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What are the Six Stages of Product Development? Why are They Important?
A Marketing Research Association report claims that out of all the products launched annually, only 40% of them manage to survive the changing market conditions. Clearly, despite having the best market intelligence tools at our disposal, there is no evergreen formula to ensure product success. A user-centric product development process can, however, help businesses link consumer demands with long-term, sustainable business goals. This includes delivering value by accessing the recurrent unmet needs of the market through their products.
Simply put, it’s an ongoing process of continuous improvement that needs to incorporate technological advances and consumer requirements through intelligent product designs. Much depends on the product development process, which is the journey of translating an idea from conception to its final launch. This blog highlights the key stages of this process and its importance in creating customer satisfaction.
What is a Product Development Process?
A product development process refers to the end-to-end transformation of a concept of a product to its manufacturing and final launch. It includes:
- Identifying market needs
- Researching competition
- Researching product gaps and formulating a strategy
- Crafting a product development roadmap
- Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
- Releasing the product
There is a clear distinction between the product development process and the product lifecycle. The product life cycle refers to the entire set of processes involved right from the product launch till its eventual discontinuation in the market. Product development, on the other hand, relates to all the stages right from product ideation to its final launch. Put simply, the product life cycle starts right from where the product development process ends.
Benefits of the Product Development Process
Here is how the product development process benefits an organization:
- Allows superior product designs that incorporate user experience and comfort
- Guarantees enhanced user satisfaction
- Provides a competitive edge to new products enabling a company to stand out
- Increases market share through intelligent strategies
- Multiplies revenue streams with unique products and their accessories
- Cuts down on costs by relaunching older products in new markets
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Stages of the Product Development Process
All products are born from a cycle of ideation—generating, rejecting, and brainstorming new ideas. However, to actually make realistic, user-aligned choices, the following are essential steps:
- Market research
- Competitor analysis
- Filtering fundamental consumer needs from user feedback
- Re-imagining older products and services through the SCAMPER method
SCAMPER stands for ‘Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other use, Eliminate, or Reverse’ and applies to each element of a given product. It is a method used by entrepreneurs where they combine unique features of different existing products or try new markets for old products.
To determine the ideas worth pursuing, it is important to correctly assess the market’s potential. In other words, validation is a key part of the product development process. It involves:
- Online surveys
- Focus groups
- A/B testing
- Demarcating market segments
To reduce any intention-behavior gap in customers, a combination of data-driven market analysis along with pre-selling products to check net demand usually works the best in this stage.
After finalizing a product idea, it’s time to build its prototype. It can be defined as a preliminary version of a product that includes its key features and functions. A prototype also serves as a launchpad for other similar product forms. A crucial aspect of a prototype is a mockup or working model of the product that can be built using a wireframing tool. User feedback will shape every step of this process to perfectly envisage the preliminary look, feel, function, and experience of the design.
Prototyping is also the stage to create an MVP with its most distinctive features for early adopters who validate the product in the developmental stages.
Product marketing involves narrowing the target audience, formulating a brand strategy that directly speaks to the chosen target market, and creating buyer personas accordingly. Market segmentation is essential at this point as that will determine the tonality and language of the messaging. A strong marketing strategy should accomplish the following:
- Directly speak to the customer’s pain points and their related needs
- Push potential customers along the sales funnel
- Further help decide the channels—social media marketing, email marketing, static creatives, etc.—to use for swift movement of customers in the sales funnel
- Help establish SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each marketing channel
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This is the stage where a company assesses if everything is on the right track. In terms of the product, this would involve checking its integrations with other devices, verifying user flow, user experience, and navigation of the user interface.
In terms of marketing efforts, the weeks before the product launch would entail focusing on the go-to-market strategies, the pre-booking offers, scheduling press announcements, and managing public relations, among other activities.
Once you go live with your product, you have to observe and monitor the following for the next important stage:
- User satisfaction
- Product reviews
- Market interest
- User interaction reports
- The most-liked features
- The first buyers and which market segment they belong to
Product Feedback and Improvement
The final stage is an ongoing process as valuable information on product improvement will be available at least three months after launch. Feedback is a critical part of the product development process as it determines the future development roadmap. Without incorporating user feedback into the product and ensuring customers feel valued in this two-way communication, a consistent user experience cannot be designed.
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Real-World Examples of Product Development Processes
Google – Tech-driven Development
We are all aware of Google’s phenomenal rise from being a search engine to the world’s largest information engine. Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt talks about how the company’s product development strategy is all about finding technical insights to solve new problems creatively, and allowing great products to reach the audience at large with thorough user research, 10x innovation, and early beta launches to incorporate important user feedback.
Dropbox – Referrals
Dropbox made use of a two-pronged referral approach to increase its followers count while launching the product. It rewarded both the user who sent the invitation to the program and the person who accepted it: it offered free space to existing referring customers and an additional 500 MB to the referred. This helped the company grow from 100,000 users in 2008 to four million in 2009.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Importance of Process in Product Development?
The importance of process in product development lies in delivering consistent value to the customer through a systematic approach. The clarity of the steps in the product development process ensures that company resources are not used in an ad-hoc manner and that each phase is executed as per the plan.
2. What Makes a Product Best?
The following elements combine to create the best product:
- Design quality
- Quality Compliance
- Efficient marketing
- Efficient brand positioning
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By Bishwadeep Mitra
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