Bringing a new product to market can be a challenging and risky process. Despite the countless hours and resources invested, many products don't meet expectations and fail.
Understanding the reasons behind product failure is critical for businesses to learn from past mistakes and increase their chances of success in the future.
In this blog, we'll dive into the top 10 reasons why products fail, complete with real-life examples to help you steer clear of these pitfalls and set your product on the path to success.
What is product failure?
Product failure refers to a situation where a product does not meet the expectations or requirements of its intended users or fails to deliver its intended functionality. It occurs when a product does not perform as intended, does not satisfy customer needs, or experiences significant issues or defects that prevent its successful adoption or use.
10 Reasons Why Products Fail
Launching a new product is a significant undertaking that requires careful planning and execution. Despite best efforts, not all products succeed in the market. In fact, research suggests that an estimated 80-95% of new product launches fail. There are various reasons why products fail, ranging from weak product-market fit to poor marketing strategies and strong competition. Understanding these reasons is essential for businesses looking to avoid product failure and increase their chances of success. Here are the 10 key reasons why products fail:
Inadequate market research
Poor product design
Pricing your product wrong
No product-market fit
Aiming for perfect instead of launching
Not gathering regular feedback
Delayed market entry
Inadequate distribution channels
Reason 1: Inadequate Market Research
Market research is a crucial step that is often overlooked or done poorly before launching a new product. Without thoroughly understanding your target customer segments and their needs, your product is destined to fail. According to research by CB Insights 2021, 35% of products fail due to no market need or need already being met.
Companies frequently make the mistake of not investing enough in market research upfront. As a result, they end up launching products that do not effectively solve customer pain points or fulfill unmet needs. They also fail to gather feedback to develop pricing and positioning strategies. A lack of pre-launch customer insights sabotages the success of new offerings.
For example, Crystal Pepsi was launched by PepsiCo in the 1990s as a clear cola to compete with Coca-Cola. While taste tests indicated positive feedback, not enough research was done to determine if consumers actually wanted a clear cola. The product quickly failed as people did not have an appetite for it.
To avoid product failure, companies must dedicate time and budget to comprehensive market research. This includes surveys, focus groups, concept testing, and gathering feedback on pricing models. Truly understanding different customer segments and their needs is the only way to deliver products that resonate in the real world. With the right market insights, companies can mitigate risk and make their offerings more likely to succeed.
Reason 2: Poor Product Design
A poorly designed product can be a major turnoff for potential customers and can significantly impact the overall success of a product in the market. Good design not only makes the product visually appealing but also ensures its functionality, usability, and user experience, which are critical factors in determining customer satisfaction. Poor product design can lead to a potential customer's quick loss of interest, causing product failure. Let's take a look at why product design is essential for a product's success.
Example: Microsoft's Zune, an MP3 player, was launched in 2006 to compete with Apple's iPod, which was dominating the market at the time. However, Zune's clunky product design, limited features, and lack of intuitive user interface led to its failure. Consumers found it difficult to navigate the device, and it simply couldn't match the sleek design and user-friendly experience that Apple's iPod offered. As a result, Zune was unable to gain a significant market share and was eventually discontinued in 2011.
In conclusion, poor product design can lead to customer dissatisfaction, negative reviews, and ultimately, failure in the market. Companies need to invest in the design process to create products that not only look good but also provide a seamless and enjoyable user experience.
Reason 3: Pricing Your Product Wrong
One of the biggest mistakes companies make, with potentially disastrous consequences, is pricing their product incorrectly. According to the Harvard Business Review, pricing is one of the top reasons new products fail. Even if your product itself is innovative and well-designed, if it's not priced right for the target market, it likely won't gain traction and could even lead to the demise of the product.
Example: Take the Google Glass, for instance. This wearable technology with an optical head-mounted display was touted as a game-changer in the tech industry. However, it was priced at a staggering $1,500. Google Glass's high price tag contributed significantly to its failure, as it became inaccessible and unappealing to the majority of potential customers.
To avoid this pitfall, it's crucial to conduct thorough market research and understand your target audience's willingness to pay for your product. By doing so, you'll be better equipped to find the sweet spot between profitability and accessibility, ensuring your product's success in the long run.
Reason 4: No Product-Market Fit
Product-market fit is the holy grail of product development. It's the point at which a company has created a product that both meets market needs and can be sold successfully. Unfortunately, many businesses don't achieve this ideal state and end up wasting time and money on products that are either too niche or not differentiated enough to succeed in the marketplace.
One real-life example of a lack of product-market fit is the Google+ social networking platform. Launched in 2011, Google+ was intended to be a competitor to platforms like Facebook. However, despite Google's vast resources and user base, Google+ failed to gain significant traction and struggled to attract and retain active users.
Several factors contributed to Google+'s lack of product-market fit. Firstly, Google+ was introduced as a closed, invitation-only platform, which limited its initial reach and prevented organic growth. Additionally, Google+ faced challenges in differentiating itself from existing social media platforms. Users struggled to see the unique value proposition of Google+ compared to Facebook or Twitter.
Moreover, Google+'s user interface and user experience were often criticized for being overly complex and confusing. This made it difficult for users to adapt to the platform, resulting in low engagement and retention rates. As a result, Google announced the discontinuation of Google+ for consumers in 2018.
The Google+ example highlights the importance of understanding the needs and preferences of the target market and designing products that align with those requirements. Without a strong product-market fit, even well-established companies can struggle to gain traction in highly competitive markets.
To avoid this pitfall, make sure you've done extensive research into your target market before developing your product.
Reason 5: Aiming for Perfect Instead of Launching
Companies often delay launching a new product because they want it to be perfect before release. However, striving for perfection can prevent getting a good product to market in a timely manner. As the saying goes,"perfect is the enemy of good".
Products that take too long to develop may end up missing the market window completely. Competitors can release rival products first and gain a foothold. Customers' needs may evolve, and the original product concept is no longer well-matched.
Product delays are often caused by unrealistic quality standards and fear of failure. But launching an imperfect product and gathering real-world feedback is better than laboring in isolation. As one article advises, "Don't Let “Perfect” Be the Enemy of “Good”'. Releasing a minimally viable product allows for validating core assumptions and addressing issues through rapid iteration.
The video game Duke Nukem Forever provides a notable example of aiming for perfection instead of launching. Announced in 1997, the game faced constant delays due to development issues and the perfectionist approach of the developers, 3D Realms. The ongoing cycle of development and refinement resulted in multiple release date delays. Despite high expectations and anticipation, when the game was finally released in 2011, it received negative reviews and failed to meet expectations. Duke Nukem Forever's prolonged development time and continuous delays ultimately had negative commercial and critical consequences. This example highlights the importance of balancing development efforts with timely product launches to avoid missed opportunities and disappointing results.
The sooner real customers interact with a product, the more quickly it can be refined to suit their needs. Products delayed in pursuit of perfection risk irrelevance. They may also disappoint users with unmet expectations if marketed as flawless. Launching an adequate product and improving it based on user feedback is better than striving for perfection behind closed doors. The market rewards speed, not perfection.
Reason 6: Ineffective Marketing
Marketing plays a crucial role in creating awareness about a product and convincing potential customers to make a purchase. Ineffective marketing, however, can result in poor sales and ultimately, product failure. This often occurs when a company's marketing strategy doesn't resonate with its target audience, or when the advertising campaigns aren't able to effectively communicate the product's unique features and benefits.
Example: The Ford Edsel, launched in the late 1950s, was a marketing disaster. The company spent millions on advertising but failed to clearly communicate the car's unique features and value proposition to potential buyers. The marketing campaign was riddled with confusing messages and failed to create excitement around the product. As a result, the Ford Edsel became one of the most infamous examples of product failure due to ineffective marketing.
Reason 7: Not Gathering Regular Feedback
Gathering regular feedback from customers is crucial for ensuring your product actually meets their needs and solves their problems. Without feedback loops in place, you run the risk of building features users don't want, misidentifying pain points, and overall creating a product that fails to gain adoption. As this article states, "Feedback from customers provides valuable insights into what customers want and need from a product."
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is not creating opportunities to collect user feedback during the product development process. Having customer input at every stage, from ideation to release, helps validate you are on the right track.
In particular, not conducting beta testing with real users can lead to failure. Without testing the product with actual customers before launch, critical usability issues and bugs will be overlooked. You also miss the chance to gather feedback on pricing, positioning, and feature priorities. Monitoring key conversion metrics is also essential to understand if your product drives the outcomes and value promised. Low conversion rates are often the first sign of trouble. In summary, companies must prioritize gathering regular customer input, through beta testing, feedback surveys, and tracking key metrics. This feedback is the compass to build a product that truly resonates with its intended users.
Reason 8: Strong Competition – A Major Hurdle for New Products
Launching a product in a highly competitive market can be an incredibly tough challenge. If there are already well-established competitors dominating the market, a new product may struggle to gain traction and secure a foothold. This is especially true if the existing products are well-liked and offer features that align with customers' needs, preferences, and expectations. Often, even if a new product has innovative features, unique selling points, and a competitive price point, it may still be difficult to persuade customers to switch from an established brand they trust.
To overcome this challenge, companies should closely monitor the competitive landscape and understand what customers value in similar products before launching into a crowded market. This involves conducting thorough market research, identifying potential gaps in the market, and determining the unique selling proposition that sets their product apart from the competition.
Example: Amazon's Fire Phone, launched in 2014, serves as a prime example of how strong competition can hinder a product's success. Despite being backed by a reputable company, the Fire Phone couldn't compete with established smartphone giants like Apple and Samsung. Its features and pricing failed to differentiate it from the competition, leading to its eventual failure in the market.
Reason 9: Delayed Market Entry
Entering a market too late can also lead to product failure. When a company introduces a product too late, significant competition may already be established, resulting in limited demand for the new product. This issue can be compounded by the fact that the company has to play catch-up with its competitors and try to gain a foothold in a market that may already be saturated.
For example, the Windows Phone is an example of a product that was introduced too late in the market. Competing with established products like Apple's iPhone and Android-based devices, Windows Phone was not competitive enough to gain significant market share. Its features, design, and ecosystem were not compelling enough to sway consumers away from the already dominant players in the market.
This delayed entry also meant that developers were less likely to create apps for the Windows Phone platform, as they had already invested their time and resources in the more popular iOS and Android ecosystems. This lack of a robust app ecosystem further hindered the Windows Phone's chances of success.
Ultimately, this resulted in the product's failure, and Microsoft eventually discontinued it. The lesson to be learned here is that timing is crucial when introducing a new product to the market. Companies need to be aware of the competitive landscape and ensure that they are not too late to the party, or they risk their product being overshadowed by established players.
Reason 10: Inadequate Distribution Channels
Inadequate distribution channels can limit a product's availability and hinder its success. Having a strong distribution network is essential for any product to succeed. Distribution channels refer to the outlets through which products are made available to consumers. This factor is often ignored, as businesses prioritize product development, marketing strategies, and pricing strategies. Nevertheless, distribution channels are crucial to ensure that the product is readily available to the target market in the right stores or locations.
One of the main consequences of having inadequate distribution channels is the inability to capture the market share due to limited reach and accessibility. Potential customers may not even be aware of the product's existence if it is not readily available where they shop. Thus, it can result in missed sales opportunities that impact the product's success in the market. In addition, when customers are unable to find or purchase a product easily, it creates dissatisfaction. This behavior can damage the brand's reputation and discourage repeat purchases resulting in long-term failure.
Furthermore, inadequate distribution channels can give competitors the upper hand. Competitors with better distribution networks or established retailers can quickly capture market share and overshadow a product with limited availability. This advantage can make it challenging for the new product to gain traction and compete effectively in the market.
For example, the video game console Atari 5200 was released in 1982 but quickly discontinued due to limited distribution and poor sales. The console was only available in a handful of retail stores and failed to gain traction with consumers. This highlights the importance of having a wide reach for a product to succeed.
Conclusion: Learning from the Past to Build a Successful Future
In summary, understanding the reasons behind product failures is essential for companies to avoid repeating the same mistakes and increase their chances of success. By carefully researching your target market, developing a well-designed product with the right pricing, maintaining a strong marketing strategy, and ensuring effective distribution channels, you can set your product on a path to success. Additionally, staying agile and receptive to customer feedback throughout the development process is crucial for continuous improvement and adaptation. By learning from past failures and implementing these lessons into future product launches, businesses can turn the tides in their favor and achieve long-term success in the competitive world of product development.