Why Google Glass Failed While Snapchat's Spectacles Are Thriving

According to a Forbes article, “Google Glass didn’t fail because of the technology, rather because it wasn’t clear to the customer what problem it solved or why they needed it.” The article goes on to claim that “Google Glass failed to help consumers understand why they needed such a device.” So it seems the article is pointing out that the research team didn’t do a good job uncovering a problem. Or perhaps the marketing team might not have done their job conveying the problem that Google Glass was attempting to solve.

Google Glass

But I’m not so sure that that was the only issue.

You see, some offerings in the market might be desirable to potential customers – given that they are within a certain price range. And that, in my opinion was the bigger issue. No matter how much advertising would’ve been made for the Google Glass to prove its desirability, customers were still not willing to pay $1,500 for that sort of functionality. What Google missed was that people didn’t want that much technology behind such a product. They had to price it at $1,500 to justify its viability as a product in the market. With that much technology packed into such a product, anything less than $1,500 wouldn’t have made financial sense for Google.

And that is where the gap lies.

A gap that Snapchat beautifully took advantage of with their Spectacles. The Spectacles are priced at just $130 (as opposed to Google Glass’s $1,500). Granted, the Google Glass has much better technology, but the fact that the Spectacles are being very well received in the market whereas Google Glass flopped, is proof that Snapchat understood the consumer problem better. And since they knew the consumer better, they knew how much technology needed to be behind the product, which eventually justified the price. Google was so focused on pushing the technology and finding a market later on. Snapchat, on the other hand, started with the consumer and pulled in the insight that led to the Spectacles.

Snapchat's Spectacles

Technically speaking, this contrast in outcomes between two offerings in a market define the difference between invention and innovation. In a previous article, I had argued the difference between creativity and innovation. This example of Spectacles vs. Glass makes the point for the difference between invention and innovation. Innovation is new value in new ways. The Spectacles were able to deliver new value, but the Google Glass was of no new value in the market. Google invented its Glass product. Snapchat understood the consumer (and how much they’d be willing to pay), and innovated with its Spectacles.

In order for an innovative offering to succeed in a market, it needs to meet the intersection of feasibility, viability and desirability. As mentioned in a previous article, desirability is very dependent on price. As we’ve seen in the example of Google Glass vs. Snapchat’s Spectacles, Google failed to meet the intersection of desirability and viability due to the pricing of the product. Google’s first and foremost issue was lack of consumer understanding and the problem it was trying to solve for. But even if they were aware of it, and were better able to convey its usability through its marketing efforts, it would’ve still flopped because of its price point.

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