Has everything “already been invented”? Hardly. Although it certainly feels that way when your team is tasked with inventing the next disruptive innovation. Product development is a monumental task that even the most seasoned teams can struggle with from time to time. However, marketing research can be a game-changer when done right and executed routinely. We will cover the primary benefits below.

The Relationship Between Marketing Research and Product Development

Marketing research plays a key role in enabling product development. Before any prototypes are even sketched out, marketers and analysts study the market to establish a target audience, a purpose for the product, and what problems it would solve.

  • A deep-dive competitive analysis is always fruitful. Competitive products have merits, which, if examined in the context of the needs identified, can inform product development teams as they co-create the market requirements documents with their marketing counterparts. Competitive insights can flag opportunities for improvement to existing products and help the team create something more desirable for the market.
  • Correctly identifying the needs and requirements of the target audience at Phase 0 is mission critical. Errors or missed signals at this early stage can set the product development plan off on the wrong trajectory, wasting time and money along the way. Gut checks are always necessary to ensure that the product development plan, and the product itself, will meet the levels of quality and functionality that consumers demand.

Although gut checks typically hail from seasoned pros on the team, this can hardly be considered a data-informed strategy. The collection of qualitative and quantitative data is another reason why marketing research is important for product development. At any time, at any development phase, marketing research can help correct the course mid-stream, but getting it right out of the gate affords companies a competitive advantage. Properly conducted research guarantees a solid foundation of understanding customer needs and how the product will meet them will guide the following phases of product development.

Another task of marketing research is to evaluate the potential longevity of a product. Forecasting the life cycle of a product will enable the business to adapt to change accordingly and often, and prevent the business from being significantly impacted by market shifts. Through proven methodologies, marketing research teams can articulate what the customer may say, think, and respond with respect to the product. Marketing research flags potential product questions, concerns, and issues to establish a basis for how a business can expect a product to be received. These insights inform the design of an improved product and a better sales and marketing plan that is more likely to resonate with targeted buyers.

Checklist: Building a marketing research strategy for product development

Being deliberate about marketing research strategy upfront drives everyone in the business to be more productive and efficient downstream. Not to mention going a long way towards avoiding costly mistakes. A data-informed decision will reap greater rewards than a guess – every time. Marketing messaging can be tailored and advertising can be highly focused based on learnings from market research. Underserved or neglected customers (collectively and individually) can be identified and future engagement efforts can be fine tuned to their respective needs.

Below is a quick checklist of questions to keep in mind while developing a marketing research strategy for product development. The scope of these questions underscores why marketing research is so important to product developers. Asking the right questions upfront, before engaging with any consumers helps minimize the risk of hitting a pitfall once the research begins.

  • Does the product have a clear purpose that can be explained and marketed to consumers?
  • Does the product meet consumer needs?
  • What existing products will this product compete against?
  • Can this product’s use by consumers be measured?
  • Does the expected price of the product match its perceived benefits by consumers?
  • Does this product satisfy a need that other competitive products do not?
  • What ancillary challenges does this product present a solution for outside of its proposed utility?
  • Who are this product’s target consumers?
  • What is the likelihood of purchase by target consumers?

Co-creation is an effective tool for product development

It’s not uncommon amongst those in product development to believe that lay-people simply “don’t understand” what’s involved. This stereotype can make it difficult for some to embrace co-creation. How could an end-user customer possibly know what to build? However, the exact opposite is true. By including customers in all aspects of the product development process, the tendency to hold on to jargon or gravitate towards “cool technology” is checked. In this way, creating and improving products via co-creation is beneficial and serves as an effective tool for product development.

Another benefit of co-creation with customers is the opportunity for customer ideation. Brainstorming, be it online or in-person, can spark a host of new and innovative actionable insights. In fact, 90% of new product research conducted is focused on additions and improvements to existing products versus the identification of novel concepts. Businesses should place high importance on finding a research partner that can gather actionable consumer insights which will help the business thrive in a competitive marketplace.

The purpose of ideation sessions goes well beyond new ideas and customer check-ins as a means of building loyalty. The purpose is to fuel a long-term future. Constant touchpoints with customers throughout the product development process ensure that teams have the proper guidance to create and maintain a flourishing product innovation pipeline.