It isn’t easy to hit a home run with every product a business brings to market. Some products launch to great applause, others to so-so like receptions and then there are those that make product managers cringe. There are several reasons why products fail and this article will list 15 of the common mistakes that businesses make.
That being said, it isn’t fair to attribute all failed products to bad planning and execution. Sometimes, good products fail too. You cannot predict with accuracy the occurrence of natural calamities, wars or political tensions. In my unfortunate experience, the ebola virus of 2014 ruined some best laid plans.
While it’s easier to excuse what we cannot control, it’s not as easy to forgive what we can. With that in mind, let’s look at a list of 15 reasons why products fail to deliver and perhaps plan accordingly.
Reasons why products fail
1. LACK OF INTERNAL ALIGNMENT
One of the biggest reasons products fail is because of a lack of alignment within the company. Internal politics is detrimental to good judgement and lapses occur because of it. In addition. excessive corporate red-tape creates unnecessary delays and road blocks. Even things like incentive plans affect good products. Sales attention may be steered towards products with bigger payoffs at the expense of others.
2. CHASING FADS, NOT TRENDS
It’s easy to get caught up in a fad and capitalizing on one can be a good thing. But, it takes real smarts to walk out before they end. Misinterpreting a fad for a trend could lead to over-investment of resources in a product or product group whose need is short-lived.
3. QUALITY ISSUES
Obviously, nothing kills a product quicker than bad quality. Defects occur when companies set time frames that are unreasonable or devote less attention to quality control. Adopting a “we’ll fix it later” attitude is not advisable. Poor quality affects not only the existing product, but the perception of future products including the company’s reputation
4. INCORRECT PRICING OR PRICING STRATEGY
Price = Function of [Costs + Profit + Quality + Benefits + Brand Equity]. The price set must reflect the value for which customers are willing to pay. Sometimes the prices set are too high that they put the product out of reach for the target market. There is a tendency to inflate subjective variables when emotion gets in the way of rational decision-making.
Conversely, companies leave money on the table when they underestimate the very same variables. Pricing strategies also affect product success. Employing the wrong one could dilute the full potential of a good product.
5. FEATURE SETS
When products are conceptualized, they are meant to solve user problems. Not having a firm grip on the problem leads to the deployment of flawed products – Products that partially solve a problem or worse give rise to new ones. Feature sets should include ‘must-haves’ and maybe ‘nice-to-haves’. But, if the must-haves are incomplete, the product is already on thin ice.
6. LACK OF RESEARCH
No product should be launched without adequate research and sufficient user testing. When you skip these vital steps, you move closer to throwing stuff against the wall, hoping it sticks. Now, there are cases where companies and entrepreneurs have followed their gut and it paid off without intensive research. But, if you really think about it, you’d see that the products offered simplified solutions that are obvious in hindsight. These products are unicorns and they don’t come around often.
7. STRAYING FROM CORE PRODUCTS
Sometimes companies look to cash in on categories that have high growth potential. Unfortunately, when a product strays from what people have come to expect or associate with a company or brand, it is met with skepticism. Over-estimating the probability of success particularly in non-core categories only sets up expectations that the product will not meet.
8. LATE TO MARKET
Being late to the party means that the benchmarks have already been set, competitors have already secured market share, and customers needs may have evolved. Finding new space could be difficult if not impossible.
9. POOR USER EXPERIENCE
Being intuitive and fluid are ideal components of good product builds. Even a great concept fails when the experience delivered is cumbersome. The product is meant to solve user problems not frustrate them further.
10. MARKET SIZE
Even if product-market fit is evident, It must make commercial sense. Often the market sizes are too small to cover the costs of serving them.
11. AFTER-SALES SERVICE
No matter which industry you look into, customers place a high weightage on service. While you may have a great product, your service standards throughout the buying journey will be the ultimate judge of customer satisfaction, which in turn decides product success.
12. PRODUCT CANNIBALIZATION
Often product managers feel pressured to deliver something new to the market. This becomes more pronounced when feature sets reach saturation. They end up making trivial upgrades, duplication of value offerings and aesthetic changes that simply cannibalize existing products. While sales figures may indicate success, management may see otherwise because it has made no real contribution.
13. STOCK & DISTRIBUTION
The product must end up in the hands of the customer in the quickest possible time. We are currently serving a time sensitive customer. People want instant gratification. Poor distribution channels or stock availability will hinder a good product’s success.
14. LACK OF ADVERTISING SUPPORT
Often companies fail to create sufficient awareness near launch and after. The product is left to fend for itself and usually blamed for poor performance. For any product to have a chance at succeeding, it must have A-I-D-A support (awareness, interest, desire, action), which comes from a decent advertising budget and creative wit.
15. NO REAL POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Another big reason behind product failure is because they offer nothing unique when compared to what customers are already exposed to. Customers have no reason to switch. It simply portrays a me-too product strategy without demonstrating any real value.
There you go, 15 reasons for why products fail. This list is by no means conclusive, but does cover most of the common ones. Bringing products to market requires extensive research and preparation. There are a lot of variables at stake and product managers need to be on top of them as much as humanly possible.