The Innovation Leader’s 5-Step Guide to New Product Survival

By Michelle Powers

February 2, 2017

As many as 50 percent of new consumer products fail in the marketplace, according to some studies. Failure rates are especially high among new products with potential to disrupt an existing product category.

While a number of internal business challenges can be fail-factors for new innovative products, the primary external challenge is poor consumer adoption in the marketplace.

Adoption of a new innovative product often requires people to change their existing behaviors in order to experience new product benefits. But people don’t seek change unless they’re given good reason. Innovative products that require people to change behaviors are often interpreted as catalysts for a loss of familiar benefits by people who have molded behaviors to benefit from existing products.

Consider mobile operating systems, for example. While some mobile users embrace OS updates with curiosity and excitement, studies show the majority of people dread the change so much that they wait until their phones begin functioning improperly before installing the update. In those instances, both the waiting and the updating are driven by the desire to preserve an experience they’re accustomed to.

So what’s the solution? Innovation team leaders can make steps to increase the success of innovative products in the marketplace by facilitating collaboration between product and experience-design partners, business leads, product managers, and marketing teams.

Step 1: Gain Empathy Early in the Product Development Cycle

Innovation teams first need to understand the degree of behavior change they’re requiring of adopters. It’s critical that innovation leads, business leaders, and support functions work closely with their product experience design partner to gain empathy for user needs. Doing so early in the product development process allows teams to anticipate and overcome many factors leading to poor adoption before the product release. With the proper experience design, innovative benefits can be introduced in ways that mitigate the sense of loss often associated with change.

Step 2: Put People at the Center of Product Innovation

To maintain empathy for users, each design decision should be made with their needs in mind. Behavior change isn’t simple, but there are natural processes by which it occurs through discovery and consideration. Designing thoughtful and deliberate experience frameworks for your customers helps to guide them along the path to behavior change, leading to adoption.

Step 3: Prototype and Test Innovative Products

The only way to truly know if you’re facilitating behavior change and product adoption is to test with real users. To do so cost-effectively requires rapid prototyping of frameworks that contain explicit and implied cues to guide people between levels of engagement and encourage deeper exploration of innovative features. Testing the impact of the cues with users ensures the innovative product or service is meeting people’s needs and building trust with every interaction.

Step 4: Build for Ongoing Performance Assessment and Iteration

When new products experience decline in adoption or high abandonment rates, it’s often because they were released without an intentional plan for ongoing improvement. Continual assessment for product performance and iteration helps maintain relevance, establishes authority in the marketplace, and leads to increased adoption rates among new users. By designing and developing products with frameworks that are prepared for rapid iteration and flexibility, you can then respond when an assessment reveals opportunities for improving the product experience.

Step 5: Drive Awareness of Benefits to Support Adoption

Enlist the expertise of the appropriate product or service marketing team early in product framework development. They can help anticipate the rate of adoption in the marketplace and tailor product-marketing channel campaigns to effectively funnel people to product features that are most relevant, timely and appropriate. Targeted awareness is the front door to inspiring the exploration of innovative product features that will lead to adoption.

The failure rates of new innovative products prove that creating success in the marketplace isn’t simple. But innovation leads can shift the odds to favor their products by incorporating a thoughtful, comprehensive, collaborative approach to meeting people’s needs.

Want to learn more about design for innovation or biomimicry?

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