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Beating the Odds in Product Innovation

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It is estimated that about 70-90% of all new products fail. Those are discouraging odds.

A major reason (42%) why those products fail is lack of product market fit, in other words the company created a product, but nobody wanted to buy it. And, not surprisingly only 11% of marketers speak with consumers before putting a product concept into the innovation funnel.

So why wouldn’t all brands strive to beat the odds by having more conversations with consumers, earlier and often?

It would seem that one of the biggest challenges with consumer-centric innovation is getting the consumer in the room. Thus, employees operate in the echo chambers of their conference rooms, never getting an outside perspective from the people who matter the most: those who will or won’t buy their product. In 4 Steps to the Epiphany, Steve Blank, Founder of the Lean Startup movement, talks about the importance of “getting out of the building,” stating, “the biggest mistake marketers make is believing that their vision makes them understand what consumers want... There are no facts in the building. Get out and talk to people.”

Larger innovative brands are starting to take a page out of the startup playbook. Increasingly, we’re finding multinational brands taking steps to operationalize their talk about “customer obsession” and “consumer-centricity” to truly make it part of their innovation process. At many of these brands, this move to institute access to the “voice of the consumer” is spreading throughout the organization, carried beyond the Innovation teams, through to the Marketing and Insights departments.

Central to their success is a dedication to consumer engagement, which can be achieved when brand teams and their innovation partners have conversations with consumers on a regular basis, early in the process. Regular, democratized access to consumers empowers innovation leads, marketers and brand managers to develop a greater understanding of consumers, enabling the team to build better, more successful products.

One of the largest inhibitors stopping brand professionals from talking to consumers has been how complicated and expensive it was to execute and repeat with regularity. For engagement initiatives to be successful, the tools that they relied on needed to be easy for teams to adopt and embed in their processes cross functionally. And largely, they weren’t. Consumer engagement often required offline activities, like conducting focus groups or going into consumers’ homes for observational research. Consumers were rarely invited to innovation brainstorming sessions, literally or virtually. These practices required an enormous time investment, and a lot of travel for all parties involved. The process was not scalable, could only happen periodically and was limited to a handful of individuals. If it happened at all, it was not repeated at each stage gate of the innovation funnel. This handcuffed the brand’s ability to tap into the desires of the consumer, and siloed access of that information to a select few, making it very hard to claim true “consumer closeness” across the enterprise.

Fortunately, technological advances are enabling real improvements in the ability of brands to bring the customer “into the room.” Innovation initiatives are now being bolstered by online tools for consumer conversations that make engagement scalable, easy to embed into the innovation process and cost effective enough to repeat as often as needed. Not only does this increase access to the voice of the consumer, but it gives brands a fighting chance to beat the odds and develop successful products that consumers want to buy.

About the Author: Jim Longo is the VP of Research Solutions at Discuss.io, a live video platform for consumer engagement and market research. He brings over 25 years of domain expertise in the market research industry. Jim is considered a thought leader with regards to online behavior and market research technology.

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