Founder’s Notes: Four Keys to Incubating a New Retail Product

wayne-merlot15.jpgFor any new entrepreneur, transforming an idea into an actual physical product can be a challenge. How do you take a rough concept and mold it into something more tangible?  

Here are four things I keep in mind when developing new products:

Prototype

Boiling down a product idea into a simple elevator pitch is a great first step, but if you’re working on a physical product, people are going to want to see and interact with it. Especially in the health and beauty space, what a product looks like can elicit an emotional response. Does your product need to project an air of authority or should it be fun or funky? Is the product meant to be carried at all times or does it sit on a bathroom shelf? Does it need to be TSA-compliant or especially easy to open?

Here’s where it also pays to think about the five senses – look, touch, smell… how do you want your customer to experience your product? Thinking about the physical constraints and your brand identity in tandem will help with determining potential packaging and building your prototype.

Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

As you’re building your prototype, solicit feedback from friends, family, and business and industry contacts. Cast a wide net. As others weigh in, pay attention to what excites them or what frustrates them. Listen to their needs and pain points. Others may help spark a new thought or highlight what’s not working. The way they might use a product could be very different from the way that you would use it. Stay open-minded. And, don’t worry if your idea ends up changing drastically.

Find your audience

Often new ideas come from making an observation about something that’s missing from the marketplace or from something that exists but could be vastly improved on. Is there something that’s available for luxury consumers that should be available to a mass audience? Is there a way to make a certain type of product function more efficiently? Is there a new ingredient that hasn’t been utilized to its full capacity? Figuring out your product’s point of differentiation will also help you align with your audience.

Project your costs

The bottom line is always the bottom line. In the early stages of development, research the production, storage, and distribution costs for creating your product. Remember, there are always unanticipated or hidden costs that will occur – one way to estimate those is to take the rough production cost and double it. This will at least give you a working number to put into building the rest of your budget.

And finally, repeat. Even the best products are never “done” and there are always opportunities to improve or create something new.