How should I approach product development

How to create a new product (from concept to launch)

Implementing your own vision for an original product is one of the biggest hurdles for budding entrepreneurs. Success stories from other founders do not in themselves constitute a consistent blueprint for product development. However, the similarities between the stories reveal some important steps that you can adapt for yourself and your online business. We'll tell you what these are in this post.


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Table of Contents

The product development process in 6 steps

The development of new products is the process in which an original product idea is brought to market. Although it differs depending on the industry, it can essentially be divided into six phases: brainstorming, research, planning, prototyping, procurement and costing.

In the following you will find out how you can develop your own original product idea and what you should consider in each phase.

1. Idea generation

Many aspiring entrepreneurs get stuck in their ideas. They are often waiting for a stroke of genius that will lead them to perfect Product should lead. While developing something fundamentally “new” can be creatively fulfilling, many of the best ideas are the result of iterations on an existing product.

The SCAMPER model is a useful tool for quickly developing product ideas by asking questions about existing products. Each letter stands for a request:

  • Substitutes/ Exchange (e.g. artificial leather instead of leather)
  • Combine / Combine (e.g. a mobile phone case and an external battery)
  • Adapt / Customize: (e.g. a bra with front closures for breastfeeding)
  • Modify / Modify (e.g. an electric toothbrush with a slimmer design)
  • Put to another use / alternative use (e.g. memory foam dog beds)
  • Eliminate / Eliminate (e.g. get rid of the middleman to sell sunglasses and pass the savings on to consumers)
  • Reverse / rearrange / Reverse / rearrange (e.g. a travel bag that doesn't wrinkle suits)

By asking these questions, you can find new ways to transform existing ideas, or even adapt them for a new target audience or problem.


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2. Research

With your product idea in mind, you may feel inclined to take the plunge into production. However, if you don't validate your idea first, it can quickly become a misstep.

Product validation ensures that you are creating a product that people will spend their money on, and that you don't waste time, money, and effort on an idea that won't sell. There are several ways to validate your product ideas:

  • Talk to family and friends about your idea
  • Send an online survey to get feedback
  • Start of a crowdfunding campaign
  • Asking feedback on forums like Reddit
  • Research online demand with Google Trends
  • Launch of an “Coming Soon” page to gauge interest via email registrations or pre-orders

Whichever method of validation you choose, you should get feedback from a substantial and unbiased audience as to whether they would buy your product. However, you should be careful not to overestimate the feedback from people who “would definitely buy”. The fact is: until the money changes hands, you cannot count anyone as a customer.

Product validation ensures that you are developing a product that people will spend money on.

The research as part of your validation will inevitably also include competition analyzes. If your idea or niche has breakthrough potential, there are likely already competitors operating in this segment.

Reading tip: What is the competition doing? Here you can find out what conclusions you can draw from an online competitor analysis.

When you visit your competitor's website and add yourself to their email list, you can easily see how they are attracting customers and making sales. Another building block in defining your competitive advantage is asking your own potential customers what they like or dislike about your competitors.

The information gained from product validation and market research enables you to assess the demand for your product and also the level of competition before you start planning.

3. Planning

Since product development can get complicated quickly, it is important to take sufficient time to plan before developing a prototype.

If you finally approach manufacturers without a specific idea of ​​the design and functionality of your product or start looking for materials, it can easily happen that you get lost in the following steps.

The best place to start your planning is with a hand-drawn sketch that shows what your product will look like. The sketch should be as detailed as possible, with labels explaining the various features and functions.

You don't need a professional quality drawing as you won't be sending it to a manufacturer at this point. However, if you're not sure you can create a readable diagram that conveys the purpose of your product, you can find and hire professional illustrators through platforms like Dribbble, UpWork, or Minty.

Using your diagram, try to make a list of the various components or materials you will need to bring the product to life. The list does not have to contain all of the potential components. However, it should make it possible to gain an overview of the parts required to manufacture the product.

For example, a handbag design drawing could be supplemented with this list:

  • Zippers (large and small)
  • Silver clasps
  • Leather straps
  • Protective bag
  • Embossed label
  • Inside wallet

Along with the components, you should also consider the retail price or the category your product will fall into. Will the product be an everyday item or for special occasions? Will it be made with premium materials or will it be environmentally friendly? These are all questions to consider in the planning phase. They will not only help you with product development, but also with positioning your brand and developing your marketing strategy.

The packaging, labels, and overall quality of your materials should also be considered before moving on to the procurement and costing phase. All of this will affect how you will market your product to your target customers. It is therefore important to also consider these aspects of your product in the planning phase.

Reading tip: Packaging as a marketing weapon: Here you can find out how you can sustainably bind customers to your company.

4. prototyping

The goal of the prototyping phase during product development is to create a finished product that can be used as a sample for mass production.

It is unlikely that you will get to your finished and final product in a single attempt. Typically, prototyping involves trying multiple versions of your product, slowly eliminating options, and making improvements until you're happy with a final sample.

Prototyping also differs significantly depending on the type of product you develop. The cheapest and easiest use cases are products that you can prototype yourself, such as B. Food recipes and certain cosmetic products. This self-directed prototyping can also extend to fashion, pottery, design and other segments, provided you are lucky enough to be trained in these disciplines.

Reading tip: Create a prototype yourself? XOUXOU founder Yara Jentzsch Dib did it. You can read and hear her story in this post.

In most cases, however, entrepreneurs work with outside partners to develop a prototype of their product. In the fashion and clothing industry, this usually means working with a local seamstress or tailor for clothing and accessories (as with Karlswrong) or a cobbler for shoes. Such services can usually be found by doing a quick Google search of the local providers in the given industry.

Most major cities also have art, design or fashion schools that train students in these techniques (as was the case with Josea Surfwear). Administrators of these university or college programs can usually grant you access to internal job boards, where you can submit a request for help with prototyping.

For objects like toys, household accessories, electronics, and similar items, you may need a 3D rendering to create a prototype. Artists or engineers who are trained in computer-aided design and drawing software (CAD) can be hired with UpWork or freelancers. There are also easy-to-use online tools such as SketchUp, Tinkercad, and Vectary that founders can use to learn how to create 3D models themselves.

In the past, in order to turn a 3D design into a physical model, manufacturers had to have specific molds made for each part. Such molds are typically expensive and include set-up fees for things like tools and dies used to cut and shape parts made from plastic and other hard materials.

Fortunately, with the innovation of 3D printing, designs can be turned into physical samples at a much lower cost and with a faster turnaround time.

Chris Little, the founder of Wintersmiths, developed his bar accessories as a prototype with the help of Quickparts and explains that he could do this on a low budget and within a few days. Bulat Kitchen's Alex Commons recommends the 3D Hubs platform, which he used for the prototype of a knife. He only paid about $ 30 per 3D printed model.

5. Procurement

Once you have a product prototype that you're happy with, it's time to start putting together the materials and researching the partners needed to make it. This is also called the Build your supply chain denotes: the vendors, activities and resources required to create a product and get it into the hands of the customer.

While this phase mainly involves finding production-related services, you can also include shipping and warehousing in your research.


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In Shoe Dog, the memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight, highlights the importance of supply chain diversification as an issue throughout history. Finding multiple suppliers for the different materials you need, as well as different potential manufacturers, will help you compare costs. If one of your suppliers or manufacturers fails, it also has the advantage of having a backup option. Developing multiple options is an important part of securing your business for the long term.

During product development, every path to a finished product is different.

There is a wealth of resources available when searching for vendors, both online and face-to-face. It may seem old-fashioned, but many business owners choose to attend trade shows dedicated to sourcing. Manufacturing and manufacturing trade shows provide the opportunity to meet hundreds of suppliers at once to see, touch and discuss materials and to develop a personal relationship with suppliers. And that can be very valuable, especially when it comes to price negotiations. Hannes Ott from Take a Shot comments:

Visiting a trade fair is always time-consuming, even if you only go there as a visitor. But we've never had a trade fair that we regretted attending. So far, exciting contacts have always been made.

During the procurement phase, you will inevitably have to decide whether you want to have your product produced locally or abroad. A closer comparison of the two options is useful as they each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

The most widely used sourcing platform for overseas production is Alibaba. Alibaba is a marketplace for mainly Chinese suppliers and factories where you can browse quotes for finished goods or raw goods. A popular way to find a manufacturer with Alibaba is to look for deals with products similar to yours. You can then contact the appropriate provider to see if they can produce your specific design.

Reading tip: Alibaba operates the marketplace and dropshipping provider AliExpress. We explain how you can use this for yourself here.

6. Cost accounting

After the research, planning, prototyping, and sourcing are complete, you should have a clearer idea of ​​what your product will cost to manufacture. When calculating costs, all information collected so far is added to the "Cost of Goods Sold" (COGS) so that you can then determine a sales price and your gross margin.

Start by creating a spreadsheet that lists all costs as separate line items. This should include all raw materials, factory set-up costs, manufacturing costs, and shipping costs. It's also important to consider any shipping costs, import charges, and duties that you may have to pay as these charges can have a significant impact on your "cost of goods sold" depending on where the product is manufactured.

If you were able to obtain several offers for different materials or manufacturers during the procurement phase, you can insert different columns for each position in order to compare the costs. Another option is to create a second version of the spreadsheet so that you can compare local production with overseas production.

Once you've calculated your production costs, you can set a retail price for your product and subtract the cost from that price. This gives you your potential gross margin or your profit for each unit sold.

Product development in popular industries

The product development process will of course vary from industry to industry. In the next step, we would like to take a quick look at what to consider in three of the largest and most established industries: fashion and clothing, beauty and cosmetics, and food and beverages.

Thanks to the many well-documented case studies that can be used for inspiration, these three industries have a relatively easy path to product development.

Listening tip: In our podcast we always have founders from various industries as guests. Be inspired by their stories and get useful tips.

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Fashion and clothing

In the fashion industry, product development usually begins according to a well-known pattern: with a hand-drawn sketch or the digital equivalent created with a program like Procreate.

A sketch is then developed into a pattern with the help of a pattern maker or a seamstress. During the prototyping phase, a size set is created; H.a range of patterns of different dimensions for each size to be sold. Once the size set is completed, it will be put into production.

Instead of making the product, some fashion and apparel companies initially opt for a print on demand model. Print-on-Demand allows you to upload designs to a third-party app that connects your shop to a warehouse and screen printing facility. Then, when an order is placed, your design will be printed on an existing inventory of t-shirts, sweaters, and various other items on offer. This creates a finished product without having to design the entire garment.

Other factors to consider:

  • Hang tags.The branded labels that hang on an item of clothing and usually contain information such as price, size, etc.
  • Labels. The labels sewn or embossed into a garment, which usually contain information about the fabric and care instructions.
  • Washing tests. Wash tests of your product to understand if it will hold up over time and how it should be looked after.

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