Last updated on April 13th, 2022
By Mathew Zein
“to launch or not to launch, that is the question.”
Shakespeare in 2022, thinking about the best time to launch his new play, probably!
According to research by Harvard Business School, “each year 30,000 new consumer products are launched, and many of them fail.” Specifically, 90% of them suffer a product launch failure. The question of launching or holding on seems more reasonable now! It’s a question every entrepreneur or business owner should go over with a fine-tooth comb before making the big decision of launching their products.
Everyone knows there would be consequences; there always are, then why should that stand in the face of a product launch? Although it’s true, coming up prepared reduces the chances of failure and increases the probability of success. Nowadays, product launches depend on various metrics to watch and factors to consider when planning every step of the process.
This article will explain why new products fail, introduce the reasons, practical approaches to address them, and some tools you can use to plan a successful product launch.
A product launch is the final result of companies or individuals’ efforts to launch their products to the market. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new product creation or an update to an existing product.
Product launch failure happens when a product launches but fails to compete with others or doesn’t achieve a stable position in the market. For example, not meeting the intended objective or not reaching the estimated sales required to keep the product alive.
According to a survey conducted by Gartner, “A product launch that meets all internal targets is seldom achieved. The survey showed that only 11% of organizations reported that all of their products met 100% of defined internal launch targets.” At this point, you might be asking yourself why most product launches fail?
It happens for many reasons, including the product itself or other factors like improper pricing, timing, bad planning, weak team coordination, and lack of market analysis. The reasons are many, and sometimes it’s obviously predicted. According to research by Nielsen:
Like the old saying, act in haste, repent at leisure, companies skip levels, causing new product launch failure when they allow emotions to overcome reality. Their enthusiasm towards their creations blinds them from accepting facts. Enough with statistics, and let’s dive deeper into why do so many new products fail.
As discussed above, new product failure isn’t a coincidence but a result of insufficient planning and preparations. We’ll introduce the main reasons behind product launch failure in more detail because, as Charles Kettering said, “a problem well stated is half solved.”
Not every market research is reliable. One of the biggest issues companies face when launching their products; they count on improper market research that misleads them and causes a product launch failure. There is some main characteristic of wrong market research, and we can summarize them in the following points:
The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur said, “The logic of validation allows us to move between the two limits of dogmatism and skepticism.” When people get excited about ideas, they create products, missing one major step in the process, which is validating the ideas they’re excited about. Just because you think something is good doesn’t mean everyone else thinks similarly.
Validating ideas is all about questioning their acceptability; It’s a process companies adopt to test how beneficial a product or a service would be if released. It helps address failure reasons, reduce the loss, and de-risk the process of launching products.
When you think about launching a successful product, the first step is not to Google “what are the eight marketing reasons for new product failures.” It’s to determine your correct audience; the people you target with your product. Otherwise, there is no common sense in wasting time and money working on something without preknowledge about beneficiaries.
You have to categorize your audience and find out more about them to figure out the best ways of addressing them. What languages do they speak? How much is their average income? What interests them the most on social media? According to Forbes, understanding your target audience allows you to connect with them authentically. When you know your target consumers, you concentrate efforts and utilize the correct channels to reach them.
Targeting the wrong audience might take away your chances of success. You strive and end up with a product launch failure for a reason you could have handled earlier just by spending more time analyzing who your target audience is.
Are you bringing something new to the table? If not, why would consumers buy your product instead of other products they’re used to? You have to be realistic when you consider launching a product, determine market demand, and act as if you are in consumers’ shoes.
Although you are not always requested to invent something totally new, you should consider that creativity pays. Whether your product solves a problem that lacks a solution or develops something that already exists creatively, uniqueness is required. Improve a service, enhance an aspect, make something better than others, then launch your product. Most importantly, always keep in mind that lack of uniqueness is one of the reasons for product failure marketing.
A product launch plan lays out the steps you’ll take to get customers using your new product or service. It has all the steps from the beginning till the product launch date to help identify goals, set approaches, and assign duties to various team members.
People spend lots of time and money planning the development of their products, but they rush things as soon as they reach the launch phase. Launching a product without a proper plan is like sailing with a broken compass. Will you reach your destination? Maybe you will, but what are the chances?
Moreover, a launch plan includes an exit strategy because even exiting the market has to be well planned. Otherwise, things turn into a disaster. The bottom line is, not having a proper launch plan is one of the main reasons products fail in the market.
According to a project manager survey by Gartner, “Only 55% of all product launches take place on schedule.” Choosing the wrong timing could result in a product launch failure even if all other factors were addressed carefully. The right timing can be split up into two different aspects:
Choosing the correct timing could turn into a success factor pushing the product launch beyond expectations. Intelligent people will study everything happening around to detect the perfect time for their launches in a way that allows utilizing time as a factor.
The American podcaster Ric Edelman says, “hope is not a financial plan.” As simple as it sounds, it’s a rule of thumb for product launch failure. Many companies launch their products with inadequate financial planning, leaving them in the worst situation ever after their products reach the markets. It might cause everything to break down even if it was supposed to achieve massive success.
Imagine launching a product, and after six months, you run out of capital required for the payroll or have a funding shortage in the middle of a successful marketing campaign. It will kill all the efforts and hard work in a glimpse of an eye. Lack of proper financing could be the most important of all 8 reasons for a new product failure.
Unless you’re launching a product that turns dust into gold, people are not going to fight for it just because it’s out there. According to Oxford, “Most new products require a reasonable degree of promotional support to build brand awareness and to access distribution channels and retailers.” Again, it’s your product, and you know everyone needs to buy it, but people think differently, and it’s the marketing team’s job to trigger consumers’ needs for the product. A leading cause of new-product failure is having a weak marketing team after mastering all the aspects of a successful product launch. It’s their responsibility to function creatively and create or pitch the need for consumers to buy the product.
Marketing is a consistent process that has to be executed professionally by people who understand the market and marketing strategies. The biggest mistake would be to assign marketing to an unprofessional team or to do that on your own just because you feel passionate about your product.
Despite all the negativity about reasons for new product failure, we don’t want that to turn off your enthusiasm. We want you to be careful enough and do your homework before launching a new product to increase your chances of success. To add some positivity, according to a survey conducted by Customer Think, “62% of respondents have purchased a ‘1st generation’ product at least once.” It means consumers are willing to buy new products, but you have to find a way to convince them of yours.
When you determine your target audience, start researching them in detail. Either hire a specialist for that or do it personally but professionally. You need to ask questions, collect information, and build an insightful knowledge base. It will help you think as they think and understand how they would react to your product’s launch.
Although you might think you already know everything about your target audience, you’re probably mistaken. Luckily for you, many technologies are available online to help research targeted consumers and analyze society segments nowadays. Utilize the power of technology to the maximum as long as you can. Remember that putting effort into prelaunch is much better than having a product launch failure.
Avoiding failure is on the top of everyone’s list, and one way to do that is a go-to-market strategy, also known as GTM. It’s an action plan every company must prepare before launching their product. It includes all the steps and activities intended to reach the target audience, compete with others, and achieve a stable market existence. Usually, a GTM helps companies position themselves correctly in the market against competitors. There are many ways to develop a go-to-market strategy.
However, the core is always the same. A good go-to-market strategy identifies a target audience and sets marketing and sales strategies to reach that audience and motivate them to become consumers. It also indicates the proper pricing and product launch timing. GTM is like a road map that sets everything in the correct position throughout the journey of a product launch. “A killer go-to-market always wins over a great product.” Medium.
Aligning marketing resources is one of the possible solutions to avoid product failure. Marketing doesn’t have to wait until your product is ready, and you can start your campaigns before product launch to collect feedback, analyze results, and create a buzz.
Invest heavily in marketing resources to prepare a glamorous entry for your product into the market. Reach out to the press, start promoting on social media platforms, get influencers to talk about your product before it’s released, build newsletter subscriber lists and spread awareness about what’s coming next. By the time your product is ready for launch, people will be aware of it, reducing the chances of a product launch failure.
Key performance indicators, also known as KPIs, are vital for measuring the success of a product market launch. It helps understand the development of the product launch by time via tracking the user engagement, retention, referral, website visits, newsletter subscription, and others.
KPIs are the scientific solution for how to avoid product failure because collecting them keeps the company aware of all developments. According to KPI Organisation, it can track efficiency, effectiveness, quality, timeliness, governance, compliance, behaviors, and others. Remember that collecting KPIs is not helpful unless you’re ready to show flexibility and act accordingly.
One of product launch best practices is determining key objectives of the product launch plan. It helps observe the progress throughout the whole process. Continuously collecting and monitoring KPIs until goals are met gradually means the product launch is on the right track.
A prelaunch is the final phase before launching the product to the markets. It helps raise brand awareness and smoothly creates the transition of a product from long months of preparation and planning to the real world. Moreover, it sets the atmosphere for teams that plans have become a reality, and they should be very prepared for the next step, the product launch.
Preparing for prelaunch is critical and similar to preparing for a final launch. Teams have to finalize the prices, create the product launch calendar, put all strategies in steady status as the launch gets closer and closer. The target audience behaves toward a prelaunch similarly to a launch and takes it seriously, and that’s why companies have to be aware of their prelaunch planning and preparations. Life is full of business failure samples and failed product launches for companies that skipped a prelaunch or didn’t give it much attention and wasted their entire planning.
The American investor Warren Buffet said, “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.” As long as you have access to the internet, there are no excuses for not spending enough time learning how others succeeded or failed. Read about ideas and products that failed worldwide and write down notes for your reference. Furthermore, read about success stories and find out the reason behind their success.
You can try reaching out to some entrepreneurs who succeeded or failed and ask for a quick 10 minutes call to learn more about their experience to enrich your knowledge about product launch failure.
Product launch failure is not limited to entrepreneurs and new companies. Product failure rates are high, and many worldwide famous corporations had product launches that failed. The reasons vary in each case, and there are many lessons to learn from their experience. Following, we’ll demonstrate three real-life scenarios of product launch failure caused by different reasons.
Everyone knows the tech-giant Google, but not everyone knows they had examples of products that failed when launched. Google Glass is a wearable technology released in 2013 and discontinued in 2015. The product enables users to access the internet and other functionalities like browser, calendar, maps, camera, and others via voice and motion commands.
Sales were not as Google expected, and the reasons were many. People were concerned about their privacy, and many didn’t even understand the advantages of that product, so they rejected it immediately. Furthermore, people were reporting lots of bugs and technical issues.
As we analyze that product launch failure, Google had a timing issue. Maybe if the product had been released after a couple of years, people would have accepted it better. Significant factors were the lack of idea validation and rushing to release the product without enough testing and preparations.
Colgate toothpaste is worldwide famous. However, in 1982 Colgate decided to enter the frozen food market and launched a new product; Colgate Kitchen Entrees. It offered pre-prepared frozen meals in the United States. Unfortunately, the product failed dramatically for many reasons.
In the 1980s, the American market had enough suppliers for frozen food, so Colgate was not bringing anything new to the market. In other words, lack of uniqueness. Furthermore, Colgate used the same toothpaste logo for frozen meals. Still, consumers couldn’t separate the two products, and the name Colgate had to do with toothpaste, not food, so that was a lack of market research and idea validation.
When people mention Facebook, you’d think this company would never have a product launch failure. With over a billion users worldwide, how can you launch a new idea and fail? Actually, it happened in 2013 when Facebook launched a new mobile phone app called Facebook Home. The app was supposed to convert the smartphone home screens into Facebook’s newsfeed.
People complained about many technical issues in the app and could not easily switch between the app and their home screen. It resulted in a total failure, and Facebook discontinued the project. The lack of idea validation once again proves that even international enterprises can fail to do enough market and product research before they rush to launch their products.
Spending time in preparation is by far better than facing a product launch failure. Luckily, today’s technology enables testing the probability of a product’s success against real consumers. Use all the tools you can to improve your chances of success, and count on marketing science for your product launch. Leave no space for emotions and personal feelings. After all, coming up prepared is better than leaving things to a lucky charm you got from a gypsy in Southern California when you were 16 years old.