How to Adapt Your New Product Development Process to Succeed in Times of Change

The rapid changes in consumer needs due to the pandemic have altered how we use and consume products. As a consequence, businesses are now adjusting the way they develop new products to ensure the success of their investments.

“Product development, always an important part of an organization’s growth strategy, has become essential for businesses to quickly adapt to changing market needs,” according to a report by Hanover Research, a firm specializing in market research and analytics. The report, ‘Product Development Reduces Risk and Increases ROI: An Assessment of COVID-19 Impact,’ states that "more than half of executives say product development has become more important to the success of their business because of the pandemic."

"More than half of executives say product development has become more important to the success of their business because of the pandemic."

However, executives have also become more averse to risk. “Nearly 80% say they need to be very/extremely confident a product will be successful to proceed with the launch.” As a result, organizations are increasingly using new product development (NPD) best practices to identify and mitigate risk.

"Nearly 80% of executives say they need to be very/extremely confident a product will be successful to proceed with a product launch."

Hanover Research has developed the following New Product Development Checklist to help businesses “stay on track with the NPD process by outlining key phases, which questions you should answer at each phase, and the research approaches you can use to gain that insight.”

A summary of Hanover Research’s NPD Process:

Preliminary: Market Analysis

The first step before the development and release of a new product is to understand its position in the corresponding market. Performing such an analysis that involves “specialized market size modeling and competitive monitoring,” allows you to zero in on opportunities for added growth. Other recommendations include analyzing industry news to spot trends and forecasts, creating profiles on your competitors, and studying brand awareness.

Phase 1: Idea Generation

In this next step, you’ll start brainstorming what products you can potentially sell through feedback from your target audience and staff. The goal is to come up with a preliminary list of product ideas that could either work with your existing customers or in a new/adjacent market. This phase also involves assessing your existing product portfolio and its viability and collecting feedback through customer interviews.

Phase 2: Concept Testing

In this phase, you’re able to evaluate your list of feasible ideas from the previous step and determine which ones show the most promise. To achieve this, Hanover Research recommends gathering input from your target audience through a concept testing survey, Voice of the Customer interviews, and focus groups.

Phase 3: Product Refinement

After deciding on the product type, it’s now time to conduct an iterative process of tweaking and improving your product in each cycle with the goal of refining the model into a working prototype. This is also the time for you to explore design specifications and start to determine manufacturing approaches. Other action items are evaluating the different desired features and determining the pricing.

Phase 4: Market Warming

This is where you’re able to set the tone and gain momentum before the bigger launch. Seek feedback from early adopters who will be critical in guiding messaging to express brand strategy and identity any areas that need added refinement before the product launch. The steps in this phase include testing to verify your marketing campaigns are driving ROI, guided focus group discussions, and creating a blueprint for market entry that addresses how target customers are reached.

Phase 5: Product Launch

This is where the rubber meets the road as your product is now ready for its debut into the market. In this phase, you’ll want to communicate the finalized sales and marketing strategy. The to-do list includes a customer segmentation study, go-to-market strategy and monitoring your social media channels to see what your customers are saying.

Phase 6: Product Review

The final phase may be the most important one. Find out the areas where you can improve or enhance your product by evaluating items including your customer’s sentiments before and after the launch, as well as won and lost sales opportunities to identify the go-to-market impact compared to competitor products.

There are a lot of things that may make or break a product’s launch. However, by following a meticulous new product development process, you’ll likely be able to significantly improve your success rate. Use this checklist as a guide to help you stay on track.