Everybody is familiar with Aesop’s Tortoise & Hare fable, the moral of which is, ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ Whilst speed is certainly important when it comes to innovation, it’s not always about who can get to the finish line first (i.e. first to launch) and it’s important to remember that winning this race does not necessarily guarantee you instant success. Being agile and dynamic like The Hare is key but it can be too easy to get caught up in the competition and forget about the wider picture - this can be fatal.
Yes, time is important but timing is even more so. You may have won the race to the finish line in terms of product development, but the question is: is the market ready? Is the timing right? The consumer is the key to whether your innovation is a hit or not, so it’s the consumer who needs to remain central in focus. There are a number of factors which could influence launch timing; both inside and outside the business, as well as on both a macro and micro scale.
Sometimes the market simply isn’t ready for the product. Take Google Glass for example…it sounded exciting and cool but this alone is not enough to guarantee success. No one really knew what its purpose was; how did it propose to benefit the end-user? Why did the consumer need Google Glass? Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in what you think is a really great idea that the consumer is going to love, but without actually putting themselves in the shoes of this end-user and asking what they need. On the upside, Google Glass has found traction in more industrial settings, but otherwise for now the product has gone back in to the progress box..
Sometimes other external factors affect the way an innovation is received. Just over a decade ago, Microsoft launched one of the first smart watches - a device called SPOT -which boasted quite a number of impressive features, such as being able to receive weather and news reports, as well as MSN messages. However, it was limited by the fact that it could only receive information, you couldn’t actually respond to or broadcast from the device. Bad timing combined with poor design and an expensive subscription model meant that the product never gained much traction and consequently, Microsoft took the product of the market just a few years later. A decade later though, the Apple Watch has been launched to an eager, anticipating market with much greater success. Although it remains to be seen whether Apple manage to work their magic here, these examples highlight how timing is of the essence and thorough research and development is of utmost importance!
On the flipside, there’s the irony of being quick to market but so rapidly successful that you actually fail in trying to keep up with demand! Webvan, one of the US’s first online grocery delivery services, definitely wasn’t prepared for their popularity. They offered a same-day delivery service which although was a big USP, ended up causing issues because they didn’t have the infrastructure to cope with the demand. Subsequently, the money invested in trying to remedy this ended up bankrupting them. Sometimes patience is key, as is learning from others mistakes!
There are already a number of take-away food delivery services battling each other, Deliveroo, Foodora, Menulog to name some popular examples, but evidently seeing an opportunity, Uber also decided to join the party with the recent launch of their UberEats app. Focusing on the higher-end restaurants, this new service taps in to Uber’s already established and expanding fleet of drivers. However, not biting off more than they can chew (pun intended), UberEats is being rolled out in a calculated, measured manner, starting in the US with a lunchtime only service for example. Melbourne is only the third international city to receive the service and was chosen because of its reputation as the ‘ultimate foodie’ destination. The service has focused on the inner suburbs initially, before rolling out into the wider metropolitan areas and other cities. Reviews have been mixed so far but nevertheless the interest and excitement is there based on their existing success and reputation. UberEats is a great example of clever and controlled market infiltration, combined with a tactical launch strategy which they have taken at their own pace.
So, what’s important to remember is that it’s not necessarily all about being the quickest to market. Thorough research, testing and review is vital.. The more clued up you are and the more insight you have, the stronger your position will be, and most importantly the consumer must be at the heart of all of this though. They’re responsible for the success of your product or service, so be sure that they’re primed and ready.