What is Product Development Research and how to do it?

July 21, 2022
9 min read
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66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs. But how do you understand the needs and demands of your customers? 

This is where product development research comes in. It not only helps the product managers to understand customer needs but also enables them to address these requirements in perfect ways. In return, product managers can drive higher customer satisfaction, loyalty, and high revenue. 

Let us discuss everything you need to know about product development research.

What is Product Development Research?

Product development research is the process of crafting, developing, and selling a product. It includes the crucial steps of market research, user research, and also coming up with a marketing plan to market the product to prospects. It also refers to tracking the progress of a product you are currently working on, its appeal to the target audience, and identifying potential changes you need to make to make the product more attractive.

Development cannot take place in isolation from research. It is a crucial process that directs the development of a product. It helps you to identify, understand and analyze consumer needs so that you can cater to them accordingly and increase your desirability in the market. It includes the processes of concept testing, loyalty testing, and many other tests that validate the product.

Why is Product Development Research important?

Importance of product development research

Product development research lays the groundwork for all the important functions of product development, marketing, and sales. It makes sure all your activities are data-driven and not just based on assumptions, minimizing the chances of errors. 

Let us try to understand why product development research is important with the following points.

  • It ensures you are giving your customers what they really want. Sometimes you may have a different idea of the benefits and features that you want to offer your customers, which they might not even need. Research saves you from committing errors like this and ensures you don’t waste resources.
  • It helps you identify customers and market trends so that you can devise your strategies accordingly.
  • It helps you to identify gaps and drawbacks in the current development plan and helps you brainstorm and analyze ways to improve.
  • It enables you to forecast the demand for the product and develop unique ways to promote, market, and sell.
  • It allows you to identify specific features that customers might be willing to pay more for and help you figure out ways for increasing customer loyalty.

How does the product development research process looks like?

3 stages of product development

There are primarily 3 broad stages of product development research. Let's discuss.

1. Exploratory research

This occurs in the earliest stage of product development research. During this time, you have no idea of what your product is going to look like, what features it will have, or what will be the pricing structure. In this stage, you explore ideas and dig into data around customers to understand their pain points and needs. 

Idea generation

When you are at the first stage of product development, you generally have no direction. The research will help you to lay the foundation of an idea and how to work around it. This process should focus on answering these vital questions.

  • What type of product do you want to build?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What do they really need?
  • How can you address their need with your product?
  • What segment of the market would you like to target?

Idea screening

This will help you evaluate potential ideas based on the criteria gained by market research. For example, if you have a new idea, the screening will help you test the feasibility by evaluating the budget requirements, relevance, constraints, risks, and challenges.

It starts with the generation of an ‘idea’ or ‘ideas’. It can come from you or your team members or anyone who is involved in the development process. Once you have the idea, you have to evaluate it against special criteria like benefits/value, target audience, complexity, profitability, and market situation. If the idea shows potential even after weighing against each criterion, you need to gather evidence-based resources to support that idea. You can start doing qualitative and quantitative research to understand prospects' points of view. After compiling all the important research data, you can now start refining your ideas into actual product concepts.

Evaluative research

Ideas that emerged during the previous stage will be scrutinized in this stage. This will help you identify the ones that are worth moving forward and discard the ones that aren’t promising enough. Data collection through surveys can be one of the methods used in this stage to gather details about your product concept.

Concept development and testing

It is the process of gathering information and insight about your product concept from the target audience. It helps you adjust your vision and ideas based on the results of the research.

Market research 

This process is essential to examine the different forces of the market that not only pertain to the customers but also competitors, economic stability, government policies, and all other factors that can influence the lifeline of the product. 

2. Iterative research

This stage is to analyze and refine your product to ensure it appeals to the customers. Iterative research is detailed and in-depth and focuses on developing the critical features of the product. It can start from testing the different versions of the product to finalizing the packaging.

Development

The development of the product initiates in this stage. From the technology stack to the product labels, everything is analyzed and planned in this step. All the team members pool in their ideas and start working on developing the product after it has been approved.

Testing

Before the product is launched in the market, tests are conducted to test its performance of the product. This may include evaluating the product’s performance, safety, quality, and compliance with standards. 

Commercialization

This is the final step when the product is introduced in the market.  Before launching the product into the market, all the important factors like pricing, packing labels, marketing, and sales channel are decided.

How to perform Product Development Research effectively?

As a product manager, you cannot afford to mess up product development research. All the steps should be carefully planned and executed to ensure success. Make sure to read the steps attentively to know all about conducting effective research.

A framework explaining how to perform product development research

Step 1: Ideation

Ideation is the process of identifying the type of product you want to build. Suppose you have recognized an opportunity for introducing a new product in the market, but are unsure about what type of product you want to create. This is when you can hold internal sessions with your team to discuss the idea and concept of the product. The processes of combining, adapting, substituting, eliminating, and rearranging will play a crucial role in creating the perfect product idea.

Step 2: Market research

Market research means collecting information and analyzing the crucial players in the market. From competitors, target audience, geographical location, and economic stability to government policies, you have to have a thorough understanding of the market landscape to develop a strong product strategy.

Step 3: Demand analysis

The demand for a product drives the financial decisions of a company. Knowing the demand for a particular product is essential to know the feasibility of a particular product. If a product has low demand, there is no use in investing in the product. Conducting demand analysis will give you information about how many units you need to produce, which are the geographical area you need to target, and forecast your revenue from the product.

Step 4: Concept testing and validation

After you have gathered all the best ideas for product development, it is time to test and validate it. This focuses on clarifying  the idea of the product by focusing on questions such as-

  • Is the concept understood by the team?
  • What pain points can be addressed by the product?
  • Who will the product users be and how will they use them?
  • What are the possible strengths and weaknesses of the product?

You can validate these questions by conducting qualitative research to test the viability of the product in front of your prospective customers in the form of surveys or interviews.

Step 5: User experience research

User research or UX research is the process of discovering user behavior, motivation, and need of your customers through analysis, observation, and other types of feedback. It will help you dismiss assumptions and find common information about target customers, and recognize their needs and requirements.

Step 6: MVP research or prototype research 

A minimum viable product or MVP is a model of the product with enough features to allow customers to use it to validate the product ideas.  Creating an MVP and letting early adopting customers use it will help you get an insight into the product experience from their feedback.

Step 7: Pricing research

Pricing research will help you determine an appropriate price for your product. A suitable price should neither be too low as it will impact your profit margin nor too high to make it unaffordable for the consumers. Research will help you come up with a suitable price that appeals to your consumers while ensuring profit. 

Step 8: Competitor research

Competitor research is one of the important steps you cannot miss at any cost. Researching your competitors thoroughly will give you a base for comparison so that you can develop your own unique strategy for product creation and promotion. You can research your competitors from various sources like social media, google search, software listing sites, etc.

Step 9: Satisfaction and loyalty research

Satisfaction and loyalty research is vital to understanding the user experience of your product. Once you have launched your product, feedbacks are most likely to come in. You have to carefully analyze and address those feedback in a way that leaves the consumers content. 

Best Practices while doing Product Development Research

Here are some of the best practices you should follow to get the most effective results from your product development research.

1. Dig deeper into consumer needs

Just identifying the needs of your consumers based on a survey is not enough. You have to dig deeper into their needs to have a comprehensive understanding. 

What kind of challenges do they face? What are they looking for in a product? How much are they willing to pay? What section of consumers will use your product? All these questions will help you create a viable product. 

2. Involve customers in your development process

There is no one better than the customer to show you what and how they want in a product. They are the ultimate users of your product so involving them in the development process will only increase the chances of success. You can generate polls, surveys, and feedback sessions to ask prospective customers about their ideas and opinions. 

3. Expand your research horizon

Generally, you research only the targeted market and location while developing a product. It helps you get specific insights into the market you want to operate in. Broadening your research horizon is necessary to help you get a thorough understanding of the perceptions related to your product. Don’t limit your research to the target market, try to understand the national and international scenarios related to your product.

Conclusion

Product development research is not as complex as it sounds if you know how to do it correctly. If you know how to address their pain points in the most appropriate and innovative way, you already know you are way ahead of the competition. 

Zeda.io is there to support you in your product development research process. It is the ultimate product management tool to help you build the right product for your consumers. Check it out now!

Jacob Koshy
Product Marketer at Zeda.io
A marketer in love with SaaS products. When away from work, I'm either spending time with my cats or adding miles on my motorcycle.
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