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Four Inconvenient Truths About Product Development

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Four Inconvenient Truths About Product Development

According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, the failure rate for new product launches ranges from 25% to 45%, with the consumer goods industry experiencing the highest failure rate of around 45% (‘Reviving innovation in Europe,’ October 2022). Launching a successful new product remains a significant challenge.

Nevertheless, when first embarking upon this journey, it is not at all unusual to remain blissfully unaware of the many hidden blocks that lie in the road ahead. To avoid disappointment, it is worth facing these difficult — yet common — truths about working on product development:

Four Inconvenient Truths About Product Development

1. Most Ideas Will Not Work

Unfortunately, much like the products themselves,the vast majority of your great ideas will turn out to be dodo-like duds. This happens for a variety of reasons, but most commonly because end users are simply not as captivated as you initially expected them to be. 

For this reason, it is vital to test your idea on the intended audience as soon as possible, and at the lowest possible cost. There are multiple ways that testing can help you to sieve out the great concepts from the bad. Here at SPG, for instance, we make use of rapid prototyping, a highly efficient Agile technique that, in just a matter of days, can validate ideas with the approval of both stakeholders and end users.

2. A Successful Product Will Not Appear Overnight

If you’re still under the impression that you — or anyone else, for that matter — is capable of devising the perfect product from the start, then we urge you to think again. After all, even Rome, the video game, was not built in a day.
In fact, no matter how certain you are that you’ve finally got your product just right, it will likely require many more sprints before this actually becomes the case. The good news is that, by taking heed of your end users’ feedback and beginning with a strong MVP, you can gradually build your product up into what you know it truly should be.
Having a good prototype is essential, though. In 2021 a startup called Loftie presented their prototype of a new kind of alarm clock to a small group of users. Its minimal design and ability to demonstrate the key feature helped the startup win the hearts of investors and potential customers. Loftie’s alarm clock was named one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2023, further validating the product’s success and impact.

3. Meeting Real Market Needs is Easier Said Than Done

While it may seem misleadingly straightforward, successfully identifying and meeting a market need is the single greatest challenge facing modern entrepreneurs. Take the iPad, for instance. Upon its release, both analysts and consumers were left equally bewildered, as the product was too big to be a practical mobile device and not functional enough to be used as a proper laptop. Yet, in spite of the faithless press, Apple knew that they had spotted a profitable market need. The lesson here, of course, is that in order to succeed, you must be willing to think outside the box and find gaps where others won’t look.

3. Timing is Even More Important Than You Think

Finally, in many cases, products are just hampered by their poorly timed releases. Unfortunate timing, however, may not always manifest itself in the ways that one would expect. Sticking with the Apple example, for instance, over a decade before the iPhone was originally released, the company put out the Newton, their short-lived PDA. Unfortunately, the fact that the digital assistant was very much ahead of its time was precisely what caused its downfall. Because the Newton offered features that were much more advanced than those offered by any of its closest competitors, consumers were unable to make a smooth, seamless transition to using it.

Unlike the Newton, the Switch console, which was launched in 2017 by Nintendo, arrived at exactly the right moment: when consumer technology and gaming habits had evolved enough to appreciate and adopt the hybrid/portable console approach. The Switch arrived at a point when mobile gaming was booming, but there was still demand for dedicated home consoles. Scheduling their release for March 2017 allowed Nintendo to ride the wave of holiday sales momentum, while avoiding direct competition with new PlayStation and Xbox consoles, which are typically released in autumn.

The Key to SuccessAs the cliché goes, developing a product is less of a sprint and more of a fully-fledged marathon. While there may be no easy way of escaping these inconvenient truths, what really matters is how you go about dealing with them.

Fortunately, if up to 45% of product launches fail, then the majority must succeed. By employing best practices such as testing ideas on a relevant sample of the market, developing a prototype, factoring timing into your launch schedule, and by constantly seeking to improve, you can improve your chances of success. SPG is equipped and ready to help your product get the best start in life.

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