Social influence in the adoption of digital consumer innovations for climate change

Emilie Vrain, Charlie Wilson, Laurie Kerr, Mark Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Digital consumer innovations offer low-carbon alternatives to mainstream consumption practices. We contribute new insights on the importance of social influence in the uptake of digital consumer innovations for climate change across mobility, food, homes, and energy domains.

Using nationally representative UK survey data (n = 3007), we show that electronic word-of-mouth is the dominant mechanism of information exchange for strengthening adoption intentions. This finding is robust across 16 innovations from car clubs to 11th hour food apps. Other social influence mechanisms such as social norms and neighbourhood effects are as important only for highly visible innovations such as electric vehicles.

Using deep dive early adopter studies of ridesharing platforms, digital food hubs, and smart home technologies, we show that trust in digital platforms and place-based community networks are important characteristics affecting social influence. Social norms can help build trust, while word-of-mouth spreads positive information for locally salient innovations.

Policies stimulating innovation adoption tend to focus on purchase incentives. Opportunities to harness social influence processes remain unexploited. Our research emphasises the importance of digital skills and infrastructure for supporting these processes, social marketing for building positive norms, and community networks for enabling interpersonal exchange.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112800
JournalEnergy Policy
Early online date18 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • low carbon
  • interpersonal communication
  • diffusion of innovations
  • information sources
  • electronic word-of-mouth

Cite this