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Blog May 21, 2018

CapTech Research: IoT Ownership – Power Users vs Laggards

An illustrated representation of a smart home hub connected to types of internet of things devices

In our two previous blogs in this series we looked at Smart Speaker owners in general and Voice Natives in particular. Now we want to zoom the lens out from voice-enabled technologies to Internet of Things (IoT) devices. We classify voice-enabled technologies as a subset of IoT devices that are devices with some kind of network capability to communicate and/or control.

The same national consumer study we conducted at the end of 2017 included questions about IoT perceptions and ownership. We previously looked at smart speaker owners and non-owners and compared them; now we want to draw out some personas from the standpoint of IoT ownership and study those. Overall, 62% of respondents owned at least one IoT device - we're going to call the remaining 38% "Laggards." Laggards is not a derogatory term; it is used in adoption theory to characterize the non-adopter of a technology or innovation. To contrast with Laggard, we decided to use the term "Power User" to refer to people who own four or more IoT devices. Power Users made up 25% of the sample.


Power Users were generally more likely to be male (67.5% vs 39.2%), married (71.5% vs 53.5%), and parents (73.4% vs 26.6%) compared to their Laggard counterparts. Power Users were also younger with 59.5% between the ages of 18-36 compared to 21% of Laggards. Conversely, 43.7% of Laggards reported being between the ages of 53 and 71 compared with just 8.4% of Power Users.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Power Users were more likely to be home owners (80% vs 59%) and live in more urban areas (42.6% vs 17.6%). They had higher incomes - 61.6% made $75,000 or more annually, compared to just 19.6% of Laggards. The statistic on income, specifically, is of note as issues around the digital divide and disparities around access to technology have been an issue since consumer computing was a thing. So, while a lack of access to Activity Trackers and Smart Lights may not seem like a disadvantage, other devices that could provide educational opportunities or other household efficiencies may create digital disparities Customer Experience professionals will want to pay attention to. We'll explore this more in another blog.


When asked if they were the first or among the first to try a new technology, 86.9% of Power Users said they were compared to 26% of Laggards. By definition, Laggards tended to be among the last or usually followed the majority when it came to trying new technology. This data agrees with Pew Research's profile of early adopters as predominately higher income earning young males. This obviously doesn't preclude other customer segments from adoption, but it will help product designers as they look for early adopters of their technology to build customer base. Building an initial community of customers will help you develop the critical mass needed for wider adoption to occur.

Diving deeper into attitudes toward technology, we asked about the perceived value of technology in general and IoT technology in particular. 90.7% of Power Users agreed that they can learn new technology easily, compared to 62.5% of Laggards. 84.4% of Power Users also felt technology was more useful to them at work (84.4% vs 56.9%). This is the same trend we saw with Smart Speakers highlighting the need for companies to articulate strong value propositions for technology and services to drive wider adoption.

Companies should humanize the needs and problems these technologies solve, not just market "technology for technology's sake".


Next, we wanted to see if we could characterize behaviors for these two personas. Power Users tended to prefer shopping online compared to Laggards (74.7% vs 39.2%). Similar to Voice Natives, Power Users were comfortable making a purchase or transferring money over their smart speaker (see table below). These questions were key in our study of retail and financial applications of Voice and IoT technologies. I will discuss more on that in a future blog.

"I would be comfortable..." Power Users Laggards
Tracking health with an activity tracker 87.3% 45.9%
Using smart locks to secure your home 85.2% 39.8%
Using a smart speaker to play music 82.7% 42.0%
Using a smart camera for home security 80.6% 47.1%
Using a smart speaker to make a purchase 71.3% 18.8%
Using a smart speaker to transfer money 68.4% 16.5%

Concerns over privacy can explain some of the disparity in behaviors. While 66.3% of Power Users felt like their privacy was protected, only 27.2% of Laggards felt the same way. This isn't a lack of regard for privacy by Power Users. They were just as likely as Laggards to worry about whether their information was secure online (67.9% vs 66.4%). In fact, Power Users were significantly more likely to be very concerned that their personal information would be compromised online than Laggards (55.7% vs 36.1%). This may speak to the Power Users' sense of exposure to breaches given the breadth of their technology ownership. More Power Users report having their personal information compromised online than Laggards (56.1% vs 21.8%). That said, companies need to continue to prioritize security and proactively communicate that as part of their marketing strategy, to reassure current customers and encourage wider adoption with future customers.

As we continue our analysis of Voice and IoT technologies, we're seeing well established patterns of adoption among key demographics that have the disposable income to purchase these devices. Companies still have work to do to drive their value propositions and prioritize privacy to encourage wider adoption. Stay tuned for more analysis on Retail and Financial applications of technology in future blogs.