Best Practices and Trends in Consumer Product Innovation
Thousands of new CPG products hit the shelves every year, but only a few succeed in capturing the hearts of consumers. With mass competition and limited shelf space, it’s exceptionally difficult to make a product shine.
Product of the Year, the United States largest consumer survey of product innovation, is a leading authority in buying behaviors. It only gives its famous red seal of approval to the very best products each year, as voted by 40,000 consumers nationwide. Product of the Year guides busy shoppers towards the best products on the market, rewarding innovation and quality alongside relevance to the consumer. Of course, innovation is an ever-changing game, but over the years, some key themes have emerged among Product of the Year’s top-winning products.
With this in mind, here are best practices for how to make your exciting product innovation a groundbreaking success.
Understanding Your Ideal Customer
Successful launches don’t just identify and profile customers, they learn to understand their every need and provide them with a solution before they’ve even asked for it. Product of the Year’s robust research of over 40,000 shoppers is a great way to find out what consumers really need. After all, if it’s not relevant to the consumer, it’s not going to end up in the shopping cart.
Take Product of the Year’s 2017 hair treatment winner, Schwarzkopf, for example. Brand owner Henkel identified that its core customer would want an easy way to cover grey hair without the time and expense of heading to the salon. The "Schwarzkopf Keratin Color" promises to cover grey hairs with a salon-quality finish from the comfort of your own home.
We give bonus points to the brands that identify problems that consumers didn’t even know existed, finding a solution before the question is even asked. Who knew there was an easier way to color greys? These light bulb moments get your brand a permanent place in the shopping cart.
Keeping the Loyalty
With every innovation, companies are trying to win over new consumers by converting them to purchasers. While new flavors, recipes and handy packaging formats are always great for enticing new shoppers, it’s important not to alienate loyal fans by veering too far from the brand’s core values.
For example, the laundry brand Downy managed this well when it launched deodorant for clothes. Non-Downy consumers were attracted to the idea of an odor control for clothes, while hardcore Downy fans, who knew of its success in the traditional laundry market, were tempted to try its latest products.
Fashions and Fads
Each year, Product of the Year sees the latest product trends through its winners. Whether it’s homemade granola, unique doggy bowls, a revolutionary mascara or whatever the latest Insta-star has been trying, shoppers want to see it on shelves the next day.
In 2017, the popular buzzwords "all natural" and "clean living" have cut right through the market. From the foods people eat to the cleaning supplies people use, consumers want to make sure they’re buying healthy, natural and safe products. One glance at Product of the Year’s 2017 winners shows how important this is to shoppers: Tide Purclean, Tide’s first bio-based laundry detergent, won in 2017, along with Splenda Naturals Sweetner, which is made without added flavors, preservatives or GMOs, and Sara Lee Artesano Bakery Bread, which doesn't include high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors.
Consumers are also showing trust in private label and/or store brands now more than ever before. Quality is increasing among private-label products, and consumers feel comfortable with a brand that they know. Grocery destination ALDI’s private label won big this year among Product of the Year, with its new Broken Clouds Pinot Noir and SimplyNature Organic White Cheddar Puffs.
Consumers favor convenience more than ever. All-in-one products are a perpetual favorite, satisfying many needs with a single product. The Lysol Power and Fresh 6 Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner has a combination of six actions that assist with keeping a toilet bowl fresh, which is more convenient and cheaper than buying the products separately. This genius product was another one of Product of the Year’s 2017 winners — loved by consumers and their wallets.
Across the board, it's clear that when launching a new product there's no substitute for listening to your customers and their needs. As champions of innovation across the country, Product of the Year guides consumers to the best new products on the market. If you want your launch to standout on the supermarket shelf with the red Product of the Year stamp of approval, you can enter today for your shot at gaining consumer traction.
Mike Nolan is the CEO of Product of the Year.