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New Product Development:

Key Considerations in
Market Research
By Roxanne Salen & Susan Stickling

The introduction of new products into concept, market research can help variety of sources, such as past market
the market - whether new-to-the-world managers make better informed research, salespeople and/or employees.
innovations or product line extensions decisions. There are firms that specialize in specific
- can be a process shadowed by great Market research can assist product idea generating techniques to aid
uncertainty. This article explains how managers in taking proactive steps businesses in this phase. Whether a
market research can support the devel- towards better understanding the market business conducts this phase in-house or
opment of a new product by putting the (or lack there-of) for a new product. using a specialized firm, it is important to
product innovation managers in touch Conducting market research allows for review and utilize as many resources as
with consumers’ needs and wants. Each a proactive, in-depth look at how well possible in order to generate a robust list
stage in the new product development perceived the product will be among po- of potential ideas.
(NPD) process – from ideation through tential consumers – and helps to reduce 2. Idea Screening - The purpose of this
the market launch – is explained with the new product fail rate. stage is to understand which product
recommended market research methods concepts warrant further testing and/or
per each step. New Product Development Stages refinement and which ones should no
Outlined below are typical stages that an longer be pursued. The product during
Background innovation team may go through as they this phase may be fairly developed or
The fail rate for new products entering develop their new product/line extension may just be an overarching concept.
the market place is appallingly high. and the recommended research for each Although there are several types of
With conservative estimates noting that stage. research methodologies that can be
at least 75% of new products fail, and 1. Ideation - This stage involves employed at this phase, the majority of
more aggressive estimates placing the brainstorming for new product ideas. them take the form of qualitative
fail rate as high as 92%, it becomes New product ideas can come from a research. Taking the form of focus
obvious the market for new products is
not always easily discernible. While
new product development (NPD)
market research is not the only indica-
Ideation
New Product
tor of whether the new product will fail
or succeed (in that it cannot produce a Development Stages
complete picture of the market and its
nuances), conducting market research
can result in a better understanding of the
market, the product audience and target,
and any strengths and weaknesses
associated with the product itself (wheth-
er conceptually, visually or regarding
usage intent). Idea
S creening
R efinement T es ting R efinement T rial
Launch
New product development research is
not solely limited to new-to-the-world
products; adding a line extension to a
previously existing brand is also an area
Q ualitative:
F ocus G roups
1-1 Interviews

where NPD research can help form a Unders tand Qualitative:


FChanges
ocus G roups / C apture
which product C hanges / R eleas e of the
clearer picture of how well the new concepts Alterations
1-1 Interviews
to feedback to Alterations to product in
warrant further product based unders tand
product line will fare. Whether adding a tes ting and on research & demand and
product bas ed
on res earch &
limited markets
with controlled
new flavor, changing a product formula, which ones do analysis interes t levels analys is media s upport
not
developing a new line of an existing
brand, or introducing a new product

38 MRA’s Alert! Magazine - 11/09 www.mra-net.org/alert


groups, one-on-one interviews, and/or attributes have been identified, quantita- • What price point / pricing structure
ethnography, qualitative research can tive research can help to estimate interest is most acceptable?
help to explore in-depth how well and demand levels for the product. For Again, it is imperative for product
received the product idea is. The example, choice studies can help in managers to keep an open and flexible
moderator or interviewer can help to understanding strengths and weaknesses view of their product, as what consumers
uncover what initial impressions of the various product attributes, so that may find to be most appealing may not
consumers may have about the product the innovation team can optimize the be in line with what managers previously
as well as whether or not the idea makes product’s strengths accordingly. Choice believed. By giving way to consumer-led
sense and / or fills a consumer need or studies help to refine your product’s most innovation, the product becomes closer
want. Qualitative discussions can also
reveal some preliminary insights into “Remember that qualitative research is an opportunity to
which type of consumer segment(s) the
product may appeal to the most. understand initial reactions and perceptions of a
Specific questions that can be better product.”
understood at this stage are as follows:
• Is the new product idea easily un- desired or strong characteristics through to success by mirroring the needs and
derstood by customers? a couple of methods: wants of its consumer audience.
• Is the product addressing an existing Discrete Choice: Discrete choice is a 5. Refinement - After the results from
unmet need? tool for better understanding choices that the testing phase, your product will likely
• Which type of consumer segments consumers make. Discrete choice studies need to be refined in some way. It’s
are most interested in this product? present respondents with several possible that the product idea would be
• How can my new concept be im- different products and ask them to cancelled or sent back to the drawing
proved? choose the one which is the most ap- board at this stage if the demand is too
Remember that qualitative research pealing (or some similar scale). Discrete low to warrant any future expense. If the
is an opportunity to understand initial choice focuses on the effects of product product will continue moving forward,
reactions and perceptions of a product. and market attributes (e.g., color, brand, the product managers will want to use
Observers should try and remain price, etc.) and attribute levels (e.g., the findings from the testing in order to
objective and flexible as respondents blue, red, etc.) on buyers’ choices among optimize on the product’s strengths and
share their ideas and impressions, for several competitive offerings. Discrete reduce or remove any perceived weak-
gems of consumer insight - that are not choice helps to understand how to best nesses. The product should be carefully
always initially obvious to product man- differentiate or express the product amid refined to capitalize on the most appeal-
agers - may surface. However, since competitors. ing attributes and strongest concepts, as
this stage of research usually involves Conjoint Studies: Conjoint analysis well as be matched to its most reasonable
qualitative exploration, it is important to compares consumer preference among price point before entering a test market.
remember that it is typically comprised multiple features inherent in a single 6. Trial Launch - A test launch can take
of a small and non-random sample. product or alternatives offered in a the form of quantitative research and /
Therefore, while the feedback gathered service. Conjoint analysis aids innova- or qualitative research. The quantitative
may be valuable in forming directional tion managers in concentrating attention portion of a test launch involves releas-
strategies for the product, it is not suited on attributes that are seen as more ap- ing your product in certain specified
to drawing universally applicable pealing by the product’s audience, while markets with controlled media support.
conclusions. either lessening or removing attributes By implementing brand and advertising
Idea Screening can be an especially that are less appealing. awareness research in conjunction with
cost-efficient way to learn early on that Relevant questions at this stage include your initial product launch, the product
a product concept is flawed so that no the following:
more valuable resources are put towards • What is the optimal concept offering
it. (within a specified set of attributes)?
3. Refinement - After taking into • Which combination of attributes / (Continued on page 40)
consideration the analysis and recom- services yields the highest level of
mendations made during Idea Screening, interest among target consumers?
the product or product concept will usu-
ally be refined, tweaked and fine-tuned.
Sometimes, the product itself is fine the
way it is and just the product positioning
needs to be altered. Conversely, some-
times there is a disconnect between the
product idea and that product itself (i.e.,
the product is not delivering on the prod-
uct idea). In this latter case, the product
itself needs refinement while the concept
as a whole can remain relatively intact.
4. Testing - Once the product concept
has been fairly well configured and key

www.mra-net.org/alert MRA’s Alert! Magazine - 11/09 39


(Continued from page 39)

team can follow how awareness levels, able to explore ideas as they come up helps to understand how well the new
perceptions, and sales (via scanner data, from the consumer, to try and grasp not product will fit in and fare with consum-
for example) change over a period of only the meaning of what the consumer ers. By putting you in touch with the
time. A brand and advertising tracker is saying, but to understand why the voices and needs of your consumer,
usually starts with a benchmark study, consumer is saying it. market research presents consumer-led
which takes place before the test market In-store interviews can help to answer innovation to aid in the new product’s
release of the new product. Respon- the following questions: development and can reduce the chance
dents in the market area are contacted • Is the concept behind your product for product failure.
and asked to recall (on both an unaided understandable? While market research is particularly
and aided basis) which brands and what • Is the product something that con- useful during the development of a new
advertising they recall seeing / hearing. sumers think they need or that fits in product, it is applicable and helpful at
any point in a product’s lifecycle. Since
both segmented and mass psychograph-
“In-store interviews can help to gain insight into ics are constantly shifting and evolving,
consumer perceptions (or misconceptions) and to so are perceptions of existing products.
Market research can help to keep prod-
understand the nature of at-the-shelf decisions.” ucts relevant and competitive by
connecting product and brand
This also helps to establish any levels of with their lifestyle? managers with the most important factor
ghost awareness (i.e., those who think • Is the expected consumer usage oc- in the product’s success: the consumer.
they saw or heard about the product casion / context what was intended
before it was actually on the market), so by the innovation team? Or do Resources:
that changes in awareness levels can be consumers see / find a different ap- Cupman, Julia, “Using Market Research
accurately tracked. plication for the product? for Product Development.” www.b2in-
The following are examples of ques- • Does the product stand out on the ternational.com.
tions a brand / advertising tracker study shelf? Reisdesel, Paul, “A Comparison of
should answer: • Does it seem to be in the correct Discrete Choice Analysis with Conjoint
• Is there any confusion between the location in the store? Analysis.” www.action-research.com.
product and an existing, competing In store interviews offer not only an
product? opportunity to discuss the product with
• Does the product stand out from consumers, but it is also sometimes
other products on the market? If so, possible to let consumers try the product.
how? This allows researchers to witness first
• Is the advertising reaching the tar- hand non-verbal clues such as facial
geted audience? expressions or body language, which can Roxanne Salen is the project coordinator
• Does the advertising correctly por- often say a lot about consumer reactions at The Praxi Group.
tray the product? to the product.
• Do respondents have correct brand
recall of the advertising? (Is the In Conclusion
ad being attributed to the correct New product development is a process
brand?) engulfed by uncertainty. Market research
• Are there any misconceptions that
are arising from the ads that are
running?
• Is any type of advertising media
turning out to be more successful /
less successful than others?
Another way to follow the product’s
launch is through on-site qualitative
studies. In-store interviews can help to
gain insight into consumer perceptions
(or misconceptions) and to understand
the nature of at-the-shelf decisions. It is
Over 25 Years of Dependable Research
important that the market research firm
Focus Groups ▪ Usability ▪ IDI’s
has interviewers that are well trained in
Ft. Lauderdale Facility: 877.755.2805
on-site, in-depth interviews. While a
semi-formal questionnaire format is www.marsresearch.com
usually followed, interviewers must be

40 MRA’s Alert! Magazine - 11/09 www.mra-net.org/alert