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There are countless products that have failed to reach a stable market, or even get out of the preliminary research and development stages. The product failure I have decided to dissect is the Google glasses which were released in 2013. According to CBInsights, Google Glasses were ranked #14 in the “When Corporate Innovation Goes Bad — The 132 Biggest Product Failures Of All Time”. I chose this product primarily because I wanted to delve deeper into why the market was not accepting of this, and how this affected Google’s reputation. The introduction of these glasses into the market is safe to characterize as a flop for the following main reasons: safety, design, functionality, and price.
Despite being one of the most prominent search engines, their eyewear did not live up to customer expectations. Despite the interest consumers have in the latest technologies, for some reason the eyewear lacked that differentiating factor. With regards to safety, individuals are generally conscious about radiation waves emitted from cell phones and other devices, nonetheless something uncomfortably close with the eyes. Many people take precautions prior to letting devices physically around 24/7, so imagine the discomfort consumers would feel having electrically powered eyewear on in addition to the lingering devices. In addition to safety, many articles outline that the Google Glasses threaten the idea of “privacy and piracy”.
Community article states that “this means the person sitting in front of you at the subway or at the next table could be taking a picture or footage of you”, which further triggers how dangerous this product is perceived by others. It fails to protect the ethical principles of basic safety and identity by having the camera record feature built into such a device. There’s no telling how many ethical boundary lines are crossed by recording one’s surroundings so secretively. The article also mentions how this product threatened the movie industry, by exploiting the camera features to record in theatres. Clearly, this wasn’t favored from a commercial side as well which contributes to why the glasses failed.
From a consumers perspective, I believe the design of accessories is critical. Typically, successful products have a pleasing appearance to buyers when making initial contact. If the designing of the product is poorly crafted, or does not live up to the customer’s expectation, products will ultimately flop and get placed into the pool of substitutes. This goes for eyewear especially. Not only are glasses supposed to perform their function of aiding in visuals, but they have to have some sort of redeeming design that will intrigue customers to buy them. And because prescribed eyewear usually rests on an individual’s face, individuals are extra sensitive to the design of the product and how well it enhances the face. Because the design of the Google glasses were perceived as intimidating in its structure due to the large camera attached to one of the lenses, and thick wiring, the product seems to distract the image of the customer as opposed to enhance. Not only does the the visual interfere with the consumer’s self esteem in wearing large eyewear as a replacement for the normal glasses or contacts, but it also disrupts the flow of how consumers interact with each other. The design of the product is a huge red flag in terms of distracting consumers in comparison to enhancing their experience.
One of the biggest questions consumers faced after hearing about this product was determining it’s actual functionality. Unlike extensive customer service Amazon provides, or innovative devices that Apple produces, each of these companies has expanded their product line according to what consumers actually want or need. Because in each step these two companies rather enhanced features of certain products (after the initial launch of the innovative one), they were far more successful as opposed to the Google Glasses. These company launches were successful in their launches because they met consumer demands, or took the opportunity to exploit demands that consumers will want after it launches.
Google Glasses does not fit the criteria of a particular consumer demand. The article also mentions, “Some argued that it should be worn all the time, while others believed it should only be used in certain situations. This also resulted from the worst reason as to why the Google Glass never took off”. Consumers clearly had no idea what the purpose of this new product was. The demand they were trying to meet was unclear, the role in the consumers’ life was unclear, which therefore contributed to why this product failed. Depending on customer loyalty, features, quality, service etc. consumers’ willingness to pay for different goods fluctuates. If a company enters a new market it is understood that they are able to reserve a particular price for the goods they produce. A pair of Google Glasses range from $1000-1500, which exceeds the prices of regular retail eyewear.
According to Cost Health article, experts state that “Prices vary tremendously, depending upon the type of frame, lenses and type of retailer. Glasses can cost just $8 or up to $600 for those without insurance. For name brands, prices can range between $50 and $1,000 or more”. The maximum $600 dollars given in this example, is a price consumers are in fact willing to pay because one can consider these glasses a necessity-with the primary purpose of aiding impaired eyesight. With the necessity of the glasses down to a baseline price of around $600, performing its most important function, consumers also get the choice of customizing these glasses with different brands, colors, etc. With the primary function feature given, and the ability to customize the product already existing in the market, why would consumers be willing to spend almost $1000 more for the Google Glasses which we already established has an unclear role in a consumer’s life. It is understandable for companies to increase prices with the intent of covering development costs or increasing revenue, but the prices for these glasses are infeasible. This is another disadvantage that contributed to the failure of these Google Glasses in the marketplace.
Obviously a lot of effort and resources were used in the research and development into the creation of these Google Glasses that should not go to waste. I recommend Google taking initiative in two areas. One, includes changing their target market. The other, stick to the expansion of other products or services in their brand, and finding areas of opportunity elsewhere from wearable technology. The initial tweeking to the target market can simply mean not launching and distributing this product to just everyone, but instead, have a focal point in this audience. I believe this wearable technology can be of valuable use to computer scientists, engineers, or medical practitioners.
Meaning, this product can be focused in the commercial side to these end users where the product fits a particular role. For example, it can guide engineers in terms of precision of their work or surgeons relying on a visual aid to help zoom and signal them during surgery. Those are a few of many options in terms of selecting a focus point in their audience. The other recommendation here for Google would be finding other areas to invest this growing technology into such as enhancing customer experience in existing Google products (phones, laptops, etc. ) that will differentiate them with competitive market leaders. Instead of opening this wearable technology to a market where it seems infeasible to and difficult for users to adapt to, they should invest into areas of successful products that can use a bit of modification. Just because these Google Glasses failed in living up to its investment expectation, that doesn’t disregard all of the successful Google products and services that have dominated the market. Despite all of these unfortunate disadvantages of Google Glasses, Google still plays a major role as one of the leading modern industries that one poorly executed innovation does not tarnish.
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