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Product Innovation: The Basics

Innovation is exciting. But do your homework before you move too quickly. As many as 90% of new products fail each year. In a new white paper, "How to Use Modern Market Research to Fuel Successful Innovation", research-based success stories help you to beat those odds.


By Adam Rossow

So you have the next big idea, and you’re ready to get it out into the market. Innovation can be exciting, but it’s worth pausing and evaluating whether you’ve done your homework before you move too quickly. As many as 90% of new products fail each year,[1] and 75% of new consumer packaged goods and retail products fail to generate sales of even $7.5 million (far short of the benchmark of a successful launch, $50 million).[2] Market research can help you be part of the 10%, rather than the 90% that are running back to the drawing board scratching their heads.  In a new white paper, How to Use Modern Market Research to Fuel Successful Innovation, a few of those research-based success stories are highlighted.

To help propel you into the elusive 10%, we wanted to share some ideas for you to consider when innovating a new product. While every product will have different factors to consider, here’s a list of key questions that you should know the answer to before launch.

Who is going to buy it, and who isn’t? Knowing your target will help you effectively market, and ultimately sell, your new product in the most efficient way.

  • Who needs this product and doesn’t currently have it?
  • Who uses something similar, but might switch to your product?
  • Who is unlikely to use your product, no matter what?
  • What other brands and products does your target audience gravitate toward?

There’s a lot to dig into around value and functionality. What does it do and what’s it worth to consumers? We recommend concept testing early and often – as long as there’s enough information to understand the basic concept, consumers give robust feedback even on incredibly early stage concepts, such as wireframes or sketches.

  • Why should this product exist?
  • How many ways could this product be used? Are some use cases more popular or vital than others?
  • What is the value of the product to consumers?
  • What is the price that consumers are willing to pay for this product?
  • What additional features would be helpful?
  • What features are superfluous?
  • What variations need to exist, if any?
  • How does this new product fit under your brand umbrella?
  • What makes this product different than its competitors (if any exist)?
  • How do consumers want to learn about a product like this?
  • What do consumers need to see/hear to want to buy this product?
  • Where/how would consumers expect to find a product like this one?
  • Where/how would consumers buy a product like this one?

Who are you up against, what are they known for, and what makes you different? Knowing how you stack up against the competition will give you a much stronger platform on which to stand when you decide to go to market.

  • Who has a similar product on the market?
  • What are consumer perceptions of this brand(s)?
  • What makes you different than this brand(s)?
  • What are consumer perceptions of the differences between you and your potential competitors?
  • What makes your product different than their product(s)?

This might seem like a lot of questions – it is. But while some, such as price, necessitate separate quant questions, many can be tackled as part of a conversation about your new product. Online one-on-one qualitative gives you a chance to show the consumer a prototype of what your product might look like and get their unbiased feedback in a fluid conversation. This allows you to cover a lot of ground without it being draining on the consumer. In the right environment, consumers truly enjoy and appreciate being a virtual extension of your R&D team.

For more innovation strategy, tactics and success stories, check out the white paper, How to Use Modern Market Research to Fuel Successful Innovation.

[1] “Why Most Innovations Are Great Big Failures,” Anne Fisher, Fortune, October 2014.

[2] “Why Most Product Launches Fail,” Joan Schneider and Julie Hall, Harvard Business Review, April 2011.

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3 responses to “Product Innovation: The Basics

  1. All the questions seem to assume there is a product that has been defined….then try to find who will buy it. If this is widespread, maybe that is a contributor to product failure rates?

    Marketing and NPD should be based on finding what people are tying to get done and then designing products and services to get them done in a better way (metrics of what better means being defined by the customer).

    I have found the JTBD “Jobs to be done” approach is a good way to make sure we are focused on the customers needs first before defining a product.

  2. I like the article and the comment from Martin. But sometimes, there are opportunities for new products that fulfill an emotional need. That is, I want this feature, but I want to buy it from a reputable company. So even though the need can be fulfilled elsewhere (JTBD), the JTBD has an emotional context.


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