Product diffusion through on-demand information-seeking behaviour

Christoph Riedl, Johannes Bjelland, Geoffrey Canright, Asif Iqbal, Kenth Engø-Monsen, Taimur Qureshi, Pål Roe Sundsøy, David Lazer
Journal of the Royal Society Interface
2018 Feb;15(139)
February 21, 2018


Most models of  product adoption predict S-shaped adoption curves. Here we report results  from two country-scale experiments in which we find linear adoption curves.  We show evidence that the observed linear pattern is the result of active  information-seeking behaviour: individuals actively pulling information from  several central sources facilitated by modern Internet searches. Thus, a  constant baseline rate of interest sustains product diffusion, resulting in a  linear diffusion process instead of the S-shaped curve of adoption predicted  by many diffusion models. The main experiment seeded 70 000 (48 000 in  Experiment 2) unique voucher codes for the same product with randomly sampled  nodes in a social network of approximately 43 million individuals with about  567 million ties. We find that the experiment reached over 800 000  individuals with 80% of adopters adopting the same product-a winner-take-all  dynamic consistent with search engine driven rankings that would not have  emerged had the products spread only through a network of social contacts. We  provide evidence for (and characterization of) this diffusion process driven  by active information-seeking behaviour through analyses investigating (a)  patterns of geographical spreading; (b) the branching process; and (c)  diffusion heterogeneity. Using data on adopters' geolocation we show that  social spreading is highly localized, while on-demand diffusion is  geographically independent. We also show that cascades started by individuals  who actively pull information from central sources are more effective at  spreading the product among their peers.

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