What do you get when you cross a juicer and an internet connection? A complete and utter disaster. At least, that’s what can be said for startup Juicero, the makers of a connected juicing machine that’s recently made a splash in the press for its rather pointless capabilities.
The premise of Juicero’s $400 device of the same name is that it squeezes pre-ordered packets of fruit and vegetables into a liquid and connects to the internet to provide its users with a replenishment service model. However, as Bloomberg pointed out, it’s possible to squeeze the pre-ordered packets with your hands, rendering the device itself useless.
As a result, Juicero became a laughingstock on Twitter, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of anyone even considering buying one. It was a stereotypical Silicon Valley disaster: a startup trying to cash in on the juicing craze by raising $120 million from investors and then selling an expensive product that no one needed. And while it’s laudable to get into the subscription space, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about a replenishment service.
Juicero made two fundamental business mistakes in the launch of its connected juicer: 1) It was a superfluous device that didn’t add value, and 2) It was just far too expensive.
On the first point, it should go without saying that a connected device should always add value to a consumer’s life. Otherwise, it’s simply technology for technology’s sake. What’s more, Juicero failed to pick up on the lesson Keurig learned two years ago: preventing customers from using third-party juice packs and not letting customers buy its own juice packs without first buying the machine. Breaking this fundamental “business law” (if not an actual law), Juicero underscored just how not useful its device is by forcing customers to buy it.
The company’s second misstep was not adopting a long-tail business model, meaning that even if it lost money on the device, it would more than make up for it through subscriptions. It’s an age-old model that razor companies have been using for decades: you essentially “give away” the razor, while making money off the razor blades. By charging an exorbitant amount for the useless juicer, it’s clear that Juicero was trying to have its cake and eat it too.
Yet perhaps the worst sin Juicero committed was giving people every reason to knock smart home devices for being nothing more than dumb novelties. As we know, connected devices have the potential to drive great value for both businesses and end-consumers–including by making possible a smarter product-as-a-service model called Just-in-Time Replenishment.
On a positive note, this pointlessly connected juicer now serves as an example to other businesses looking to understand how best to deploy connectivity in everyday items. The key takeaway: make it genuinely valuable to both you and your customers.