Product development is a rather broad process with a number of components, phases and stakeholders. It is defined as the creation of a product which, by design, will provide customers with a solution to a problem they need to fix. In other words, product development is the process of creating a product that is either better than competitors’ offerings or is designed in an entirely new way. The critical aspect of this process is the product development research; without it, the customer need will not be addressed and the newly designed product will likely miss the mark. Below are three important aspects of product development research that every company should consider.

ONE: Product Development Research Includes More than Just Pretty Packaging Requirements

It’s often some pretty or intriguing packaging detail that first captures the consumer’s attention and draws them in to take a closer look at the contents. After product launch, that pretty packaging is generally the first touchpoint for the customer. While this truth holds weight, package design is only one piece of product development research.

By engaging with customers, asking open-ended questions and inviting customers to share details about their daily routines, their frustrations, their interests and so on, product development research teams can collect crucial insights into what customers want but don’t yet have. Through a variety of techniques, including surveys, interviews and focus groups, customer insights can be collected and applied to inform product development. Broadly, the goal of this research is to understand how the customer will respond to every aspect of the product, including what it is, how it’s made and what it’s named and more.

Product development research encompasses so much more than just the product itself. It requires insights into its name, the package design, the messaging and most importantly, the brand itself. Philosophies, ideals and attitudes of the target customer will help shape the brand, how it’s represented in the market and what it represents to the target consumer. Reactions, positive and negative, to certain concepts, word patterns, communication preferences and other parameters will be analyzed and interpreted to name the product so that it resonates with the right audience and conveys a meaningful brand. It is via this comprehensive product development research process that companies gain an understanding of how customers interpret brand positioning.

TWO: Product Development Research is Best Performed Together With Customers

Product development research is a team sport. Packaging engineers, creatives, designers, product architects, materials scientists, project managers, marketers, data scientists, analysts and other functions are generally involved in the process. However, without one key teammate – the customer – the chance of a significant marketplace victory is low.

Customers want to be heard, perhaps more than ever since the dawn of new media and the macro trends of personalization and embracing diversity. By giving customers the opportunity to voice their opinions on products and product design, companies can harness and leverage that authenticity that comes only by engaging customers directly via product development research. It is this voice of the customer, as the one source of truth, that should guide the design and development of the product: name, package and brand.

Co-creation with customers enables companies to hear it directly from those who will be buying their product. These insights are critical to developing a successful product that customers want. Product development is not a solo effort. To get it right, get the concept in the hands of prospective customers early, and often, in the product development research process.

THREE: Product Development Research Should Tap Multiple Demographic Groups

If only the process was simple. Most companies assume that a customer persona can be accurately defined by studying just one demographic group. As a result, these companies believe they can develop a product and the packaging, messaging, name and brand in just a single go. Realistically, these companies are missing out on significant data. When executed correctly, customers are typically categorized into three, four or more customer personas. Each of these customer types is distinct with minimal overlap in their behaviors, buying patterns and interests. If a company designs a product to meet the interests of a single customer type, it is undoubtedly leaving money on the table with respect to revenue opportunities beyond what they think they know.  The repercussions for making improper assumptions can be catastrophic to product success.

To manage that risk and to position a product for the best chance of success, product development research should encompass a broader swath of the population. This means tapping multiple demographic groups. By doing so, multiple consumer needs and wants will be uncovered and identifying different types of customers becomes simple, enabling customer stratification with respect to how needs, interests, ideals, etc. vary between groups. With this enhanced understanding, a company is afforded added precision to better match the product to the most profitable target. The tighter the alignment is between the customer’s preferences, wants and needs and the product, packaging, name and brand, the more success it will likely find in the marketplace.

Product development research promotes comprehensive knowledge pre-launch. The collaboration with customers yields a product, package, name and brand with tight specificity to the needs and wants of the most lucrative customer to maximize success. By keeping these three points in mind when conducting product development research, the voice of the customer will come through loud and clear and customers will buy big.

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