Most stories of product failures have the following in common.
They start off with great potential and a solid product-idea. Some capital is secured, a team is formed, and the product gets made.
The initial reception is impressive as well.
But as time goes on, they don’t make the cut anymore.
There could be so many reasons why a product’s journey went wrong.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, you would obviously want your product to succeed.
Learning from mistakes and avoiding them is the most efficient way to guarantee that.
This blog is here to help you with exactly that.
Building great tech products is hard
As an aspiring entrepreneur, you might think that all it takes for a product to take off is getting a team together and putting them to work.
Yes, but that constitutes only the first out of the many steps.
What you envision for your product might not match up with the market’s expectations.
If such is the case, then convincing people to use your product would be an uphill battle.
Even if your solution and feature-set are stellar.
On the other hand, you might identify a proper gap in the market, but your solution might be less than ideal.
10 reasons most tech products fail
Lack of differentiation
In a market that is filled with products, products that are not distinctive enough, get lost in the clutter.
They could have killer features that complete tasks faster or in a much more intuitive manner.
But good solutions do not matter if the audience doesn’t realize its value.
As a maker of the product, if you approach the development and brand messaging from just your perspective — giving form to your idea — then you are doing less than the bare minimum.
This is because your users consider many more things.
Focusing only on the product-centric attributes is a complete misfire.
Instead, you would have to tell customers how the out-of-the-box experience is, or how it ties their daily workflow up.
In general, there are five factors that can help in differentiating a product: function, time utility, place utility, price, and perception.
Let’s take a look at a perfect example of this — Google Allo.
(Or is it Hangouts Chat?)
(Maybe it is called Duo Text?)
‘Hangouts’ has been a longstanding product of Google’s but it has never been a popular choice. As a move to change that, they decided to build two new apps.
Allo for texting and Duo for video calling.
As much as they wished to become an alternative to Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, they could not make it happen.
Despite having good features, a complete lack of differentiation (and in Google’s case, clarity) failed them.
- Function: Google did not define or work on integrating the apps into Android, which meant that Allo directly competed with the stock Messages app.
- Time Utility: Allo was not launched during the right time in the product lifecycle (Hangouts still existed). Also, launching it alongside a relatively new brand, Pixel, did not help either.
- Perception: Users were not informed or educated about why they should use the app.
Skip product positioning and you land yourself in such a mess. As an exercise, it reminds you that your business needs and ambitions need to be aligned to market-expectations.
Not the other way around.
More than just building features that your competitors lack, positioning your product is to ensure that your users know exactly what you bring to the table.
No matter how big your company/brand is, there is no way you can escape this exercise.
Users’ interest in your product would never come close to your personal excitement.
Unless you offer them something they cannot resist.
Of course, such advice is generally taken too literally or misapplied.
Consider the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold.
In a bid to increase sales, excite customers, and try and usher in a new kind of innovation, Samsung tried to create a foldable consumer electronic device.
The key differentiator, the big foldable inner display, was unreliable.
The thin film that allowed the screen to bend on the hinge was prone to popping out, rendering the screen useless.
Other than that, the film was generally prone to scratches.
Now, while companies like Samsung can bounce back from such PR nightmares, startups and aspiring entrepreneurs hardly can.
With so many choices out there, users hardly would buy something just because it is shiny.
If the phone breaks after just a hundred folds, then it can hardly be called “foldable”. This is something that a simple MVP would have resolved, as it would have shown them if their tech is really ready to be shipped.
Even in its latest iteration, the device is far off the actual expectations of the market.
How they could achieve Product-Market fit is a discussion of its own.
Lack of good marketing
Having a good product does not mean anything without the right marketing.
Your efforts do not end at just writing up feature-explainers.
Users do not think of products in terms of features. They see products as a means to an end, and ultimately, as experiences.
If you do not convey what they gain or experience when they use your product, you hardly succeed in attracting eyeballs.
This problem compounds as be it social media or television, users are constantly bombarded with advertisements.
Without the proper messaging, users would never learn the true potential of your product.
An immediate fix: cater your messaging as per the adoption stage your product is in.
Innovators and early adopters have completely different motivations than the late majority, so would it make sense to use the same message for all of them?
Early adopters need to understand the features deeply. They want the technical facts: how much time it saves them, how many tasks get combined in a single button, etc.
On the other hand, early/late majority would want to know the benefits of your product — how it helps them with their workflow, etc.
Incomplete Market Research
Many startups believe that they have an idea that is such a necessity that users would leave everything and jump on it.
Such untested confidence can sprout due to many reasons.
With Facebook Home, it is not hard to see where their confidence came from.
Facebook was at an all-time high in 2014 in terms of usage, and to continue riding that wave, they decided to partner up with HTC and build a phone that was solely ‘Facebook’ — HTC First.
Obviously, they completely did not research if there was a market need for it.
Smartphones had just started becoming popular, and social media had just started showing its possibilities — meaning that there was no active audience for this product.
Without the kind of clout that Instagram has or the processing power that modern smartphones have, it also was hard to convince existing users to buy HTC First.
No need in the market
Most often than not, enthusiastic entrepreneurs develop products that interest them.
Whether those actually serve a need in the market is never fully tested.
This can be seen as a recurring problem with any failed Google project.
Started off to obviously compete against Facebook and later Twitter, Google+ never truly made sense as a social media platform.
Not because it had a bad algorithm or not because it did not have an eye-catching feed.
But because the market never needed it.
Facebook fulfilled all the basic needs to connect with friends whereas Twitter took it a step further and helped you connect with strangers.
In such a market where existing competitors have strong footholds, Google+ was unnecessary from the get-go.
Lack of product-idea validation
One of the most important steps in transforming your idea into a product is validation.
Most entrepreneurs miss this.
They make it a point to conduct market research, build a ‘complete’ product that does not fail, and spend on good brand messaging.
Despite all of these, they might fail.
Just like Quibi. Despite having a boatload of capital ($1.75 billion!), good content, and a mature team, their product failed.
Obviously, the pandemic has nothing to do with it — if anything, all the free time that remote working lends should have gone into watching Quibi.
While Quibi is not an epitome of “no need in the market” like Google+, it surely had misplaced its aspirations for short-form content.
Without actually validating their idea, they built and shipped the entire thing, only to fail in less than a year of launch.
Idea-validation is very crucial, not just to minimize business risks like these but to also help sprout actual innovation.
Uncoordinated team culture
With its relative success with the iPhone, it would be hard to believe that anything that ships as an integrated part of it would fail.
But Apple Maps did.
As a move to question Google’s rising monopoly in personal services like navigation, Apple decided to ditch Google Maps and build its own solution.
They acquired TomTom as well.
But they missed greatly on two counts.
One is that the first version was lackluster and could barely be even called an MVP.
Two, inner turmoil between teams caused Siri to get more development efforts and marketing spotlight than Apple Maps.
It has been several years since its launch and despite its growing features, it is yet to gain popularity, even within the ecosystem of Apple’s own devices. (An example of a popular one is iMessage.)
Killer features mean nothing if the user needs to spend hours figuring out how they work.
Windows Vista was one such product.
Being ahead of its time with transparent windows, widgets, keyboard shortcuts, and fluid animations, it should have won.
But when it came to usability, it was bad.
Two things — people were very used to the straightforwardness of Windows XP and Microsoft had moved way too fast with all of these new features.
Windows 7 surely saved face back then, but if Vista-esque mistake were to happen in this smartphone era, it would be catastrophic.
Windows Vista is obviously an extreme example.
But quite frequently, products pop up in the market with a lot of glamorous marketing that have zero usability.
And as usual, they fail.
Failure to pivot
The market is a much more tumultuous place than an ocean.
Innovations happen, new trends emerge, and the tides shift.
If businesses adjust to those, they manage to survive. If they decide to be as adamant as Blackberry, they are bound to fail.
Despite all the clear signs that touchscreen devices were the future, Blackberry, a then-valuable company, spent their time convincing the market that was not the case.
The rest is known — Apple swept the floor and made records with the iPhone and Blackberry struggled to make sales.
Blackberry did try to come into the market with touchscreens but by then, it was too late.
Be it recessions or emerging markets, pivoting is a classic move that pays off when done well.
This pandemic has been a testament to that.
Companies like Museum Hacks and Snapbar found their normal modes of making money to be locked down, and they decided to pivot.
Even big companies have hardly been exempted from this. With the drop in advertising revenue, Spotify decided to quicken its positioning toward podcasts.
From Obama to local radio stations, Spotify has something for everyone to listen to during the lockdown.
Falling short of expectations
Apple’s iPhone is such a success story that it is responsible for so many failures for other companies.
To compete with iOS, Nokia had been developing MeeGo OS for a long time.
It was also a key attempt at drifting from its keypad days.
But with the number of solid innovations and ease-of-usability features that iOS brought it, MeeGo just fell short.
The apps were not optimized for the touch screen and they retained old concepts that did not make any sense anymore.
This continued even with its parallel replacement, Windows Phone OS.
There was really nothing big that it offered. Against iOS’ simplicity and Android’s power-user abilities, WPos just was a dim bulb.
Why do technology products fail?
Well, this list must have been a dose of awareness for you. But, the worst tech products aren’t often the result of these factors alone. Your tech product failure is brought by a few others too. They can be intricate and industry-dependent.
Yet, there’s one more cause, that applies to all tech products. It is the lack of translating your passion into the development process.
You might have had a big dream for your product. But the actual process must have made you tired. Some failed tech products are the results of non-transitioned aspirations. This just doesn’t mean you are drained. Your team might not know how great the idea looks inside your mind.
No mind is a glassdoor. You need to communicate your vision and pass on your aspirations. That’s how great teams are formed. And these great teams build amazing products.
In any case, you are panicking, don’t. Because awareness is the key. The reasons would have made you cautious. Channelize your caution and passion for the products.
Building tech products that truly make it big in the market is quite a complicated process.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, you want to get it right at every cost.
But there are so many things that can go wrong.
Product differentiation, market insights, usability, human-centric principles — the list goes on.
It does not need to be this complicated though.
You can opt for a digital product agency like ourselves to make it all seamless for you.
Hop on the train of better development now!