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New product research

New product research NPD:testing beakersProduct research lets you understand what customers really want, allowing you to tailor your product offering to meet their needs and giving you a real competitive edge.

New product research helps you refine product designs and plans before committing yourself to expensive product development costs. Whilst continuing product testing and research can drive innovation, keeping you one step ahead of the competition.

New product development and product research

Product research is a vital part of new product development. At every stage of the process, product research can help you identify key issues and avoid expensive mistakes.

Initial product research can be used to evaluate new product ideas. Testing the concept alone like this can help you discard unpromising ideas, allowing you to concentrate product-development expenditure on more promising new products.

As the new product development process continues, product research helps you identify the key factors that matter to customers - showing you what to focus on. Product research can link in with other aspects of marketing. For example, it can help you assess how much customers might be willing to pay for new product features. Research can also be used to assess other aspects of product design, such as product packaging or names.

In the retail sector, product research can be invaluable. The findings can help convince retailers to stock your product and also present information on the best means to display and promote it to ensure the best possible chances of success.

Once a product has been launched, product research often focuses on customer satisfaction. Together with research into competing products, product research like this can help you refine the marketing of existing products and inspire ideas for product improvements.

Carrying out product research

Concept testing for new products can be very challenging. Questionnaires and focus groups are obvious options, but can be misleading - the way people react to new products in theory can be very different from the reality. Customers may say they like a new idea, but in practice prove reluctant to switch products or decide that it is not worth the price.

Product research using actual product samples or prototypes can overcome some of these problems. For example, the classic 'taste test' can be used to assess how customers compare the performance of different products. Some companies involve customers in early-stage product testing to see how they respond. But remember that real outcomes once a product has been launched may still depend on factors such as how the product is marketed and to whom.

Test marketing - actually selling the product - produces more definitive results, but is an expensive form of product research and can only be used after substantial investment in product development. Test marketing can be a very useful way of trialling products in new markets to assess likely sales or identify what modifications are needed.

Both test marketing and full product release can usefully be accompanied by follow-up product research. Purchaser surveys (for example, asking purchasers what they liked and disliked about the product) are a straightforward option. Product research that tracks actual purchaser behaviour (for example, whether customers make repeat purchases) provides concrete evidence of customer satisfaction levels.

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