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A practical guide to product development research
August 11, 2021
New product development
8 min read
Understanding your target customers' needs and behaviours is a crucial step in the new product development process. Here we explore product development research and how it can give your brand the direction is needs.
Product development research is the process of finding out how the product or feature you’re currently working on is progressing, whether there are any changes in your target audience’s needs and whether you need to make any adjustments to the product.
Depending on where you are in your product’s life cycle will dictate the kind of product development research you do and how it might impact your overall product development process.
In your product research process you can find out things like what features customers might be willing to pay more for, or figuring out how you can increase customer loyalty. And you might want to investigate a decline in interest or sales to make sure your product maintains success.
Whatever stage your product development is at, you’ll definitely want to keep track of its progress and stay on top of any emerging trends that might affect your product life cycle. You can do all of this with research into your product development.
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It’s vital for businesses to develop products that fulfil the needs and desires of customers. This is what will keep customers happy and loyal, and it’ll ensure that the business’s products remain successful, and, better still, become even more successful.
Gauging market demand through product development research – easily done with platforms like Attest – is a surefire way to get to the root of what consumers want, allowing you to offer them truly useful and desirable products.
Surveying your target audience throughout your product development process, from its initial stages through to its final stage, launch and future iterations, is key to staying on top of trends and changes in customer needs.
Your marketing research and exploratory research should reveal the insights you need to continue reaching and satisfying your target customers. You’ll hear opinions directly from your customers, meaning that the products you go on to develop will be made for and with your customers.
Stages of product development research
There are a few key stages of the product development research process that you should know about to make sure you create successful products that are right for your customers.
Take a look at our intro to the new product development research (NPD) process, summarising the 9 key steps to explore throughout your project:
During this stage you might not necessarily know what your outcome will be, what your product will look like, how exactly it’ll address potential customers’ needs and ensure customer satisfaction. This is when you’ll explore these areas and more to find out what direction you’ll take with your new products.
At the exploratory stage, market researchers will delve into data around consumers, their pain points and their general product usage, usually working closely with the Product team to make sure these insights are reflected in the product roadmap.
Once ideas about products and features have been developed during the exploratory stage, many companies then take an even deeper look into issues and topics that emerged in the previous stage.
Ideas you might have had earlier on in the product development process will be scrutinised here to help you understand the value of your offering to your potential customers.
Later in the product life cycle process is when you’ll carry out iterative development research. At this stage you’ll analyse and refine your product and its features to make sure the final product you provide to your customers is comprehensive and eliminates their pain points.
Iterative market research can be intricate and involve in-depth analysis of seemingly insignificant features. Things like A/B testing can be done at this stage – that might be testing different versions of a website button or packaging design.
Types of product development testing
There are a range of product research types that businesses typically explore when they’re defining customer preferences and prepping their potential product for the marketplace.
Each of these types of product development testing cover the spectrum of new product research, all the way from concept testing to post-launch satisfaction and ongoing success. And these testing types can be done in many different ways, ranging from small, intimate, mainly qualitative focus groups to large, mainly quantitative surveys. Let’s get right into the different types of product development testing.
There’s absolutely no point in launching a product without being confident that the idea will resonate with consumers, and will ultimately be a success.
That’s why, right at the beginning of the new product life cycle you should carry out concept testing. This is where you’ll figure out, through extensive research, whether that product or feature you’ve been mulling over will actually give consumers what they’re looking for.
Concept testing can involve testing anything from brand assets like a new logo or website page to commercial features like the pricing structure, or even as a way to uncover a new customer segment.
User experience research
It’s crucial for marketing, product, insights and innovation professionals to have a full understanding of how an end user interacts with the product or service on a functional level. Are customers able to navigate around the website or platform easily? Or open the physical product quickly? How do they feel as they interact with the product? How easy is it for them to complete their ultimate task?
These are the kinds of questions you should hope to answer through your user experience testing.
It’s super important at this stage to enlist real consumers who might be interested in your product. Even if the users uncover issues with your product or don’t immediately fall in love with it, that’s fine – what matters is that it’s useful insight directly from the people your product is targeted at.
Knowing where to price your product is a battle all companies face at some point. You need your brand to offer a quality product at a price that’s cost effective and competes with other market leaders, but you don’t want your price to be so high that people buy elsewhere, or so low that you miss out on revenue.
Through pricing research you’ll find out what your target customers are willing to pay for what you offer, allowing you to find the sweet spot – the price at which you can maximise revenue, profit and market share.
This is also the perfect time for you to find out if it’s worth your while to offer your customers any discounts, and if so, where in their journey these are most likely to be effective.
Market and competitor research
While it’s obviously super important to carry out research into your own product and offering, don’t forget to stay on top of what’s going on in your industry.
And remember to iterate on your market and competitor research – repeat and build on your research to make sure you have a full understanding of industry trends and so you can identify new ones.
Satisfaction and loyalty research
And your product development research doesn’t end once your product’s out there in the market. Are your customers truly satisfied with your offering? Are you giving them reasons to be loyal to your brand?
It’s a mistake to assume that your customers are satisfied just because they chose to buy from your company. It’s vital that you continue assessing your customers’ happiness and desires, and to make sure you’re on top of any unmet needs.
We hope this practical guide to product development research has been useful for you, and that you can take this insight and continue developing concepts and products that wow your customers.
Always-on, iterative market research is a key way for you to discover ways you can enhance your product offering and make sure you leave customers satisfied with and loyal to your brand.
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Elliot joined Attest in 2019 and has dedicated his career to working with brands carrying out market research. At Attest Elliot takes a leading role in the Customer Research Team, to support customers as they uncover insights and new areas for growth.