Product Limbo Can Ultimately Lead to Product Failure

The third of 5 common flaws which lead to product failure, as identified by the Harvard Business Review, and how to combat it using marketing research.

This post is the fourth in a series on the 5 Common Flaws that Lead to Product Failure. To access the whole message, make sure to read parts onetwo, and three!


After the dust has settled following a new product launch, reality quickly sets in. As we look around and assess the scene, we ask ourselves, “What do people think?” Is the product flying off the shelves? Are new happy customers taking selfies with our new product?


Are people who come in contact with it scratching their heads, wondering what it is and why they should buy it?

The second scenario is what researchers Schneider and Hall refer to as “product limbo.” This is where products linger before they are eventually discontinued.

At this point, I am sure your question is, “Why does this happen, and how can I prevent this from happening to me?”


The Problem

A product in limbo is likely facing this problem: The product features and attributes are not appealing to the consumer.

If a product’s unique value proposition and core benefits are not distinct enough to set it apart from competitors, then it has failed to convince its target market of its benefits.


The Solution 

The solution to this problem is to perform upstream market research and identify the hierarchy of attributes in terms of both performance expectations and the best associated messaging and positioning using discrete choice analysis with qualitative feedback.

The ultimate goal of market research is to understand customer priorities and to produce products which solve the most urgent customer problems. This helps us avoid the dreaded product limbo. Conjoint analysis is one way to do that.

Discrete choice analysis is a powerful tool for structuring and analyzing quantitative voice of the customer data. An Actionable Research favorite method, Adaptive Choice-Based Conjoint, (ACBC) allows the respondent to “build their own” product at the start, screens for options the customer will not choose and offers rich detailed feedback regarding attribute importance and required performance. This enables us to determine which aspects of a product are most important to potential customers: what they must have, what can be optional, and what they will pay extra for.


Application 1: Assess viability of multiple product configurations

Consumers are asked to balance cost and desirability of additional features. By analyzing these inputs, we can determine which features are ‘critical’, which are ‘premium’, and how much they will pay for each.

Actionable recommendation: Determine the optimal product(s) to bring to market; again, an ACBC study is an effective tool in this determination.


Application 2: Targeted messaging and product positioning

The conjoint analysis uncovers consumer motivations and drivers of purchasing behaviors. This allows us to make targeted messaging and positioning campaigns by highlighting a product’s key features in a way that is clear and meaningful for the target market.

Actionable recommendation: Test a series of narratives, each designed to address a segment of the target market.


Application 3: Model price elasticity and simulate market adoption rate

The data generated from a conjoint analysis can be analyzed using a market simulation tool to determine various product configurations and demand scenarios to determine price elasticity and market adoption for each.


Analyzing and synthesizing all of this information enables our clients to present well designed products, accompanied by targeted messaging and product positioning that appeals to its target market, enabling that product to stand out against a sea of competitors.


This blog post is the fourth in a six-part series on the 5 Common Flaws that Lead to Product FailureIf you're interested in learning more about these flaws and specific market research methods that can be used to combat them, you can subscribe to our bog to receive a notification when the next piece of the series is published. 

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