I’m often surprised by the answers I get from catalogers when I ask them, “What new products are you featuring?” They usually respond with a round of additional questions, such as “What do you mean by new?” or “How many new products are enough?” Often they’ll simply say, “New products never work for us.” But new product development should be the lifeblood of every multi-channel marketer. And if done correctly, it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a merchant’s job.
To get your product development program on the right track, consider the following:
* Reinvigorate your product line all the time. Even if you manage to grab their attention, shoppers are easily bored. So, continually work to entice them into your brand with new and different products. Product development should be a continuous loop of innovation with new products in the queue at all times.
* Look to your marketplace to find what products you should add. Your sales, customers and competitors all will give you clues as to what products might be appropriate for your customers. It’s your job to connect the dots and discover the messages these clues provide.
For example, if women’s turtlenecks are your most popular clothing category, it should be apparent that you don’t need to add 10 more brightly colored turtlenecks at the same price. Think about what the turtleneck is doing for your customer and consider testing new categories. Perhaps you could try a few scarves and/or thermal underwear. Think like a customer about the function of the product and its emotional appeal. Test products that give you further clues on both of these product attributes. If you don’t introduce these new products, it’s likely your competition will.
* Be sure to set up tests that provide worthwhile feedback for future decision making. Test enough variables within a category to give you actionable results. Consider the turtleneck example. You may want to test luxury turtlenecks, such as a cashmere version at a higher price. You also could try a bundled offer, such as buy two turtlenecks and get the third at 50 percent off. Children’s turtlenecks, men’s turtlenecks or holiday turtlenecks might also be worth testing.