5 Essentials For New Product Success
by Felicia Rogers
How many new products are introduced in the U.S. each year? I’m sure the number is in the tens of thousands, especially when you count line extensions and other new SKUs. All you have to do is spend some time scrolling through Amazon or take a walk down the aisles of your local supermarket or mass retailer to get a sense of the number of products that already exist and the penchant manufacturers have for introducing new ones.
With such a steady stream of new products constantly appearing, consumers can easily become overwhelmed. Deciding which new products to try and which ones to skip can be confusing, even frustrating. In many cases it’s much easier to stick with what one knows, leaving those new products exactly where they are—on the shelf.
So how does a new product truly break through?
How do manufacturers avoid being part of the often-quoted statistic: 95% of new products fail? Here are some thoughts on five factors that improve a new product’s chances for success.
1Top-Notch Idea-Generation Process
An innovation team must develop and adhere to a process for spawning new ideas. The innovation pipeline should be full, and should remain full, of ideas. Not all of them will be outstanding (which will be determined later), but they should all be credible. Our advice is to find a partner with a specialization or well-respected practice focused on developing new product ideas. The right firm will help identify white spaces (unmet needs or opportunity areas), generate hundreds of potential ideas to address those needs, and be able to shape them into concepts for further assessment. Know that not everyone can come up with good ideas. In fact, only 4% of the population is strong in what we call “idea-centric” creativity. Our Imaginators® community of innovative consumers is among this elite group. Imaginators® are a great resource when it comes to generating breakthrough new product ideas.
2Good Vetting Protocols
As a next step in the process, innovators should have specific procedures for a) screening through lots of early-stage ideas to identify the “nuggets” that deserve more attention and development and b) rigorously testing more fully-fleshed concepts. A standardized system that is custom-fitted to the specific category is ideal. Over time, a database of ideas and scores should be developed to provide context and develop move-ahead benchmarks.
3Focus On Product Quality
When scientists or engineers go to work developing a product, a variety of ingredients, components, and processes come together to form the new creation. It’s vital to test early prototypes and the final formulation or design to ensure the product meets or exceeds consumer expectations. Test and tweak until it’s right, not just in the designer’s eyes, but in the judgement of the ultimate consumer. Especially for a brand-new product, generating initial trial is essential and delighting the customer is critical if you hope to establish a strong repeat-purchase cycle and a loyal following.
Testing shouldn’t stop once the product is launched. Periodic quality-assurance testing must also be done. Of course, there are protocols for testing what comes off the assembly line, but it’s important to also conduct independent consumer tests with a product that has made its way to retail. Assessing the quality of products that are pulled from shipments or bought from retail shelves is the best way to ensure they continue to meet expectations “in the real world.”
4Effective Marketing Plan
Rarely do products sell themselves, so good marketing is a must. Everything from the package design to the pricing and distribution strategies should be carefully researched and optimized to give the new product a fighting chance not just to survive but to thrive. Advertising to support the launch should be aimed at generating trial. As the product gains traction, brand-building messages should be dialed up, and advertising should continue with the right calls to action through a variety of media channels. Copy testing programs are very helpful to ensure the right messages or promotions are featured in creative at every stage. All of this support should be well funded and carried out to ensure that sales continue to build. Launching a product without adequate marketing support is a huge gamble no matter the category.
5Strong Selling Story
Building a strong case for your new product with buyers and other constituents in the distribution channel is key. In meeting with retail buyers, for example, the sales force needs to be able to demonstrate that shoppers want the product. Discussing and perhaps demonstrating the product and its features are necessary, but ultimately shopper demand will win shelf space. Good concept and product research proving the product’s appeal to consumers is tremendously helpful.
An organization’s ability to survive today is often defined by its capacity to innovate and listen to its consumers. Companies must continuously adapt to changing markets, changing technologies, and changing consumer habits and preferences. Successful new products don’t just happen. New products and new product ideas take a while to surface and require a team to nurture them.
Creating and launching new products is very rewarding work. As a consultant in the industry, I love playing a role in this process. Innovation work is actually one of my favorite engagement types. For those of you who “own” these projects, I know it’s not easy. With long hours, lots of pressure, and potentially high stress to get to the finish line, I’m sure you experience highs and lows, anxiousness and joy in the process.
About the Author
Felicia Rogers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Executive Vice President at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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