Category Archives: New Product Development

8 Great Reasons to Concept Test

8 Great Reasons to Concept Test

8 Great Reasons to Concept Test

Concept testing is that stage in product or marketing campaign development where concepts (usually detailed descriptions or storyboards) are evaluated to determine if they have enough potential for further investment and development. With the astounding rates of new product failure in the market, it is safe to assume that many businesses neglect this critical phase.

Concept testing is done both with surveys as well as qualitative research (such as focus groups or in-person interviews). Base your concept test methodology on both who you need to include in the research as well as whether your concept lends itself to being presented graphically or verbally, without rational explanation or discussion. In either case, the research investment conducted at the concept testing phase is minimal compared to launching a new product that does not meet sales goals or one that needs extensive re-tooling or re-marketing post-launch.

Here are some of the many purposes of concept tests:

  1. To develop the original idea further. Often, either with or without customer input, we have a brainstorm of a “killer” new product. Or do we? Running a quick concept test will tell you whether your product has the potential to justify investment in further development.
  2. To estimate the concept’s market potential. Okay, we think the concept is terrific, and some customers seem to like it, but will enough of them buy it at a price point that allows a profit? Sometimes, it is critical to know whether you have a blockbuster or a niche product to guide further investment. You never want to overinvest in a product that can’t carry the weight.
  3. To eliminate lower-potential concepts. As a corollary to the first two bullets, you may find that your great idea is not so great. Identifying and killing low-potential product ideas before they drain resources unnecessarily is another important purpose of concept tests.
  4. To determine the value of concept features and benefits. Knowing what your customers like (or dislike) about your new concept can guide future development. Additionally, it is important for marketers to understand what benefits to communicate to the target audience at launch – and beyond.
  5. To identify the highest potential customer segments. Who likes the concept the most, and why? Who is likely to be an early adopter – and even potentially a loyal purchaser? Understanding your customer base can help you optimize your product launch.
  6. To estimate of sales or trial rate. To scale up production of the new product (or delivery in the case of a new service), you need to have an estimate of how much you will sell or what percentage of current customers will try the new offering. You must avoid disappointing customers because you failed to forecast uptake for your new offering correctly.
  7. To identify optimal messaging and inform marketing plans for launch. Which marketing messages resonate with your early adopters? What sales channels should you use for the start? Understanding how to appeal to your most initial customers is critical for the successful launch of any new product
  8. To refine marketing plans post-launch. Once you have started, you need to roll-out the product into full distribution. Will the launch marketing work for this purpose, or are different customers going to need different channels and messaging?

Innovation, and developing new products and services, is the lifeblood of your business. Don’t leave that critical function to chance. You can vastly reduce the risk of product failure – and increase the probability of new product success – by conducting concept tests at key points in taking a new product or service to launch.

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Clear Seas Research Reports

Revolutionizing New Product Development with 3D Printing

Revolutionizing New Product Research Utilizing 3D Printing

Revolutionizing New Product Research Utilizing 3D Printing

Media coverage of 3D printing borders on the fantastic: how we can now produce everything from human (and canine) prosthetics to drones to guns to scale models of luxury cars (so we can watch them crash and burn in movies.) But what is 3D printing and is it real and ready for prime time?

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making solid, three-dimensional objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object uses an additive process in which successive layers of material are developed until the entire object is created. You can think of each of these layers can as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the object.

It all starts by making a virtual design in a computer-aided design (CAD) file using a 3D modeling program (for the creation of a totally new object) or with the use of a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). Companies like Microsoft and Google recently enabled their hardware to perform 3D scanning, a sign that we will be using our smartphones to digitize real objects into 3d models as easily in the future as we use our phones to take pictures today.

Prices of 3d scanners range from very expensive professional industrial devices to DIY devices anyone can use at home. (A Google search found 3D printers priced anywhere from less than $300 to more than $3,000.) Futurists are predicting a day when 100% of the materials in our home will be printed on 3D printers. Here are a few examples of how 3D printing is being used:

  • An ornithologist researching how a certain species of birds behaved with their eggs had tried placing ceramic eggs and wooden eggs in the nest, but the birds rejected them. By 3D printing the eggs from scans of the bird’s own eggs, researchers finally produced an egg that was accepted by the mother bird.
  • Always wanted to play the same guitar that Eric Clapton used? Want to sing Dylan’s songs using Dylan’s guitar? 3D printing enables even the most amateur performers to use the real (or nearly real) thing.
  • Your three-year-old has fallen in love with a character in a story book. Can’t find a toy like the one in the book? You can easily and inexpensively print a 3D replica that they will adore.

But for anyone involved in new product development, the most exciting application of 3D printing is the ability for rapid and inexpensive prototyping for test markets, in-home usage studies, and marketing research. In Central Location Tests (CLT), in-person or online in-depth interviews, or in-person or online focus groups, gathering consumer reactions to concepts is not always as reliable as using a prototype. But creating and transporting prototypes is prohibitively expensive and challenging. Now, instead of using traditional manufacturing process to develop a few expensive prototypes that are then physically transported to the research site, a 3D file could be sent to the research site, and the object printed right there. The 3D printed prototype will cost much less, and shipping will be eliminated, dramatically lowering the costs of testing.

The costs of prototype development could become so low, that researchers will be able to provide multiple product versions to be tested simultaneously. Where rounds of research might have been undertaken before the initial prototype was produced (hoping to make it as close to market reality as possible), now inexpensive 3D printed objects make it possible to test with real objects, even at very early stages of product development.

3D printing also enables rapid reiteration of product design. If marketers learn in early prototype testing that an attribute or feature of the product needs to be changed, it is easy and fast to simply send a new 3D file to the research sites – whether CLT, focus group, or in-home. They just print the new prototype, and the research proceeds without a hitch.

3D printing is the biggest development in new product evaluation since the A/B test. By making new product development testing faster, cheaper and less risky, for both in-person and online methodologies, 3D printing will revolutionize the way we look at marketing research in the new product development and innovation process.

6 Reasons You Must Invest in Dealer Research

Invest in Dealer Research for Better Brand and New Product Development Strategy

Invest in Dealer Research for Better Brand and New Product Development Strategy

Most businesses know the importance of understanding customers. And most businesses understand the value of employee engagement. After all, as Jack Welch, former CEO of GE said,

“There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow.”

However, many B2B organizations have another customer base they need to consider: distributors and dealers. In fact, for some B2B companies, dealers and distributors are the only customer.

If you rely on distributors and dealers to get your products and services to your customers, they are a key audience for running your business. Understanding your distributors and dealers, and how well you support them, is a critical metric for maintaining the health of your business.

You can learn a lot from your distributors and dealers:

  • Distributors and dealers can give you insightful feedback on your products and services. How do customers respond to them? How do they stack up against competitors’ offerings? Distributors and dealers live by sales – they know this information cold. And if you use their feedback to improve your products and services, everybody wins.
  • If you have distributors and dealers delivering your products and services, they become a part of your brand for the customer. Do they understand your brand? Are they representing your brand the way you want? If not, they could be hurting your brand image. You need to know.
  • No one is better positioned to give you up-to-the-minute intelligence on your competitors than distributors and dealers. And since they can benefit from the information they give you, they want you to know. Find out what your competitors are doing.
  • How do your sales materials work for your dealers and distributors? What else could you give them to help them sell your products? What are the most important messages you should be conveying? How do they like your promotions? Tap into the collective wisdom to make Marketing’s job easier.
  • Do you know your value proposition? You probably know what it is for your end customer, but what about for the dealers and distributors? What can you do to maximize your value to them?
  • What do customers think of the products that are available to them? Is there anything missing that you could provide? Dealers and distributors are talking to your end customers. Find out what they know and incorporate this into your New product development program.

Jack Welch continued by saying,

What’s important at the grocery store is just as important in engines or medical systems. If the customer isn’t satisfied, if the stuff is getting stale, if the shelf isn’t right, or if the offerings aren’t right, it’s the same thing. You manage it like a small organization. You don’t get hung up on zeros.”

And of course the link between customer satisfaction and increased profits has long been demonstrated. The importance of the dealer and distributor network in connecting your employees and the end-users of your product and services has received less attention, making it an even more important opportunity for your consideration.

Register with Clear Seas today to learn more about researching your dealers!

Build New or Improve Existing Products: Which is Better?

New Product Development Research

New Product Development Research

There are two key business opportunities in Product Development. First, you can improve an existing product. Or second, you can create a totally new product. Which is better for your business?

On the one hand, it may be less resource-intense to improve an existing product. You already have a customer base, a brand position and the market is familiar with you and your offerings. On the other hand, you may get more business growth by introducing a new product. Bringing new customers into the fold may pay dividends down the line in cross-selling your products and services.

So the correct answer is, probably both. But what is the ideal split between the two? What percent of my revenue should come from completely new products and what percent from product improvement?

There is no hard and fast rule about this, although you can probably find many different answers with a quick Internet search. Rather than focusing on these guidelines, it is more important to look at your individual situation. Some of the question you should consider are:

  • Are the opportunities to improve your existing products? If your product have significant weaknesses, those are opportunities that are sitting right in front of you. Are your customers complaining or asking for changes in your product? Are you losing sales to your competitors? In many cases, this might be your first line of attack for product development.
  • Where are you in the life cycle of your existing products? If you are close to retiring a product, you may not want to invest heavily in developing improvements because you’re not going to see the payback. If you just introduced your product, it may be too soon to introduce changes as you are still struggling with introduction challenges. On the other hand, if your product is in the sweet middle spot in its life, introducing improvements can boost sales and revenue, and may actually extend the product’s life expectancy.
  • Will the new product leverage your existing brand and operations? If you are going to sell the new product to existing customers, you have a leg up. They are already familiar with you, your brand, and what you stand for. You may have existing sales relationships. Assuming that customers like you, using the same brand can be a huge cost-saving. Ditto with operations. Can you leverage your customer service infrastructure? What about online resources? Marketing costs for introducing a new product are significant, and leveraging your existing market position can create synergies and cost savings.
  • Will you be entering a completely new market with your new product introduction? New market entry is difficult and costly. Starting from scratch with consumer awareness, educating the market about your offering and how it is different and better than anything else available can take a lot of time and resources. Product trial may be difficult to achieve. Product adoption may not come as quickly as expected. Depending on the sales cycle, it may be years before you can tell whether the launch was successful. If you’re not willing to make that investment, this might not be the way to go.

The one thing all of these questions have in common is this: you need information to decide whether introducing new products or improving existing products – or both – is the better strategy for your company. Information can come from internal sources, such as financials, sales, prospects, adoption rates, complaint information. Third party sources of information such as government data and product reviews can help you identify opportunities. Syndicated industry and market data can be especially helpful (especially if you are entering a new-to-you market) to help you evaluate potential demand. Finally, marketing research to evaluate customer interest in, appeal and likelihood to purchase are important in projecting potential demand for the product.

Product development – whether completely new or simply improved – is an important investment in your company’s future. Don’t count on averages or industry guidelines to tell you how you should invest your Product Development resources. Use information to build a custom strategy specific to your company, in your industry. By including an investment in information in your Product Development process, you can create competitive advantage that will improve sales, increase customer loyalty, and drive long-term business success.

Register today to see how we can help you with new product development!

Capturing Market Research Data Through Virtual Reality

Opening CLEAR[vr] Early Access Program

CLEAR[vr]

CLEAR[vr]

It’s with great excitement that we are opening our CLEAR[vr] Early Access Program!  You may be asking what is CLEAR[vr]?  CLEAR[vr] is our way of capturing marketing research data through the virtual reality system, Oculus Rift.  Ultimately, we set out to understand a basic question:

  1. Can CLEAR[vr] help companies develop new product innovation more efficiently and more effectively?

Early in our testing, the conclusion became crystal clear. Product designs and concepts can much more easily be rendered and displayed in a virtual reality environment given the fact that a client does not need to manufacture a single prototype. Because of that, VR may be a better choice for some clients than 3D printing.  Some of the early adopters on CLEAR[vr] have told us they can save thousands of dollars by simply not having to ship their large pieces of equipment to potential clients, therefore using VR a company can “teleport” customers into an almost exact replica of any environment. In fact, it’s even better than the real world in many ways, in virtual reality, users can zoom into machinery or equipment and see the small inner workings, they can visualize the product or equipment in their facility. In yet another CLEAR[vr] benefit,  products can be placed easily in shelves and retail settings that mimic real world shopping experiences to reproduce thousands of consumers before a single package or product is made.

The opportunities are simply limitless when it comes to product innovation and new product development in virtual reality.  Not only are we able to ask participants questions, but now we can monitor their behavior as well, and we can monitor it remotely.  Now in its 6th month of testing, Clear Seas Research is uncovering incredibly exciting insights from its virtual reality platform, and has leveraged the power of this new technology to uncover some of the newest and latest thinking around brand strategy and new product innovation.

For these reasons, we invite you to join us on this new technology platform that holds huge potential for b-to-b and consumer market research.  Market size and market share are important and critical numbers to know, they can help you understand the larger landscape potential in context of the size of the competing brands and products in any given space.  But using virtual reality to better understand your new product innovation opportunity, and gauge interest before going to market is far better than simply measuring market size – because new product development is greenfield work, YOU are creating the market, there is no market yet to measure.

CLEAR[vr] represents a truly game-changing opportunity for brand managers, product managers and marketing research managers to scale incredible technology for the benefit of unparalleled insight into the decision making drivers of customers and clients in a reality that far surpasses the current internet or mobile platforms today.

Contact us today to test your new product development innovation in virtual reality!

How to do Better Concept Testing? Start with Better Concepts

CSR blog imageFor most companies, some point in the new product development process requires writing a concept statement. And often, the concept statement is quickly dashed off by the marketer or their agency, without a lot of thought. But writing a strong concept statement is as much science as art, and putting in the time to develop the best possible concept statement can pay off in improved new product success rates.

Concept statements usually follow a three-part format: Problem, Solution, Reasons To Believe (RTBs.) And of course always stated from the point of view of your target consumer. Fairly simple, the concept statement for a new product might be:

  1. “We need to get the orange juice into the trucks faster.”
  2. You need a bigger pipe.
  3. This pipe is guaranteed for five years, has a 95% safety record, and is made in America.

However, simply repositioning the concept statement format can lead to improved concept statements. Instead of Problem, Solution and RTB’s, think about the concept statement format as Insight, Benefit, and Trust Builders.

The Insight

Define the problem as an insight, and you’re halfway home. Insights are a clearly stated, compelling belief, some truth about your consumer’s life, or a state of being that is true for your consumer. Problems are not insights, necessarily, and an insight may not be a problem. In order to have an insight, you need to know your target audience. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is the target consumer? Describe them in demographics: age, gender, income, ethnicity, education, employment. What is their industry?
  • How do they use this product? What substitutes and complementary products do they use?
  • What are their habits concerning this product?
  • How do they shop and purchase this product? Are they the influencer or the final decision maker?
  • What attitudes do they have about this product?

The better you know your target audience, the more compelling the insight you will have and will result in a better concept statement.

The Benefit

As Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” In other words, people don’t buy products to have the product; they buy products to gain a benefit. So make sure that your concept statement describes the benefit you’re delivering – not the product you’re selling. Each concept statement should focus on one benefit. And make sure that it is clear how your product delivers this benefit better than any other competitors’ product or the consumer’s current solutions.

Trust Builders

These are product attributes that support the delivery of the benefit. The Trust Builders help the consumer feel confident that they will get the benefit you have promised. Limit your concept statement to only the three to five facts, features, or characteristics that will be the most compelling to your consumer.

Here are some examples of Trust Builders:

  • Features of the product, including technology
  • Facts about the product: how it is made, what it is made of, packaging, its history or backstory
  • The product’s brand, owner, or manufacturer
  • Endorsements (from famous people or “experts”)
  • Appearance, sound, flavor, texture

Putting it all Together

Approaching the concept statement as Insight, Benefit and Trust Builders might lead you to write a concept statement like this:

“In order to distribute our orange juice to the bottler while it is as fresh as possible, we need to get it on the road faster.”

You need US Pipe to optimize your fruit-to-bottle processes. With higher capacity pipes and pumps, your orange juice is safely and efficiently delivered into the bottler’s trucks. And all US pipe and machinery is made in the USA, for faster maintenance and service.”

In the end, strong product concept statements have the right elements, and also tell a great story. It’s not a process you can short-change, so work carefully through each section of the statement. Start with an outline of the key points, and then write the full sentences, romancing them into an interesting and story and compelling promise. Your new products might not all succeed, but you’ll increase your chances of success by being a disciplined and thoughtful concept developer.

Click here to learn more about research for new product development!

Operational Challenges and Marketing Research Opportunities to Increase Revenue in 2014

eBook_RevenueGrowth_v2_cover_JPEG

How do you balance rising operational challenges with growth opportunities?

Companies that invest in research face the challenge of balancing operational challenges with potential growth opportunities uncovered from research. The main challenges we see in B-to-B companies for 2014 are related to higher materials costs and finding new business. Growing labor costs, government regulations and efficiency issues also play a big role in limiting businesses ability to grow. For the 2014 “Clear Seas Research Revenue Growth ebook”, Clear Seas focuses on the top two issues; rising costs and business development challenges.

The unrelenting rise of raw materials comes from many sources but predominantly from growing global demand. Leading companies first look for ways to reduce internal costs before passing costs onto customers.

Leading companies are close to their customers, they take time to conduct in-depth interviews with their customers, they bring prospects and customers into focus groups and central location tests to try their products, give feedback on different brands, and provide advice to leaders on ways to improve service, develop new products, and improve the customer experience.

To read the 2014 “Clear Seas Research Revenue Growth ebook”, contact us today to receive your copy.