Ask experts in new product development what the secret is to creating bestsellers, and they’ll give you a simple answer: product research. Of course, you need great design, reliable manufacturing partners, and a sales and marketing strategy that attracts and closes buyers. But none of those steps work if you design, manufacture, and sell a product that customers don’t want or understand. Product research is how you learn what your customers want and how you need to present it to them. When done right, it can supercharge your entire new product development process.
There are dozens of aspects to product research (also called market research). Fundamentally, the term refers to gathering information about the target market for your product idea, including what products are already in or adjacent to your market and the customers in that market. Both an art and a science, product research uses many methods to gather information and can produce pages of hard statistics or fuzzy results like emotional impressions. Everything from searching social media hashtags to face-to-face focus groups is employed and fed into the product development process.
This article will dive into why product research is so important and how to conduct it. We’ll also present 21 questions your product research should try to answer. We then finish up with some suggestions on building the right team to understand your market and your potential customers.
Why Product Research is So Important
Without product research, you’re just guessing about the success of your product. Even if you’ve been in your industry for years or have experts in your segment on your team, without research, your decisions are based on assumptions drawn from personal experiences. And no matter how plugged in you are, that is not enough.
Here are five of the most common benefits of market research for a new product, followed by a discussion on the main reason you conduct research — product/market fit.
1. Prioritizes Customer Needs
A proven aspect of bringing a product to market that sells is keeping the customer in mind throughout the process. With good product research, “customer first” becomes more than a buzzword. Good research gets your team into the mindset of your customers and keeps their perspective at the front.
2. Provides a Decision Tool for the Entire Product Development Team
Developing a product requires a host of decisions. You and your team need to decide on what your product will look like, its features, how it’s made, what price point to sell it at, and how it’s sold. Product research ensures that at every step in the process, your team can refer to research data to make informed decisions.
3. Keeps Your Products Relevant
If this is not your first product, you and your team might think you have a good feel for the market you sell in. The truth is, you had a good feel for the market. Consumers’ wants and needs change at an ever-accelerating pace, especially with the internet and e-commerce driving them towards the new and different every day. If you want your new and existing products to stay relevant, you need strong product research.
4. Reduces the Risk and Cost of New Product Introduction
Nothing costs more than paying for a mistake. The last thing you want is to halt manufacturing of your potential product because you realize too late that your customers aren’t willing to pay for what you’re making. With good product research done up-front, you can avoid these costly, time-consuming mistakes and protect your profit margin.
5. Clearly Defines Your Audience
Knowing your audience is important for product design, but it is essential for marketing and sales. Good market research will tell you who your competitors are, who might buy your product, and why they buy similar products. This is the fuel that drives marketing. If you don’t know your audience, your marketing will miss your target market.
Different Ways To Conduct Product Research
Gathering information about products, customers, and markets used to be very difficult. Before the internet, market research relied on consumer surveys and observing volunteers from behind a one-way mirror. E-commerce, search engines, and data capture have given rise to a whole new set of product research tools to obtain metrics about your products.
Most tools for market research look at what competitors and customers do, or ask customers what they think. The first class of tools relies on metrics captured by retailers, e-commerce sites, social media, and organizations that specialize in collecting consumer behavior information. When it comes to asking customers questions, this can also be digitized and rolled out on a massive scale. And sometimes, customers share what they think without being prompted in reviews.
The list below details some of the more common tools and methods to use in your research process.
Capturing What Competitors and Customers Do
- Search Engine Data Analysis: Examine the information Google and Bing search provide on who is searching for what. You can brute force it or use tools built to summarize information like search volume, SEO for great products in your industry, and other Google trends.
- E-Commerce Data: Many e-commerce websites provide data, including Amazon product research, showing what people search for and what they buy. You can look at data for a specific product or a segment.
- Retail Statistics: Different industries collect data on retail sales in most industries. This data is usually not free but can be worth far more than its price.
- Searching: Do your own internet searching and document what you find. There are also tools that search for you and summarize the results as valuable metrics.
- Advertising Data: Both traditional media buys and digital advertising are tracked by various entities. This data can be invaluable to understanding how your industry advertises.
- Consumer Behavior Tracking: Tracking the buyer’s journey, online or in a retail store, can help you understand how customers find products, such as mapping traffic patterns in a physical store or recording how people navigate an online store.
- Competitive Product Analysis: There are experts who will compile a competitive product analysis for you, looking at all aspects of product functionality, marketing, sales, and support.
- Big Data Analysis: All of the data collected with the above methods can be combined into one data set, and modern machine learning can be applied to pull trends.
Discovering What Customers are Thinking
- Surveys: Tried and true, a customer survey asking the right questions can be a game-changer. You can create your own or hire a company to do it.
- Focus Groups: Getting people into a room and asking them well-designed questions is a method that large consumer companies swear by. Virtual or face-to-face, experts can learn a lot from these sessions.
- A/B Testing: Digital marketing allows you to send out two different campaigns to see which performs better. This may be one of the best ways to measure what customers respond to. It’s also a great way to try out the results of your keyword research.
- Social Media Tracking: Consumers share their thoughts about products and your industry all the time on social media. Use purpose-built tools to search sites and find out what people are saying about the type of product you’re creating, how often they say it, and how prevalent their feelings are.
- Customer Reviews: Reviews are another abundant and accessible resource. Use tools that scan the mountain of available information and pull out actionable insights about your industry, competitors, and products.
We partner with companies at the forefront of product research. As an example, here is information on two of our partners and a brief description of what they offer:
- Helium 10: Helium 10 offers a complete set of tools to companies selling through Walmart and Amazon. This includes easy-to-use tools to research products, spot buying trends, and validate your product ideas.
- ZonGuru: ZonGuru focuses on Amazon product research and provides tools to Amazon sellers that uncover product ideas, rate how various industries do, track monthly sales, and summarize customer reviews. Other platforms do the same for Shopify stores, eBay, and other e-commerce businesses.
With the right set of tools, you can launch the right product with a high conversion rate.
These brief descriptions can give you a crash course on product research methods. However, the best way to understand and leverage them is to partner with experts and tool providers to get valuable information in a timely manner and build an action plan grounded in those findings.
21 Questions Your Product Research Should Answer
Product research is essentially asking and answering questions about your market and product, so it makes sense to start with a list of questions to ask. Here’s a list of common questions, divided into the four areas you need to research: target market, competition, customers, and product.
Start with this list and add or delete as you learn more about your product, market, and customers.
Questions About Your Target Market
1. How big is the potential market?
2. What is the growth for the market? Is it a fad, flat, growing, shrinking, or seasonal?
3. What are the past, current, and future trends in your target market?
4. How do retail stores and e-commerce sites define your product category?
5. What channels are used to market to customers?
Questions About Your Competitors
6. Who are your competitors?
7. How well are your competitors selling?
8. What keywords do your competitors use in their product listings?
9. How do your customers review your competitors?
10. How do your competitors fulfill orders?
11. How do your competitors provide support?
Questions About Your Customers
12. Who are your target customers, and what personas do they fall into?
13. What do your target customers care about? What is important to them?
14. What emotions drive customers in your market?
15. How do your customers get information about products in your market?
16. What keywords do customers use when searching for trending products?
17. Why would customers buy your product? Does it satisfy a passion, relieve a particular pain, meet a need, or solve a problem?
Questions About Your Product
18. How much will customers pay for a particular product in your market?
19. What features are important to a buyer in this market or of similar products?
20. How do customers perceive your brand (if you have one established)?
21. What might differentiate your product and make it a winning product?
Although this list is by no means complete, it provides a good start for you and your team to construct questions that fit your product and market. When making your list, focus on questions that produce answers which can help you improve product/market fit, increase sales, reduce costs, and better understand your target market.
Start Your Product Research With The Right Team
Hopefully, this article has given you an idea of why market research is so important, the various methods for conducting product research, and what questions need answering. If you want to turn your new product idea into a successful product that’s in high demand, research can make all the difference.
To get started, you could log into your favorite browser and start searching keywords related to your industry to see what pops up. But that’s not the fastest way to profitable products. Product research is an important part of product development, and just as you hire experts and use the right tools for design and manufacturing, you should build a team of marketing research experts and use tools that enhance your research.
Here at Gembah we offer a wide variety of research services. Our experts use their extensive experience conducting product research across product categories with a deep understanding of how to use the information they gather to meet your business goals. Most importantly, they can provide insight into what the numbers mean and how to modify your design, go-to-market plan, and marketing.
Overall, we’re here to make it easier for you to bring best-selling products to market. Our marketplace contains vetted experts and tool providers that understand the value of good product research. In addition, our team of experts can advise you through your journey, starting with research and continuing through design and manufacturing. Reach out today, and let’s talk about your product and see how we can help you supercharge your new product with product research.