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The 10 Reasons New Products Fail (according to science)

minute read

Have you ever launched a new product that failed? Or have you ever watched a new product fail right after launch? 

It might seem like a mystery - why some products fail and others fly off the shelves. But there's more science (and behavioral patterns) behind these fails than you might think. 

In 2016, a group of researchers set out to examine how habits play into product failure. Along the way they discovered that new product fails had a lot in common, and put together the following list. 

Can you spot the reasons you - or someone else's - product failed? 


The 10 Reasons New Products Fail

Physical risk

People don't adopt a product because they think it might be dangerous or pose a risk to their health.

Customers might think to themselves: “I’m curious to try a cannabis product to help my arthritis, but what if the side effects are worse than my prescribed medication?”

Functional risk

People don't buy a product because they're not sure how it'll work with something they already own (or plan to buy in the future). 

Customers might think to themselves: “I already own all Apple products, so if I buy a Samsung phone I think I’ll have compatibility issues with the rest of my electronics.”

Social risk

People don't adopt a product because they're afraid of what other people will think. 

Customers might think to themselves: “What will my friends think if I buy this cute purse from AliExpress instead of the LV bag they’re all carrying?”

Economic risk

People don't adopt a product because they don't know if it's financially "worth it" or think it might go on sale or lose value. 

Customers might think to themselves: “I’m not sure the new Tesla is worth the price, I’ve heard they have a lot of quality issues.” or “I think LA is becoming a less attractive place to live, so if I buy a house here I might lose money - I’ll just keep renting.”

Perceived switching costs

People don't buy a product because it's too hard to figure out how to switch from their old product to this new product. 

Customers might think to themselves: “This new cloud accounting software called Freshbooks looks too hard to figure out and I’ll have to import all of my data, but Quickbooks has been working for my business for 10 years.”

Exposure to information about a competing product

People don't buy a product because they're more familiar with a competitor. 

Customers might think to themselves: “I’m just more familiar with a PC, so I think I’ll stick with Dell and not try a MacBook.”

Sticking with an existing product that’s working

People don't adopt a new product because they believe the one they have is working just fine. 

Customers might think to themselves: “I don’t need to join a fancy fintech like Monzo, because my Citibank (or Lloyds) account is working just fine.”

Slipping back into an existing habit

People don't buy a product because they don't want to change their habits to use something new. 

Customers might think to themselves: “I tried making my own bread by buying a fancy Williams and Sonoma bread maker, but I just kept forgetting to take it out of the pantry and use it. Plus, I kept forgetting I had it and would pick up bread at the store.”

Not aware or don’t care about new products 

People don't know about a product or they think it's not a product that's made for "people like me."

Customers might think to themselves: “I’m not really interested in getting an Apple Watch - like, what does it even do?”

Don’t want to change

People don't buy a new product because they just don't want to change. 

Customers might think to themselves: “Sure, I could get an electric car but where am I going to charge it? It just seems really complicated and my gas-powered truck feels simpler.”


Bonus: If you want to dive deeper on the reasons why people don't buy, the supporting studies for each driver that were included in the original paper on page three, or take a look at the snip below:


The Bottom Line

Knowing about these potential reasons for failure isn't enough to stop a product from failing. You also have to systematically identify and have a plan to overcome these issues.

Don't stop at reading this list, ask yourself:

  • Have we asked customers not why they would buy this product, but what would be stopping them from buying this product?
  • Have we observed customers' behavior when presented with the product? What do their behaviors seem to be saying about what is or isn't interesting to them about this product?
  • Have we addressed these reasons to not buy a product in our marketing plan? How might we be prepared if customers don't respond to these efforts?

About the author

Jen Clinehens, MS/MBA

Hi 👋 I'm Jen Clinehens (MS, MBA) the founder and Managing Director of Choice Hacking.

I started Choice Hacking in 2021 to help marketers and entrepreneurs figure out what makes buyers tick, and elevate their work using behavioral science, marketing psychology, and AI.

If you want to learn more, check out links to my newsletter, podcast, YouTube channel and other free resources below 👇


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