Why Most Product Launches Fail (And What To Do About It)
Every person involved in a new product launching desires to see their product launch smash the sales records and be at the center of market attention and demand.
Whether the product was borne out of ingenuity or a drive to promote the company’s reputation or revenue, nobody wants his or her creation to be an object of ridicule and rejection in the market.
However, there are few that boast a massive turnover when they eventually launch their awesome business idea which has evolved into a product.
In case you have ever had a product launch that flopped, you can remember the series of questions and mysteries that bugged your mind after realizing that your customers and the market at large are abandoning your product or opt for a product from one of your competitors.
Why does this happen? How? What are the errors and the things they are doing right, and you are doing wrong? Which boxes are companies such as Amazon, Google or Apple, ticking off on their product launch checklist?
Lots of companies face product launch failure.
This article will lay bare the behind-the-scenes forces and factors responsible for the failure and more importantly how to recover and salvage the product or prevent such catastrophe in the nearest future.
When the launch goes off without a hitch, all the effort seems worth it — but when it fails, it can send you and your business towards the liquidator’s office.
If you have not had so much of a product launch fail, do not click the exit button yet as you are still in the business of launching new products.
These tips might be helpful to you not just to prevent a product launch flop in the market, but also to get better and absolutely master the art of launching new products and contingency plans for recovery in case your new product sales fall below the expectations.
When the launch goes off without a hitch, all the effort seems worth it — but when it fails, it can send you and your business into a doubt-ridden daze.
All of this and more is the purpose of this article.
7 REASONS WHY MOST PRODUCT LAUNCHES FAIL
1. Failure to pinpoint and understand consumer needs and demand
Let us start off with a bold statement of truth – any product that does not satisfy a need will surely fail.
The needs of consumers form what is known as market demand.
For a product to be successful and in demand, it must be fulfilling at least one need for its consumers.
However, if a product cannot satisfy this need, such product is bound to fail.
Take for example; a laptop that can be packed up like a phone was launched by XYZ and targeted at executives of companies.
Such product will hardly be fulfilling any need as these set of people will already have top computers and sophisticated phones that fully suit their communication needs.
In 1970, AT&T finally launched the Picture phone after much research, trials and much belief in its yield in the market.
Fast forward to the end, the management had to pull it off the market 3 years later due to a lack of consumer interest.
The device was overcrowded with features for users and the pictures were too small to enjoy the viewing. They had ignored the negative user feedback from the trials and launched a product that did not satisfy the users’ needs.
Therefore, there was no or a very low demand for this product.
Coca-Cola’s 2004 launch of C2, a full-flavor Coke beverage with half the carbs and calories of original Coke intended for 20 to 40-year-old males, is also a good example of this flaw.
Their response: Coca-Cola restarted its approach to consumer insights. As a result, the Coke Zero very much in demand is the outcome.
Care must be taken to find out what the consumers really need and how customers reach they decisions, so you can persuade them to part with their money and get the product.
Misunderstanding consumer need is equal to crashing the product sales even before launching it – therefore, you need the demand survey, consumer experts, interaction with the target market, feedbacks, and analysis to get it right.
2. Wrong pricing
This is perhaps the simplest, but also the trickiest part of a product launch.
The need to understand the relationship between the need, demand, and value placed on the product by the users. A wrong pricing can be fatal to the launching of a new product into the market.
A high price tag on a commodity which has other alternative products with competitively low prices spells of doom before entry into the market.
Once you put a wrong price on your product, users may abandon it for another product or abandon its demand altogether, especially if is not a luxury product.
A good case study of wrong pricing is the Apple Newton PDA which flopped because it was priced too high. The major factor responsible for its failure was the $700 price tag.
Some customers could actually afford the Newton but they believed they could get the same alternative for a better bargain.
Now, here is the tricky part.
Consumer need to create demand and the interaction between that demand and the value placed on it along with supply should dictate price.
Hence, if the need of the target audience is a luxurious car or sports car or customized gadget such as an exquisite phone, you cannot afford to put a low price tag in order to be competitive.
The idea here is exclusivity. This is the need and the value the users are paying for. You cannot place a $10,000 price on a Rolls Royce as the customers would think you are selling the worst quality of product ever imagined.
So, get a market valuation expert to do a market situation analysis if you need to or do a market survey but you MUST get your pricing right or risk crashing your product launch.
3. Attempting to fix a non-existent problem
Imagine a product, which is not a power button, designed to help users switch on a computer in the morning.
Sounds useless, right?
I can switch on my computer system whenever I want to now and I do not need a product to help me with that– unless I had a disability preventing me to do that by myself and this new product caters for clients with such disability.
Demand is based on needs while consumer needs are based on real problems or just desires.
For example, Mr. A needs his coffee hot. The need is a product to boil water. This creates his demand the next time he goes to a shopping mall. He then buys Electric Kettle X produced by Company B to solve that problem.
So, your product cannot exist in a vacuum.
Irrespective of whatever the dream, passion, research, and resources are on a specific product if it is designed to solve a problem that was not in actual existence, such product is set to doom upon launch.
Forget your marketing strategies. The harsh reality that the users will have to rate your product after your awesome marketing is set to dawn.
In 1990 Maxwell House launched Ready to Drink Coffee. It was a product designed to create a new, convenient way for customers to enjoy coffee instantly, without having to actually make it at home.
A buyer could buy the product at their local supermarket, microwave it, and coffee would be ready.
However, the product still needs to be poured from its packaging into a mug before you can microwave it.
An exercise that they did each time they wanted to make fresh coffee and they kept doing, forcing the company to abandon the product.
Quick Reality Check: Is your product solving an actual problem?
4. Targeting the wrong market
Unless it is the air we all breathe, the chances that your product will appeal to everybody in the world or in your market are very slim.
The folks, to whom your product will be most functional too, are likely to be the market where you will get the highest turnover.
If a product is marketed to the wrong audience, it will most likely fail as consumers in such category will wonder why they should buy such product.
You cannot market very large screen monitors to a local supermarket or fertilizers to companies in New York. It is a futile attempt.
Microsoft decided to take on the iPod in 2006 by launching Zune which promised to equal its counterpart. Zune terribly failed on the market.
Why did Zune fail?
The company (Microsoft) was offering a product to a market that already had a better alternative and they admitted they created a product just to match competition with Apple.
How the market will react to a product may be very difficult to ascertain.
This is why it is critical to conduct market surveys and user trials and obtain feedback.
Do not ignore these feedbacks. Rather analyze and improve your product.
All your efforts will be worth it in the end rather than just let your sweat wash down the drain because you decided to stop mid-way. Give it your all.
5. Poor preparation
Poor preparation will most definitely lead to a poor performance.
As a marketer or a business entrepreneur looking to make the most of his or her product launch, you must realize that getting customers’ attention towards your product is a result of numerous boardroom meetings, behind-the-scenes works, and backdoor planning.
I am talking about the drawing board, the planning team, and the execution personnel.
The package must be all tight, but poor preparation or inadequate preparation will ultimately lead to a stillborn launch.
It is laughable already that some companies or entrepreneurs prioritize other matters that can wait over their product launch. It deserves all your attention, resources and experienced personnel.
So, what are some of those things you probably overlooked but should include? Some details producers do not include might be:
- Lack of involvement and test by experts
- Continued use of underperforming staff
- Lack of market survey and strategy
- Lack of customer research and validation supporting the new product
Windows Vista used so much power that most users found it unusable. This was incomparable to the issues users had when they tried using it with the Internet.
The product could not help but fail. Am I saying the giant Microsoft did not prepare well?
Four months after the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft allowed Dell to sell computers with an older version of Windows pre-installed.
The fact speaks for itself.
Launching a new product requires time, money, and a lot of work to be done.
Avoid flops and prepare better than your competitors if you want to keep your head above the water. Don’t forget that adequate resources and funds are critical to your product launch.
6. Technological inadequacies
Enter the 21stcentury – the Information Age and the Age of Artificial Intelligence.
A product that suffers technological flaws will likely not survive the kind of genius tech competition flooding the market.
Let us face facts.
Nobody has the patience to cope with a technologically flawed product when there are many other options available that have it perfectly working.
It is not only electronic devices that deal with technological flaws. A technological flaw may be in your production process of a detergent, for example.
Whatever you produce, I can sure bet that you employ a bit of technology, especially when it involves your website, blog or online store. Some mistakes can be forgiven by buyers, but some are fatal.
As a large company, to ensure a successful product launch, you must constantly upgrade your level of service. If you slack, you can be sure that there are over five products willing to beat you to the same market.
A good example of this is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – a very lovely device, with a friendly interface and cool features. But it also had another feature that surfaced after the launch– short-circuiting.
The batteries became so hot during use that you could literally heat water from it and the users even recorded explosions.
Samsung had to re-back the product and eventually stopped production after taking a 33% hit on its quarterly operating profits estimated at USD 17 billion making this phone a terrible product launch and flop.
7. A launch of a revolutionary product that is not fully supported
Imagine if Adobe released their Adobe Photoshop or Video Pro without user-friendly tools and videos to support the use?
It would be only the producer’s employees and maybe few other professionals, that will ever know how to use the product.
This is because these software packages are part of a group of special products and you should be able to identify if your product falls into this category.
They are called revolutionary products.
They need some explaining for the target market to understand what the product is all about or they would regret spending their money in exchange for confusion.
In 2004, Proctor & Gamble added an entirely new innovation to its range of Febreze air-freshening products in the form of Scentstories: “discs” that could be “played” on a CD-player-like. The users just could not understand the technology, so this product flopped in the market.
Similarly, using a complex technology when it can be much simplified will also deprive your product of full maximization of the market.
Revolutionary products might need some explaining. If your target market doesn’t get your product or understand what it does, they won’t buy it.
HOW TO RECOVER FROM A FAILED PRODUCT LAUNCH
Here are few steps that can get you the best product launch comeback.
The real problems why product launches fail is not usually detectable at the surface. T
here must be some primary details omitted or other unnecessary details included, and you need to find out those details.
How do you investigate?
Just follow these simple steps and you should find out very soon.
Analyze the data
Every piece of data and detail matters here. You need to comb every corner if you truly desire recovery or value future product launches.
Why do you need to do this?
Because your product itself may not have been the reason for its failure — it may have been the customer journey surrounding it.
For example, the problem might even be your website! Maybe the check-out process is just too tedious – so remember that every detail deserves your attention.
You can log on to Google Analytics, or any other entry-level analytics platform, and check out some of these metrics:
- Bounce rate: the percentage of visitors who land on a page and then exit before visiting any other page. From here, you can identify your weakest pages and then think about how to improve them. To check your bounce rate using Google Analytics, go to Audience > Overview.
- Entry pages: Basically, you have the good news on these metrics. This will help you understand which page to optimize. You can access these metrics by heading to Site Content> Landing Pages.
- Exit pages: You should get to know where your customers get disinterested. If it is the check-out process or any other page, then you need to attend to it very fast. You can evaluate which pages are leaking visitors by going to the Users Flow section in your Google Analytics dashboard.
Talk to your audience
This involves engaging your customers to find out what exactly turned them off your previously failed product.
They can fill in a quick survey on your website or via social media.
Social media is one of the very responsive ways to obtain feedbacks these days, so do not be shy – get on with it.
Check out Survey Monkey – there you can create a free survey with questions like:
- How well did you like “Product X”?
- What did you dislike about the product?
- Did it satisfy the reason for its purchase?
- How would you like us to improve on it?
Or any other question you feel might help you to understand their reaction.
As an incentive for completing the survey, you could offer them a discount on other products in your store.
Call the experts
Outsourced help can really lift the veil on your search especially where your product is a specialized commodity.
For example, you may need to get in touch with a pediatrician to understand what went wrong with a product designed for babies.
Websites like ExpertFile can help you with finding experienced names in your industry.
You can also invite them over or send them product samples and avoid doing it all in video chat. It really would go a long way.
So, you have come a long way, here are what I call the “Get-it-done steps”.
- Identify and effect necessary changes from the data you obtained from digging deep and insights gathered from the experts.
- Return to your audience, adjust to changes indicated by them and tweak it to perfection.
- Identify your target market and carefully bombard the market according to laid down plans.
- Monitor the progress and use contingency plans to manage risks and losses.
Then watch as the profits turn in massively.
You would agree with me that the future of many dreams and great business ideas lie in the success or failure of a product launch.
However, we can learn from our mistakes and from the mistakes of others. This is the intention of this article – for you to learn from others’ mistakes and see your business dreams become reality.
So, do not relax or go to sleep after reading this. Decide to give it all it takes.
In case you are still interested in recovering the market positioning for your product, I guess you already know what to do.
Take note of all the ways we listed of how you can avoid future mistakes and implement the best ways.
Remember: successful products will justify all the efforts you put into it and probably put your name on the gold roll. I wish you luck!