How Instant Feedback Helps You Avoid Product Failure

The customer, as the old saying goes, is always right. While many people misunderstand this to mean that employees should always follow the instructions of their customers, what this really means is that businesses need to respond to the needs and wants of their consumer base. Does it mean that your local Chinese takeaway needs to start making pizza because one of their customers demanded a margarita? Not at all. It does mean, however, that if your local Chinese takeaway starts losing money because everyone in the area prefers Italian food, the owners should listen to what their customers have to say.

Here’s another example for you. Do you watch Netflix on your phone? Most people would answer yes. Now, do you prefer to watch Netflix on your phone? Again, most people would answer no, but apparently Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman disagree. That’s why they developed Quibi, a mobile video streaming app with its own content, intended to be consumed in 5-10 minute bursts. Everybody was supposed to be watching Quibi on their commute to and from work, in the bathroom, or waiting in line for a cup of coffee. Instead, the app failed to even reach 30% of its first-year subscriber target. People may watch things on their phone, but that doesn’t mean that the small screen itself was enough to compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+.

Quibi seemed at first glance to meet the criteria of product innovation:

      Does it solve a problem the consumer faces?

      Is it superior to the competition?

      Is this superiority obvious?

Quibi addresses a customer need (albeit the all-encompassing 21st century need to be entertained 24/7). Being a phone app makes it easy to access, and in providing convenient, bite-sized viewing content, it’s significantly better to watch in snippets than the binge-worthy content on Netflix or Disney+. Finally, its benefits seem obvious – it’s on your phone, you always have your phone on you, so you can watch your favourite shows whenever you want. This innovation, however, failed, and it failed hard. This leaves us with one question:

Where did it all go wrong for Quibi?

At Softbrik, we’re always talking about the importance of consumer engagement. Knowing and listening to your core consumers isn’t just a part of business success. It’s the most reliable, predictable factor for the success of any product. Businesses who fail to listen to their consumers are businesses who fail their consumers. Katzenberg and Whitman made assumptions about their consumers without appropriately consulting them…it seems like instant feedback was not on their radar. Accordingly, the market more or less ignored Quibi. The core idea of Quibi was itself flawed. Watching things on your phone is not, in and of itself, particularly appealing. Quibi failed to listen to its customers, and in doing so failed its customers.

Consider, on the other hand, Spotify’s “micro-launch” of its first foray into hardware. Spotify’s new toy, the Car Thing, is effectively a physical manifestation of the popular streaming app that attaches to your car’s dashboard. The Car Thing looks to be Spotify’s opening salvo in its campaign to replace radio. Having already prioritised podcasts on their streaming platform by acquiring the exclusive licence for the Joe Rogan Experience, and effectively dominating the streaming arena, they have set their sights on making old school AM/FM radio obsolete. Spotify launched this product to only a select few consumers. In fact, the Car Thing is available by invite only. Like Gmail before it, this limited release reduces production costs, and allows Spotify to engage their consumers early on, react to consumer feedback, and make any adjustments required to guarantee the success of their first ever piece of hardware.

So, how should you do it?


Product innovation is highly valuable. Addressing the needs of the market will never be superseded in business. In the modern era, however, businesses and entrepreneurs can learn about their consumers, learn how to address their needs, and refine their innovative new products in order to better meet those needs. Predictable, repeatable business success is not a single “eureka” moment, but a series of refinements, polishing products until they have the best possible chance at success.

Micro-launches like Spotify’s are standard practice in the software world, and are starting to make a splash here in the physical realm too. The best product launches are like that. They allow entrepreneurs and businesses to validate their hypotheses and evaluate their innovations at every step of the journey. This prevents investment in products that are doomed to fail before they even hit the market. It allows for course correction where needed, by regularly receiving instant feedback. It safeguards against failures like Amazon’s Fire phone, which hit the market in numbers far too great to allow any consumer feedback beyond the supremely unhelpful binary of “yes” or “no”.

Frequent, accurate consumer engagement is critical to the success of any product. For this reason, Softbrik makes it possible for consumers to tell you, in their own words, exactly what they think of your product. Softbrik’s QR code technology allows customers to tell you, at every step of the journey, what they like about the product and what needs tweaking before the next phase of your launch. They can tell you using Softbrik’s voice recording technology, which will then be sent to you by text or as a voice recording. There’s even translations available, so international and multilingual businesses can engage with a broader cross-section of their consumer base than ever before. This quick, simple, regular feedback mechanism enables businesses to understand the needs and preferences of their consumers in real time, rather than waiting to the end of their first year to find out that, like Quibi, they will struggle to even hit 30% of their original target.

Once you have your customers’ honest opinions from instant feedback, captured in their own voice, businesses can use B-I-F queues to prioritize this captured feedback. It’s easy to categorize this as bugs, improvements, and features. Using this, the simplest available feedback gathering mechanism, to engage directly with consumers and allow them to engage directly with you, helps prevent disastrous failures like Quibi, and ensure successes like Spotify’s Car Thing.

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