Why early adopters engage in interpersonal diffusion of technological innovations: An empirical study on electric bicycles and electric scooters

Publication from

Seebauer S.

Transportation Research Part A: Policy & Practice 78, 146-160, 2015


Early adopters promoting electric vehicles in their social network may speed up market uptake of this technology. Apart from their opinion leader status, few previous research details the motivations which turn early adopters into advocates for innovation who approach the non-adopters among their family and friends, or casual acquaintances. Drawing on a survey among 1398 e-bike and 133 e-scooter early adopters in Austria, personal drivers of engagement in interpersonal diffusion are investigated. Longitudinal data one year later for 157 e-bike users allows tests of causal relations. A complementary sample of 33 network peers illustrates the early adopters’ social impact. Early adopters engage actively in discussing product features, instigating trial behavior and recommending purchase. Analyses by structural equation modeling show that efforts at interpersonal diffusion are driven by opinion leadership, experienced product performance, and perceived normative expectations of others toward pro-environmental technologies. Mediator and moderator analyses underline that opinion leadership is conveyed upon early adopters because personal norms and technophilia qualify them as credible and competent for the specific topic of e-vehicles. Social norm interrelations point to dynamic interactions and discourse between early adopters and their addressees. Evidence from the peer sample suggests though that the persuasive impact of early adopters is small. To accelerate market entry of electric vehicles, public or private agencies should foremost approach early adopters scoring high in the identified drivers, and empower them in their role as multiplicators by providing pre-prepared product information and encouraging them to continuously address peers.