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10 reasons products fail

..and how yours can succeed.

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There is no crystal ball

Why products fail? Every startup and business owner would like to know the answer and though we do not have the crystal ball to be able to predict if a product will be a success or a failure, we can reduce the risks of failure by running through this list of reasons and check if our (next) product would pass.

Reason #1: Not solving the right problem or any problem

Pointless products and solutions are solving non-existent problems. Juicero was a great example, a product with an apple-ish modern design, created to solve a non-existent first world problem. The product might look great at Silicon Valley hipster coffees, but no one would like to use it at home, as the device itself is useless. These type of products usually fail to pass the 5 W’s:

The 5 W’s

1. Who?
Who will use the product, who is the customer? Who is the target audience, that need this solution and will pay for it? 

2. What?
What problem are we trying to solve? Are we solving the right one? What will users use the product for? How essential is it to have a product like ours on the market, is there a market need? Can people leave without it?  

3. When?
When will the customers be using the product? I mean, how often. Can they fit it to their daily routine at work? Some products have a special usage pattern, people use them daily or never, there is no in between.

4. Where?
Where will the customers be using the product? Is there anything that is specific about that place? Different locations might require specific product characteristics that we need to take into account.

5. Why?
Why do customers need this specific product and not the other dozens of solutions that are already on the market? Why would the users be interested in this solution more? Does your product have a unique value proposition, that differentiates it from its competitors and offers users something they truly care about?

Reason #2: No product vision and product strategy

Lack of planning. It happens many times, on a meeting about a product, that by the time the launch date is set, the website and the product video is done, we start to talk about the product itself and after a deep conversation it turns out that the owner and the team doesn’t have a clear vision about the desirable outcome and the most important achievable goals of the product.

The product vision  
At small startups in most cases it is the CEO who defines the vision. The vision of a product is a long therm, high level path of where the product is going.

Reason #3: Failure to Understand Consumer Needs

The problem appears when there is no research, or not the right consumer research. Conducting research is to develop an understanding of the product’s users and their needs. It is also to be able to design a product, that is valuable and consumers are happy to pay for it and will use it. The lack of an unbiased research of the target audience can cause any product fail.

Reason #4: Mental model vs system model - too wide gap

Mental model is the users understanding of how a product works. System model is how it actually works. Some products require substantial consumer education, as they are too new or too different and therefore the usage is not habitual. The problem is if we fail to provide design patterns to the product users that they will find familiar, it will make it hard for them to understand how the product works, so it might happen that they just won’t understand it.

Some products require substantial consumer education, as they are too new or too different and therefore the usage is not habitual. The problem is if we fail to provide design patterns to the product users that they will find familiar, it will make it hard for them to understand how the product works, so it might happen that they just won’t understand it.

Reason #5: Mistiming

Bill Gross mentions timing as the most important aspect at his great TED talk. He mentions how surprised he was, when he realised that the idea itself is not the most important aspect of success, rather is timing. I might not go that far, but it is undeniable, that good timing is crucial when launching a product. The importance of a complex field research of the business environment and a complex competitor analysis are both essential.

Reason #6: Not the right branding or no branding

The right branding is what sets you apart from competition: it is a strategy that makes your product recognisable. Branding is not just a logo or a well crafted slogan it is much more. It is the whole customer experience about your product. How and what you post on social media, the overall voice and tone that your product and company has, the way you contact your customers, etc. Strong branding can generate real value to any product and give the product users the consistent feeling to know what to expect when they interact with your product and that will build real trust too.

Reason #7: Too early launch

I mentioned mistiming, but this one falls into another category. Launching a product that is not well tested and does not meet user’s expectations, even if the product is ready, will not be an act on its own to celebrate, as long as it does not satisfy it’s users the way it should.

This is one of the key aspects that differentiates a design-centered company from a regular one: if the company has a product, even if it works and meets business expectations, the product is considered not to be ready to ship and will not be launched unless the user experience is good enough and is tested well on all service-levels.

Reason #8: Bad reviews

This one comes as an outcome of the previous reason- early launch. Mainly startups rush to launch an MVP as early as possible. The problem with launching a new product is, as harsh as it might sound, you hardly even get another chance after going live, most of the time, if your product is not got enough when you launch it. It is the same as having a bad experience at a newly opened restaurant, as cruel as it is, the only thing you care about is not the circumstances but the experience. The product falls short of claims made and suffers bad reviews, which makes it pretty hard to come back and switch back users opinion.

The problem with launching a new product is, as harsh as it might sounds, you hardly even get another chance after going live, most of the time, if your product is not got enough, when you launch it.

Reason #9: Delayed market entry - late launch

This is the opposite of early launch. You start to work on a solution, there is a market need for the product, but by the time it is ready to hit the market, the competition is already narrowed its potential, or the need is no longer a real need. There are many reasons that can cause this- prolonged development, financial reasons and so on.

Reason #10: Not enough value for money

Your product does not give enough value for the users to pay for it as much as it would be enough for your product to show return. It can be a pricing issue (wrong business model), or lack of valuable features as well.

If non of the above is true about your product, you might have a good chance that the product will be eventually successful! Even if this is the case, there can be several other minor standpoints that you should still consider to make it a hit. And a little luck will also never hurt when launching a new product :)

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