Intermediating Technologies and Multi-Group Adoption: A Comparison of Consumer and Merchant Adoption Intentions Toward a New Electronic Payment System

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Publication Date

Fall 2001


Traditional technology adoption research has assumed a single adopting group. However, there are many settings in which multiple groups must jointly adopt an innovation in order for it to succeed. This is particularly true for new information technology innovations that mediate the relationship between two groups. For example, online exchanges (e.g., Freemarkets, GoFish) must attract both suppliers and buyers in order to be successful. The same is true for providers of hardware/software solutions for electronic data interchange and supply chain management. This article describes the phenomenon of multigroup adoption with a particular focus on applications within the financial services and retailing industries. Empirically, the article reports findings from a study that illustrates the importance of evaluating and managing multigroup technology adoption in the specific context of an in-market trial of a new smart card-based electronic payment system. Two distinct groups critical to the smart card’s success are studied: consumers (who must decide to use the new card) and retailers (who must agree to adopt and use new technology needed to process smart card transactions). The study identifies which characteristics of the smart card innovation are most closely linked to intention to adopt for each group, and examines how these key characteristics differ by group. Perceptual data were collected via a mail survey from consumers and merchants living in the city where a one-year market trial of the new card was taking place. Four separate sampling frames were established for both consumers and merchants who were participating in the trial as well as both consumers and merchants who were not participating in the trial. Random samples were then drawn from these frames. More than 350 consumers and over 250 merchants completed and returned the survey. Responses were analyzed separately for each of the four groups sampled. The most important characteristic leading to adoption identified by all four groups was relative advantage—the smart card had to demonstrate a clear competitive advantage over what they currently used. Compatibility (i.e., the degree to which the smart card fit with their current preferences) was also noted as important to all but the nonparticipating merchant group. Beyond this, the key drivers of adoption differed considerably by group. Participating consumers and participating merchants appeared to possess different perspectives when assessing their decision to adopt the smart card technology. Consumers seemed to value the notion that the adoption decision is under their control, whereas merchants seemed to place more value on the antecedents that had the potential to add to their bottom line. This suggests that it is necessary to institute different marketing tactics to attract the early adopting groups. In addition, significant differences in the importance of antecedents between participating and nonparticipating consumers and participating and nonparticipating merchants suggest that, over time, it may also be necessary to develop and use different marketing tactics for later adopters.



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