3 Essential Questions for NPD and Research Sucess

FlexMR
5 min readJul 19, 2023

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Human behaviour is unpredictable, influenced so much by context, emotional state, previous experience, sub-conscious bias and more. It is very difficult to predict which products and ideas will succeed in your market. Some of the challenges aren’t problems with your product at all, take the classic example of ‘New Coke’ in the 80’s — there was a market for it but the promotion of the product really missed the mark, was seen as tacky and sent the wrong message to current coke buyers, this cost Coco Cola many loyal fans who boycotted the core product on top of not purchasing the new one!

So, before you start out with a new product idea, what do you need to consider? Here are some key questions from a seasoned market insight expert.

1. How much does your product change your audience’s behaviour?

Are you asking your audience to make a significant change to their usual routine? I know whenever a new idea is suggested to me (unless it is food related!) my system one brain immediately responds with a threat message. I feel reluctant to change the status quo — And it is not just me, time and time again in research we see audiences responding negatively to new concepts in the first instance, particularly when we are looking at how we can get a cohort to change long ingrained habits.

It’s difficult to predict which products will succeed in any market — but there are certain questions that can guide brands to develop successful products.

Evolutionary psychology and neuroscience teach us that we are hard-wired to respond to change as a potential risk, an unknown that is possibly unsafe therefore we should avoid the risk if we can. Therefore, if you want to present something revolutionary then you really need to have some depth discussions with what you see as your ideal customers, this way you can explain the product and the benefits, you can listen to any initial objections and you can further try out different ways of describing and making sense of the potential benefits to them and figure out how best to communicate these to a wider audience, avoiding a new coke style disaster.

On initial look many great products were rejected by research; the idea of wearing Crocs, of using an electric toothbrush, of buying computer games consoles for example. But with the right understanding of how to pitch your product and what benefits the consumer gets your new idea is on the way to success.

2. Who internally has been consulted on the product or concept so far?

Before looking to your potential customers for feedback, have you asked for input from your internal teams? We really appreciate that it can be challenging to engage other departments who have differing agendas and objectives with your idea and product generation. But what we see is that the best product ideas come out of collaborative working. Beyoncé, for example, collaborates with many writers on her songs and they truly resonate with millions of fans. Some consider it a weakness, and believe that great songs can be written on your own, but Beyoncé builds on other people’s stories and makes them relevant and ensures she is telling the right stories through collaboration and consultation.

You don’t need to ask a wide audience in the early stage, just a trusted few — a small internal sounding board spots things and makes refinements that help propel you to product success. Then you can build from there and have an internal team who gets involved in the research with your potential customers too — that way your development cycle is much more agile, you can collaborate during the research and feed live insights to the teams that they can question, explore and action. As a specialist online insight team, we have seen huge product success through this collaborative process, with our partners who have launched products as wide-ranging as vegan sauce all the way through to complex financial investment packages.

3. How much confidence do you have in the idea now?

As a bit of a research veteran, I’m always going to advocate that you conduct some kind of direct to audience research to ensure you are pitching the product with success. But you will probably be surprised about how much you need to do and the investment that is involved in doing it well (spoiler it is not as much as you thought!). The best advice that I can give you before you get started with this is to consider your current confidence level in the idea, if it is pretty high, based on your identified needs, gaps and input from your collaborative team players then you could go straight to a large audience sample with a short survey to introduce the idea and evaluate its appeal and potential purchase intent.

From confidence in the idea to the impact on consumer behaviour, there are key considerations that will indicate the success of any product or service.

With this approach we aren’t ignoring that sometimes us humans aren’t always able to gauge how likely we are to buy product A, B or C out of context, in different mood states and under different stressors, but what we can do is consult with and ask enough people so that we can have confidence that the insight represents your potential for success. We also have simple techniques to help us look beyond those surface reactions and use human psychology to present easy choices that give us that accurate steer within your research survey.

Product Research is the Path to Product Success

In summary, if you have a great product idea the best research you can do is to firstly, immerse yourself in the world of your ideal customer through some open and easy conversations that allow you to really play around with how to communicate it. Then if you start to onboard more of your team into the project to help efficiently refine and improve the idea you will be able to benefit from getting their views early before taking it out to consult with a representative sample to support the most optimal launch. The power of collaborating with a mixture of professionals and potential customers means that you could also be creating a recipe for long term on-going success with your future ideas (just like Beyoncé).

This article was originally published on the FlexMR Insights Blog, and can be accessed here.

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FlexMR

FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.