In this post, we are going to pull back the curtain to show part of what is involved in the new product development process. Every product has its special nuances that need to be considered but the process of developing a new product is consistent regardless of what type of physical product you are producing. The three main stages are preparation for development, product design, and production.
There are three general considerations you need to become an expert on before embarking on your product development:
(1) Understand your market- This includes the critical questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how?
- WHO is the ultimate user?, who is the ultimate buyer?, who are the intermediate buyers (wholesale, retailer, etc.)? who are the current suppliers of products in your product category?
- WHAT are they buying to solve their problem now? what is expected from products in this category? what assumptions need to be true for your product to succeed? what are the price points the product is bought at? what are the differentiators at different price points? what cost assumptions are made if the product follows keystone pricing?
- WHEN do the buyers purchase this product? when do they use this product?
- WHERE do the buyers purchase this product? where do they use this product?
- WHY would buyers buy your new product? why would they buy it considering how they currently solve their problem? why would someone not buy your product?
- HOW are buyers going to find your product? how are they going to recognize the differentiation of your product and brand? how are they going to use your product?
(2) Understand your competition- Some of the most insightful information you glean is from the competition in your space. Use search engines and e-commerce platforms to search in-depth for current and past products similar to yours. You can also perform patent searches on Google or the USPTO site to explore similar products and trademarks.
(3) Understand the opportunities and risks- Once you have digested all the information available to you, it is time to sit down and make a thorough study of where the opportunities lie and where the pitfalls are waiting. We find that it is helpful to run these ideas by people in your market category that deal with all stages of your product. Often, buyers, retailers, and users will have valuable insight that you can use to make a rational assessment about what your next step should be. Remember that you are the owner of your successes AND your failures so there is no one to blame but yourself if you cut corners in your research and strategy.
Product Design Process
This is a summary of the process we use in our product development services at Jupiter Design. When you get started with us, we will walk through these steps to thoroughly evaluate your product and the numerous options available.
(1) Conceptualization and use cases- During this phase, you and your product development company’s designer have the opportunity to first expand your funnel of ideas to explore many ways to accomplish your product’s goals and then, systematically, categorize and start reducing the concepts until you have a few or one that you are satisfied is the optimal result. It is critical in this stage to ask the hard questions of “what is my and others gut reactions to this concept”? and “does this feature set contain enough to be essential to buyers and users?”. You are better off being honest about the answers to these questions now than ignoring the answers and deciding you want to change after substantially more time and effort has been put into the design (that will then need to be re-done).
(2) Visualization- This step is done by your product development firm’s designer and generally includes either a more formal set of drawings of the product or a 3D visualization (generally CAD). With this visualization, you are able to further evaluate the concept’s fit for your needs and how it is starting to feel aesthetically. It is a good idea to ask the hard questions again at this stage to make sure what you are doing is going to yield your desired result. Changes are common at this stage but, hopefully, they are not huge changes that should have been resolved in the conceptualization stage.
(3) Materials sourcing- When you are satisfied with the visualized design of your product, you and your design team will move into the process of sourcing materials. Often, these materials will not be the exact final material but they, hopefully, will be representative of what you want in the final product. The final materials will be sourced or produced to fit exact specifications for your product but it is much easier to do that if we are able to find materials that are close enough to make a functional prototype.
(4) Prototype creation and testing- The first prototype that is made in this process is generally a handmade prototype by your designer. This prototype is intended to both give everyone something to test and, once a version is created that is ready for the next stage, the handmade prototype is shared with the factory to help them source the final materials and prepare for production. It is important to again ask the hard questions at this stage. Although it’s not ideal to start over at this stage, it is often better to do so now, if needed, rather than continue down the path to production with a product you aren’t satisfied with.
(5) Control art or other manufacturable file creation- This step is also done by your design team and is the final series of art, engineering, and renderings needed in order for a factory to produce your product. It is important that these files are done well because it often is one of the first impressions a factory will have of your business and product. A poorly designed product that is not ready to manufacture will often be turned away or not taken seriously by a good manufacturer.
(6) Packaging development- This may vary slightly across different product development companies, and we won’t go into great detail about this in this article (learn more here) but once you have a mostly finished product, it’s important to have packaging that matches the quality and will give your product both the protection and the sales pitch it needs.
The last phase of the new product development process is actually producing the product. There comes a time in every product’s development when the line needs to be drawn and you need to take the leap to start manufacturing it. This process can be challenging because, with every new product, there are numerous known and unknown issues that will need to be monitored and corrected. Working with an experienced design team and factory will reduce much of the stress inherent in this stage and help make it an efficient and exciting transition. Here are a few things to consider:
(1) Decide what is important to you- There is an almost endless list of variables when choosing to make a product. The best way to make decisions about these variables is to decide ahead of time what is most important and is going to add the most value to your product. For most, cash and cost is one of the most critical items so the decision to produce overseas is often a necessity. For others, the highest quality or domestic manufacturing at all costs is a priority so the product’s cost is less of a concern. These decisions can only be answered by you and your business strategy.
(2) Select a manufacturer and produce pre-production sample- Based on your order of preferences, you need to settle on a manufacturer for your product. Jupiter Design is one of the few product designs and development companies offers this search as an included service in its product development related service packages but you can do it on your own if desired. There are many considerations but once it is decided, you will need the factory to produce at least one pre-production sample of the product so you can test and provide feedback before placing a full order. These samples generally are not free but are sometimes credited against your order when it placed.
(3) Produce the item & ship- This is the step we have all been waiting for! Producing a product for the first time is an interesting process because there are so many techniques and quality controls being implemented at the same time. No product is ever completely problem-free on its first production run but the expectation is that all the kinks will be worked out during this run so follow-on production runs produce consistent products and are efficient. The team at Jupiter Design communicates regularly with its factories during this stage to ensure everything is done correctly and to obtain pictures and videos of the products and their manufacturing process. It is satisfying to see it all come together. When it is all finished, it is generally up to you to have the goods transported to your storage facility. We can offer suggestions of ways to do this most cost-effectively, but the goods are yours once they are produced, paid for, and put on the truck or boat.
The new product development process can be a lot to take in but that is part of why Jupiter Design is here to help! Our product development firm has over 25 years of experience designing and producing new products and packaging so we know the ins and outs of the process and what you need to consider.