There are a whole bunch of academic-style new product development processes out there – Google “new product development” and you’ll see what I mean. Stage-gates, steps and phases… blah blah blah.
FMCG / CPG product innovation isn’t rocket science. Basically it involves improving an existing product (incremental innovation), extending an existing product line (new flavour etc), developing new uses for a product, targeting a new market or, the big kahuna, launching a brand-spanking-new product.
With the industry being so price focused, new product development is especially important as it allows you to fight on something other than price. In fact, it opens up new revenue opportunities (yippee!).
Here are some practical approaches to new product ideation:
Watch how your product is shopped. Be that creepy guy loitering around the pasta sauce section of your local supermarket. Great insights can be gleamed (for free!) just by watching your shopper’s decision-making process.
Watch how consumers use your product. It might surprise you how, when and where they use it but be careful of asking your target market outright what they want. Often they don’t consciously know the answer to that question so they will make something up so as not to disappoint. This is sweet of them, but not very useful to you.
Look at other categories. Certain categories have a revolving door of new product releases (confectionery, breakfast cereal, ice cream) constantly and consistently capturing the attention of the auto-pilot shopper. See what lessons you can take from their approach to product innovation.
Talk to everyone. Brilliant ideas can come from anywhere within an organisation. From support staff to the CEO’s wife (especially the CEO’s wife).
Get buy-in from as many people as possible about the new idea. And not just your target market. Ask marketing specialists, manufacturing gurus, design and production people, speak to the retailers to get potential buy-in early in the game. Get the retailers involved with your NPD process and you already have them on side when you’re ready to launch.
Or think about taking a retailer led approach by analysing their offering, analysing their competitor’s offering and identifying gaps that you could fill. Voila! You have a new product idea and a great story to tell.