Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are invested to bring new & exciting products to markets. However, almost 80% of all those investments fail due to lack of a holistic innovation approach.

Although failure is part of the innovation processes, there are ways to improve the chance of success in your next holistic product innovation project.

Based on my 20+ years product development experience, there are 6 essential steps to unlock the secrets for product success.

1. Define your KPIs

Before start your holistic product innovation project,  how do you define the success criteria?

Many companies develop new products just because their competitor did it, or their distribution partner asked. There is nothing wrong with this market follower product development strategy, and the KPIs are normally increase market share % or the increase in sales value and volume.

Depending on the development stage of the company, there are more KPI angles and business goals than just sales?

For market leader or startups, their product innovation KPIs may prioritise customer acquisition rate, product/brand conversion rate, market penetration rate. Some focus on brand building KPIs to drive brand awareness, word of mouth sharing, brand equity building, and brand reputation/recommendation rate etc.

In short, a great product can add value to your business beyond the product sales. In fact, some product innovations are position as brand building investment instead of revenue driver.

No matter what KPIs you would like to achieve in your product innovation program, below 6 steps are essential to increase your chance of success.

2. Define a Sharp Customer Profile

Defining a sharp customer profile will help you develop a more relevant product and increase the success rate of your product innovation.

Many big corporations fail at this because they trying to please so many customers across so many channels.

The old way of driving economies of scale and having one product to cover a wide range of customers is NOT enough anymore. Customers now have a lot more choices online, and want products that address their unique needs & help reflect lifestyle and personality.

This requires companies to make tough choices and fully engage and nurture a more defined customer group. Once you win the heart of the core customers, you can stretch to other customers.

3. Uncover Customer Unmet Needs

Once determined the customer you want to serve, now you need to dig deep into their unmet needs and desires.

  • What unmet needs they need to solve?
  • What could be improve with existing solutions?
  • How to help your customers to save money & time and improve user experience?
  • What are hidden desire that the customer don’t know they need it?

These are questions to help develop new values to customers, and create a competitive edge to win over your competitors.

Some of these answers could be found by conducting consumer research, however, customers don’t know what they don’t know; true innovation require product development team’s imagination and creativity to uncover subconscious desires that customers are yet to realized.

This is where Design Thinking (and Product Designer) can add great value in developing innovative product solution with its emphasis on empathetic and customer-centric approach.

4. Craft a unique Product Experience

Based on the unmet needs, you need to craft a product experience that help amplify the value of the unmet needs that resonate with your brand positioning and resource limitation.

For example, if you are targeting premium Skin Care customers who looking for a sensational serum product. Your product should deliver and amplify the product’s unique appearance, texture, smell, tactile, and feeling during and after product usage. You can even enhance the user experience with additional beauty tools/device to make it a real indulgence experience.

However, if you designing a active positioning headphone for teenage girls, the product design should reflect the desired active and sporty lifestyle image, with a focus on the design style and make sure the headphone fix firmly on ear and match well with trendy sport outfits and hairstyle/makeups. It should also be wireless, light-weight and build-in  customizable case to support the desire of self-expression.

5. Tell an inspiring Brand & Product Story

As Simon Sinek said “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Telling the story behind your product is as important if not more importance than the product itself.

The story tell customers about your brand’s value and attitude towards life, and the product offer is a reflection and extension of brand promise.

Most companies missed the linkage between the product and brand as the product development and marketing department are handle by separate teams. This make the marketing of the product an after thought rather than continuous amplify of a holistic storytelling.

If your product innovation integrate well with your brand positioning and promise at the beginning, you will be able to tell a far more inspiring story that touches the hearts of your customers.

Imagine a video launch campaign showcase trendy teenagers having fun with hip-hop dance, skateboard, gym exercise and yoga; where fashion, music and active self-expressions are blend with the stylish headphones. Then  “Move your own Beat! ” as the tagline.

Would this help portrait a more inspiring story that blend well with your product innovation?

6. Deliver Value and Sales Conversion

Successful product innovation add values to customers as well as the company.

It is critical that you pick the right sales channel that can effectively reach and convert your target customers.

In case of the headphone example, you must integrate a social media and eCommerce channel to engage the digital native teenagers. You need to create engaging video contents on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and leverage active beauty/sport influencers to help spread  your stories.

While engaging teenagers actively online, it is also important to deliver social worthy offline events to nurture relationships and brand loyalty.

For example, a music festival type event where customers can participate in various activities and have fun with selfie corners with special edition designed headphones. It helps further promote your products and bring brand engagement to a new level.

To capture the values of promotional engagements online and offline, you also need a digital conversion strategy & mechanism to keep track and convert the customer engagements into online and offline sales (during events or retail shops).

Holistic Product Innovation is Now & Future

In summary, a successful holistic innovation will take more than the product development in silo. The product ideas need to address unmet needs of a sharply defined customer group, which resonate with your brand positioning and value.

Then you will be able to amplify the values of product and brand with the integrated marketing story telling, and capture sales with a strategic Online-Offline conversion mechanism.

Holistic product innovation not only bring you sales, but also enhance brand value and help build customer loyalty in long run.

If you have other experience in delivering successful product innovation, please feel free to share your thoughts below.

Justin Tsui
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Justin Tsui

20+ year award-winning designer, marketer and Innovation strategist from startups to multinational companies like P&G, Mary Kay, 7-Eleven, VTech, AT&T, Tide etc. Span across FMCG, Consumer Goods, Electronics, Retail, Digital Marketing & Innovation consultation industries. Designed products and brands that touch over 2 billion consumers across Greater China, Asia Pacific, United States and Europe with 1 billion+ units sold.
Justin Tsui
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