Persuasion diffusion theory, “also known as the diffusion of innovations theory is one concerning the spread of innovation, ideas, and technology through a culture or cultures. The theory has been extensively studied by sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists. Diffusion theory states that there are many qualities in different people that cause them to accept or not to accept an innovation. There are also many qualities of innovations that can cause people to readily accept them or to resist them” (“Diffusion Theory”, 2012).
Focusing on the meta-theoretical considerations of the persuasion diffusion theory, there are five stages involved, which include, but are not limited to knowledge/awareness, persuasion/interest for seeking knowledge, decision making, and implementation. The fifth is the confirmation stage, where individuals make the final judgment, based on personal experience to continue with the adoption of the new innovation.
Application of Persuasion Diffusion theory in Research Studies
Persuasion diffusion theory has found its relevance in several research studies, for instance, e-commerce technological innovation. E-commerce is among the rapidly growing industries across the world and is one of the fast evolving areas of local and international trade. The internet has become an extremely powerful tool for conducting business electronically and it has had an intense effect on the way business is conducted.
Watson, et al. (2008) research findings revealed that, e-commerce technologies have the ability to contribute to remarkable productivity benefits at the firm level and especially, when they are applied persuasion diffusion theory to study to the B2B relations. These technologies can contribute towards having business process rationalization as well as saving costs. As an instant impact, the electronic technologies make it possible to have automation of common processes like inventory management, distribution, sales and after-sales-service. The internet solutions have been basically set up for the management of the distribution channels and at the same time there has been continual carrying out of supply chain management through the set up Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) applications. As the internet costs decreases, there are more expectations of new entrants or small business organizations that cannot afford EDI, to go towards making use of the internet in managing their supply processes. Among those who adopted these technologies early enough in the United States of America, observation of the impacts has been made in product design as well as in the production and logistics. The product design impact was observed to be in line with having a short design process and higher level of product customization as well as standardization of the parts. In relation to the production and logistics, there has been better realization of the inventory and supply costs that lead to lower the inventory level and helped in fasten production. (Watson, et al., 2008)
Moreover, e-commerce has increases the possibilities level of executing production re-location that provide the most excellent framework conditions, while the development of the product design specification or development work is executed in the company itself. . By using the E-commerce applications, business organizations within the distribution and supply chains that were not formerly linked can now set up direct contact. E-commerce is a significant efficiency source for any company to act as driver and have a dynamic impact on the company different processes. This comes about when business organizations utilize e-commerce technologies in a practical manner to produce new products. Moreover, using e-commerce in a strategic way makes it possible for the business organizations to improve their services. Having a realization of these dynamic benefits is dependent greatly on the manner in which business organizations carry out the integration of e-commerce strategies into their business functions. If at all possible, the application of e-commerce technologies should be carried out all through the value chain of the business. An illustration of this can be given by considering the manufacturing industry where product creation and shorter product cycles calls for having greater flexibility as well as speed.
Implementing the e-commerce approach does not depend only on competition that is based on price, but rather on the capability to bring in the information links that are complicated as well as on the forecasting abilities and management systems.
Moreover, the research that was conducted, with the help of persuasion diffusion theory, by Kapurubandara & Lawson (2006) contributed to identifying various factors that affect the adoption of e-commerce among the SME's. Following their study, it is revealed that business owners or managers of the SME's are the ones that make decisions when it comes to the idea of whether or not to adopt e-commerce for their global business operations. However, these decision makers are challenged with various factors that have an effect on the adoption of e-commerce for their exporting business activities (Kapurubandara & Lawson, 2006). Kapurubandara and Lawson, in their study established that the lack of awareness by the business owner about technology and its’ Potential benefits is a major factor that determines adoption of e-commerce. Another point is the lack of knowledge about how to utilize the technology and the low levels of computer literacy are among other factors that contribute towards businesses not adopting e-commerce (Kapurubandara & Lawson, 2006). Moreover, Eshum & Taylor (2009) pointed out lack of trust in the information technology industry and lack of time since e-commerce adoption demands great amount of work that is counted among the factors that has an effect on the decision to take up e-commerce.
According to Eshum & Taylor (2009) research studies, internet innovation was highly used by the marketing practices, for instance, internet gave the capacity to business organization to obtain new customers as well as suppliers and distributors. Moreover, persuasion diffusion/innovation theory has been employed in several business organizations to engage in the generation of a “wealth of information” about the market trends, newest technology and development in research (Eshum & Taylor, 2009). However, despite the high optimism about the potential use of internet in global marketing for SME's as those that engage in exporting, the studies that were conducted recently hardly gives a distinction between the exporters and those who do not export, “is limited to descriptive quantitative studies, and focused initially upon internet adoption as a dichotomous variable” (Eshum & Taylor, 2009). It is pointed out that innovation as being a range of stages, beginning from e-mail to purchasing of goods and services online are the recently conducted studies that have been evaluated and viewed (Eshum & Taylor, 2009). Distinguishing between various types of adoption is vital because the internet is a combination of various innovations that play different roles and serve different purposes with the activities of marketing undertaken by the SME's that engage in exporting (Eshum & Taylor, 2009). Each of them may have the ability to replace tasks undertaken by “traditional export channel intermediaries” (Eshum & Taylor, 2009). In this regard, it is evident that research studies can apply the concept of persuasion diffusion theory in not only e-commerce, but other business ventures, psycho-social and philosophical fields of knowledge.
Persuasion Diffusion Theory Confirmation/Disconfirmation
However, it can be argued that Eshum and Taylor (2009) disconfirmed this theory to some extent, since they pointed out that the employees’ workload and the increased level of the perceived risk, “the importance of augmented product dimensions and compatibility with existing marketing channels are likely to act as obstacles to e-commerce adoption” (Eshum & Taylor, 2009). Moreover, the increased levels of the supplier service, IT knowledge as well as “entrepreneurship stimulates e-commerce adoption” (Eshum & Taylor, 2009). However, it can be argued that the above mentioned obstacles cannot discredit the entire persuasion diffusion. Therefore, more improvements can be recommended instead of invalidating this importance theory, which is very necessary in business innovations.
Critique of Persuasion Diffusion Theory
Based on Thomas Kuhn’s criteria for a good theory, it is evident that it should be accurate, consistent, broadly scoped, simple, and fruitful to reveal new findings. Moreover, it is one that has three recognizable features: the first one is that it should be unified in that it should encompass a collection of various strategies of problem solving, which can be used to solve a variety of problems. The second feature is that scientific theories allow for the exploration of new avenues of research because of the fact that they introduce new ways of exploring the existing phenomena. The scientific theories come up with new questions and ensure that these questions are able to be solved in a way that does not compromise the problem solving attribute of the scientific theories. The third feature is that scientific theories encompass supplementary hypotheses that can be tested independently. The supplementary hypotheses also have the capabilities of solving problems related to the theory independently. However, the persuasion diffusion theory has limited supplementary hypotheses, which can be subjected to statistical/scientific investigations.
Analysis of the Current State of the Persuasion Diffusion Theory
This theory is still relevant and useful to several scientific innovations, for instance, e-commerce since it helps firms in improving their product quality, cost reduction, assisting businesses in reaching new customers as well as distributors and suppliers, and creating new ways of selling the products. In summary, considering all these benefits that are offered by e-commerce to the firms, the empirical evidence that has been presented indicate that the adoption of e-commerce. A larger number of firms that have websites restrict these sites to business advertisement and promotion, and this has been facilitated by the application of persuasion diffusion theory.