Is your product market ready?
After months of trials and development you now have a finished product that you believe will make a positive impression in the market. While the optimism is good for your morale, there’s more to preparing your product for the market than just optimism.
So, how about a reality check before it’s too late to make a U-turn? And the safest way to make sure that your product is ready to hit the market is by getting the idea validated by none other than the users themselves.
Manufacturing, promoting and selling a product online involves a great deal of money, time and effort. It’s therefore extremely important that you go about it in a systematic manner so your product idea doesn’t tank in the market.
So, how do you validate your product?
Validating a product using your own judgement is like a coin that has two sides to it. While on one hand you need to possess a well-honed ability to take good judgement calls, on the other hand you need evaluation or even confirmation from others as well.
We all suffer from some kind of self-confirmation bias to be honest. But, to believe in your own opinion about your own product beyond a certain point can be more counterproductive than we’d expect.
The opinions that others will share with you (provided they are not friends or family) will be free of bias and be more likely to point out genuine drawbacks in the product, which can be fixed to make your product ready for the market.
Here are some easy-to-follow steps to validate your product idea before launching it into the market.
1. Participate in trade fairs and exhibitions
If you are manufacturing a household use product, a food product or a food ingredient, there is nothing more valuable than the opinion of consumers at a trade fair or exhibition. In fact, it’s also a great way to promote your product if you receive positive reviews from visitors and participants.
If you have a product in the field of education, sports, personal service or just about any other category, there is always an exhibition or some marketing conference that you can participate in to receive feedback for your product. The main benefit of such an exposure is that you get highly valid, realistic feedback for your product in a few days time, without your committing a major fund in setting up a store.
This kind of setting is like a test-market or market research, but with real customers in a real setting. The benefits of participating in trade fairs and exhibitions, especially if you own a small business, is that you’ll get to know the user response to your product in real time, which lends you some buffer time to improve it in accordance to user expectations.
As for what could be the usual questions on the minds of the users, here are a few examples - Will the product be a worthwhile investment? Will it fulfil a genuine need? What is the actual product quality versus the perceived quality? The true test of a product is whether a customer will be willing to part with their money for it.
Needless to say, the actual sales at such venues is a very realistic indicator of where your product stands. This kind of a platform also provides you with an interactive platform to communicate with potential customers.
You can collect valuable feedback and inputs on your product and its packaging, quality, pricing, ingredients and many other associating factors. More importantly, you can also discover what the obstacles are in its sales path, if there are any.
And if people do take the product home, do some of them contact you for a repeat order? This can be an important indicator of the post sales quality of the product. All these inputs can help you fine-tune your product or service for maximum satisfaction, at a low operational cost.
2. Make an assessment of your product’s demand
Though you may not have the tools to figure out the likely demand on a very accurate basis, it is still necessary for you to have some kind of a realistic estimate. Researching sales data of similar products through data mining tools or checking with vendors of similar products at trade fairs and exhibitions can give you some ballpark figure.
Alternatively, you could also ask your experienced friends or industry experts to give you their honest opinion on the level of sales that your product is likely to achieve. With this figure in hand you can plan the rest of your strategy in terms of promotion expenses, working capital requirement, manufacturing and packaging resources, and so on.
3. Dig into some competitor analysis
No matter how unique your product, there will always be another company manufacturing an identical or near identical product, throwing what can be serious competition along your way. In such a scenario, analyzing your competition for areas of improvement is the best practice to make your product better than theirs.
What’s more, it may even lead to fresh ideas or point toward gaps in the competitor’s product, which you can capitalize on by offering what they lack in, or even developing a new one should the need arise.
You can also study their packaging, promotion strategy and price points at which they are selling their products. A price-quality comparison can give you valuable insights and understanding on gaps in the market if any.
4. Conduct some diligent market research
If you have the budget to hire a market research agency, do so to gain a solid understanding of the customers, their preferences and reactions to your product. Alternatively, you could hire a few college students who could conduct the field survey at low cost for you. Online research can also work, depending on the product.
The benefits of performing a detailed market research using the right tools can be far reaching than you can imagine. A key insight that market research provides you with is - the willingness/unwillingness of potential customers to purchase the given product at the given price point.
Another idea could be to loan your product to customers for use so you can receive their valuable feedback based on their experience. This method will provide you with a clear picture on the pros and cons of your product, the correct price point to adopt, the likely level of sales and so on.
All of these steps are no more your self-serving bias, but collective information generated from several potential customers, and will most likely pass the test of time and marketplace. Once armed with the data, you can now proceed to develop key elements of your marketing strategy before actually launching the product online.
After product validation, devise a marketing strategy
Devising a marketing strategy is, you can say, more or less common sense accompanied by facts and numbers. Firstly, it needs a good understanding of the customer followed by smart application of the business model known as marketing mix or the 4 Ps of Marketing - Product, Price, Place and Promotion.
Understanding your potential customer
To understand your customer and their purchase behavior, you should be able to research and answer the following questions:
- What is the need the customer is trying to fulfill through your product?
- Who in the household actually makes the purchase decision? Who is the initiator? Is there any influencer?
- Is the product such that it triggers a routinized repeat purchase or is it bought simply as a one-time problem solver?
- What are the stimulants that lead to need emergence? Once the need is recognized by the customer, how do they go about searching for more information about the product? Do they use personal, social, commercial, public or experiential sources?
- How do they evaluate the information they gained to arrive a product/brand choice? What are the key factors that determine the choice? How much role does price play in the decision?
- Once they’ve used the product, what kind of experience does the customer go through? What are the consequences for both positive and negative experiences?
What customer segment are you going to target
The typical marketplace is made up of all kinds of customers and they have their own set of preferences. These preferences are determined by factors such as geographic location, family, age, gender, income and other demographics, besides psychological considerations.
To position your product for maximum gains in the market, it is best that you select the right type of customer segment and target it in your promotion and distribution.
Based on customer research and your own manufacturing strengths you must now finalize the product features including quality level, models, packaging, warranty, service level and brand name to be as unique as you can.
Setting the price for your product is a delicate and extremely important task, for which you must focus on your margin and break-even targets. You also need to work out discounts (if any), offers, payment options and payment terms including paying in instalments.
Even though your plan is to offer your product on your eCommerce store, you still need to decide on the geographical locations you intend to cover for shipping. Are you willing to offer shipping only in your city, within a particular region, the whole country or globally?
If you are going to target foreign markets, which countries would you go for? This decision will be linked to your logistics infrastructure/partner, which might I add, has to be extremely reliable. Of course, I should also remind you of the returns mechanism lest you miss that out.
'No promotion, no sales' goes the wise old saying in the business world. No need to remind you therefore, that a strong emphasis on promoting your product will give it wider exposure. eCommerce products usually require online promotion that can be both effective and budget-friendly.
With the huge and continuously surging following that social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter and TikTok enjoy, you literally have a world of promotional opportunities before you. Here’s a little social network popularity graph for 2020 to help you choose the right platform to promote your product.
In addition, email marketing can also be a very powerful promotional tool that can be used effectively for occasional offers, especially during popular sales events. However, your own website will and should be the most important space for product promotion.
And to that end, you should spare no efforts to design and optimize your site including uploading updated content & blogs in a way that communicates best with your customers.
Offering free samples as a promotion strategy
When it comes to consumer products there is no promotional strategy that works better than offering free samples in an effort to convert customers. Of course, it can amount to additional expense (a rewarding gamble if done right) and needs logistic support, but through this act of reciprocity you have much better chances of gaining customers.
Although, technically speaking, there is a right way of doling out free goodies and it’s best that you know about it besides knowing how to use free samples to entice your customers. If your product is comparatively refreshing and offers visual appeal, there’s high probability that customers will seek to purchase it after sampling it.
On that note, you can even offer free samples on your eCommerce site from time to time to boost sales and to promote new additions to your products range.
Broadly speaking, there are two major steps you need to take before putting out your product in the virtual marketplace.
One - you need to validate your product thoroughly, even if you are 100% convinced that it is a winner. And the most effective, bias-free validation comes when you take it out to customers and seek their feedback.
Two - you need to develop a common sense-based marketing strategy that will deliver your product to the customers in the most effective manner at the lowest cost.
This requires understanding the customer needs and their purchase behavior, and based on that, to fine tune your product for a warm reception.
0707 has long standing experience in marketing management and consultation, supporting businesses across various categories for more than a decade. Talk to our marketing experts if you want to learn how to validate your product idea and position it best in the market.