-36 age group continues to be the primary target audience for Apple, my 37-55 group is nipping at this group’s designer heels. And those 56+ follow close behind.

I’ve said this before, as long as I have someone around who can explain quickly how to use the technology, I’m on board. Seems the tech companies might get laggards like me on board faster (and therefore gain quicker access to my disposable income) if they sent, let’s say, a Geek-in-a-box with their products instead of the standard instruction sheets.

The video camera was the easiest for me to open the box and use. Sadly, I never did master the patience to search and download songs to my iPod. So, one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was when I handed my (by then nine-month old, still new in the box) iPod to a colleague and asked her to make it work for me. She installed my music library and I’ve been in heaven ever since and can’t live without it. (However, I haven’t added any new songs since then, because I, umm, don’t know how to, and that was circa 2007. Pitiful I know, but I’m just trying to be honest here.)

So today, I received my new company-issued iPhone 4. I shook the box but no Geek fell out, and… well, I’ve run up against that pesky “patience” issue again. Luckily I’m on vacation this week. So I’m slathering on my sunscreen, grabbing my cool-girl shades and comfy flip-flops and heading out the door on my first adventure of the week: I’m going right to the phone store where I can find some young ’un (or early adopter) to help me work this new fangled phone. Not bad for a laggard!

(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for The Nielsen Co. Visit http://www.nielsenwire.com.)

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