I'm looking for a phrase that refers to the initial customers of a new product or service - the ones who bear the risk and benefit of trying something new.

"Launch customer" is used in the aircraft industry, and "beta customer" in the computer industry.

What's a more general term (not tied to those industries)?


"Early adopter" might seem to fit, but I don't think we'd say that the first customers of a new electrician in town are "early adopters", as electrician service is usually a one-time purchase, not an ongoing "adoption".

I'm looking for a phrase that refers to the first customer of a one-time service.

  • 1
    Your edit reflects a misunderstanding. There's absolutely nothing wrong with early adopters for your context - that "one-time purchase" business is a red herring. Apr 2, 2019 at 15:41
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    If your intent is to describe the first customer that an enterprise has for a significant product or service, then reference customer, learning customer or beachhead customer would be appropriate. Early adopters is not appropriate in this context, given its association with the technology adoption curve popularized by Geoffrey Moore, where it refers to a group of customers, not a single “first customer”.
    – user205876
    Apr 3, 2019 at 6:36
  • What's wrong with the words you've used: "initial customers" or "first customer[s]" ?
    – TrevorD
    Apr 5, 2019 at 23:34

2 Answers 2


You might use "early adopters".

From Collins via thefreedictionary:

one of the first people or organizations to make use of a new technology

For example, early adopters of LaserDisc were somewhat disappointed.


Early Adopter

An early adopter (sometimes misspelled as early adapter or early adaptor) or lighthouse customer is an early customer of a given company, product, or technology. The term originates from Everett M. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations (1962) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_adopter

While I've often seen it used most often in reference to the Technology field, this term can be used for the first people to start using any new product, technology, or service. While it might seem a bit pretentious to say that a barber shop, for example, has early adopters, the role of an early adopter (feedback, reviews, influencing others to use the product or service) applies just as much for a small business as for a new startup or technology.

On the other hand, if you want a term that simply describes a business' first customers without implying that they might "adopt" the use of that business, or that they're more "adventurous", "influential", or different in any way other than the fact that they happened to come by first, then the most common term seems to be just: First Customers

See these articles: How Uber, Airbnb, and Etsy Attracted Their First 1,000 Customers, How To Close (And Keep) Your First Customers, Landing Your First Customers, etc.

  • Just beaten...!
    – Pam
    Apr 2, 2019 at 15:29
  • Thanks, but please see my edit to the question. Apr 2, 2019 at 15:34

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