Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Navigating the New Product Development Process

By: Mike Kuehne

 “If you want to understand how animals live, you don’t go to the zoo; you go to the jungle.”
~M. Lindström (Small data: The tiny clues that uncover huge trends.)

Welcome to the Jungle

Developing new products is often akin to a safari. There is a great deal of excitement around what you expect to see and experience (the known), but surprises often lurk in the tall grass (the unknown). Today’s frequently wild product development environment requires that brands quickly grasp and act upon both the known and unknown to ensure success.

One of the biggest challenges both Marketing and R&D professionals face during the new product development (NPD) process is remaining focused on the original consumer desire the new product was designed to fulfill. Products not meeting such, by way of emotional and sensory attributes, are unlikely to drive repeat purchases. And, brands lose millions due to lack of repeat purchases.

A 2015 survey published by Catalina, found that if every tier of shopper bought at the same rate as repeat shoppers, average new product revenues would increase by $30.5 million in the first 26 weeks of a launch. As such, it is crucial to address consumer desires and repeat purchase opportunities throughout the NPD process.

Mapping the Course

The NPD process is typically broken into four stages: articulation, validation, development, and commercialization.

Specific research deliverables are required in order to progress from one stage to the next. Adding to the challenge, Marketing and R&D departments are continually asked to develop new products and make key decisions in less time with less data. As a result, small data insights aided by mobile research platforms are playing increasingly important roles in the process. 

The Articulation Stage – Down In the Weeds

During this stage, researchers must immerse themselves with consumers to capture small data - those micro-moments that aggregated big data can’t identify - to better determine consumer desires.

The biggest research challenge in the articulation stage is to identify new product opportunities at light speed. As such, high-quality respondents are a must-have in order to reduce the total sample needed to generate insights. By the end of the articulation stage, the goal is to have enough confidence in the data to begin creating a concept.

Mobile-conducted ethnographies, video testimonials, shop-a-longs, etc., which mimic social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, can be highly effective in meeting this objective and uncovering unseen/unmet desires.

The Validation Stage – Rough Roads Ahead

The concept conceived during the articulation stage is then refined in the validation stage. This can be one of the most tumultuous events in the NPD process, as it’s the first time consumer desire is transformed from written concept to tangible product.

Research techniques that take place in this stage include co-creation sessions, focus groups, conjoints and concept screens. These methods work together to define who the product is for, what is the consumer need, and how the product will fill the need. The challenge for researchers is to utilize this information to ensure that the concept and product match real-world emotional and sensory consumer desires. If this doesn’t occur, there is risk that early (and subsequent) prototypes won’t deliver on such attributes.

By using mobile research platforms, risk can be mitigated in two ways:
1.    Researchers can access consumers in their jungle, providing the opportunity to experience in-the-moment reactions to early concepts and prototypes.
2.    Research activity can be easily and collaboratively viewed and disseminated among Marketing and R&D stakeholders, thus adding speed and efficiency to the process.

The Development Stage – Entering the Lion’s Den

Once the overall concept has been validated, it’s time to get consumers excited about the total package. In the development stage, final graphics, messaging and formulas must be tested, and received positively, by consumers. The major research challenge here is to maintain the product’s key sensory attributes when scaling-up to industrial production.  Thus, relying on a small, high-quality consumer sample for co-development helps product teams and marketers quickly pivot if product or packaging changes are required. For these reasons, consumer centricity, or lack thereof, can truly make or break the launch. Mobile survey platforms can drastically reduce the complexity of in-home product testing during this stage, by allowing consumers and researchers to interact in real-time, without the need for multiple trips to various facilities.

The Commercialization Stage – Here Kitty, Kitty…

Once a product has been fully-tested and validated, it’s time to launch to your consumers.

Additional research at this point often comes in the form of Voice of the Consumer programs and tracking surveys set in place post-launch that allow organizations to react if there are considerable consumer complaints. Consumers are passionate and opinionated, if there is not enough fruity goodness at the base of a new fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt, the brand will hear about it post-launch.

Some of the best VOC programs and tracking surveys are designed on research platforms that provide data in real time, allowing organizations to react quickly when consumer complaints arise.

The Adventure Begins

New products that last in the marketplace do so because they truly deliver on both emotional and sensory consumer desires. Launching a product without these connections would be the equivalent of taking a safari without a map, camera or ample insect spray. Achieving product success while making decisions with fewer insights in less time, can be daunting.

The good news is that staying connected to the consumer throughout the NPD process and utilizing mobile-enabled research techniques will help brands deliver products consumers will want and use for years to come.

About The Author: Mike Kuehne is a veteran researcher with both client and agency-side experience, including stints at Avon and The Dannon Company. As part of FocusVision’s Research Strategy team, Michael works closely with the company’s sales and product development teams to create customized and meaningful technology solutions for clients, with emphasis on Pharma, Healthcare and CPG organizations.

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