Purpose: This study seeks to investigate barriers in the consumer adoption process of technological innovations under different contingencies. The paper aims to focus on barriers impeding adoption of technologies characterized by high incompatibility and high uncertainty - i.e. a "lack of content" (LoC) situation - versus technologies characterized by low incompatibility and low uncertainty - i.e. a "presence of content" (PoC) situation. Design/methodology/approach: Based on a literature study, the paper develops hypotheses that distinguish the diverging effects of both psychological and functional barriers on consumer adoption in different situations (LoC versus PoC). Data were collected by means of a survey, resulting in an effective sample of 229 respondents. Findings: In the case of LoC, the value, risk (financial and performance) and image barrier are negatively related to adoption intention, where the latter barrier is significantly stronger for the LoC situation than for the PoC situation. For PoC, it is found that the value, image, and financial risk barriers are negatively related to adoption intention, where the value barrier outweighs all other barriers. Interestingly, the traditional barrier reveals a positive effect on adoption intention. Practical implications: The results suggest that managers and retailers should develop a more sophisticated understanding of consumers' adoption intention of new technologies. Distinguishing between LoC and PoC situations offers managers the opportunity to differentiate their communication strategies and design more compelling ways for consumers to overcome the specific barriers they perceive in each situation. Originality/value: The paper attempts to offer a more fine-grained understanding of consumer adoption by investigating the extent to which the lack versus the presence of content gives rise to differences regarding the effects of psychological and functional barriers to technology adoption. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.