Here we are. You have identified a new product that will take your company to the next level. All you need to do now is to make it real. Everything hangs on the next critical steps of the process: how will it be manufacturer? By whom? And how will customers react to this new product?
These questions are vital, and answering them properly will determine the true value of your new product or service.
How revolutionary is your product?
A strong product strategy can take many forms. You could want to create a completely new market segment by offering something that has never been seen before. On the other hand, sometimes, all you need to do is have your own product in a segment that a competitor has created.
In the latter case, the important thing might be to offer a product that will be only slightly different from other similar products already on the market, that will not require a lot of development, and for which detaining some sort of intellectual property is not necessary. If so, there are some manufacturers who will help you market their own product, with your logo on it. These companies are known as original design manufacturers, or ODMs.
If your product or business model is more complex, or if your wish to own the IP behind it, it’s a different story. You might prefer to do business with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who will provide you with the components your product requires, but you will have to make sure the rights to the end product belong to your company.
Beware of standards and limitations
Early during the development phase, you will have to list your product’s technical features and key components. This is where you start to play with electronic parts and where the specifications sheet is taking shape. This is also when some limitations starts to appear: power consumption, heat management, ergonomics, etc.
This single stage can completely transform your product. Less experienced companies will suddenly realize that their initial idea is not entirely feasible, or that the business model behind it will not hold up, because of unforeseen costs, or because some standards limit the scope of what your product is allowed to do.
This relates to all those campaigns on social financing platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo: you may start to receive emails about delays and additional costs when the project gets to this part of the process. Because, as some would say, this is when the rubber meets the road!
In any case, if you are unsure of the final composition of your new product, you can easily apply for a R&D grant from the government, which will ensure the project goes through some early stages. It is important to limit the technological risk, and it is easier to do so at a stage where you can make iterations of trials and errors while still protecting your intellectual property.
User experience (or “UX”) must be taken into account in the product concept. Form and function both have an impact on how people will interact (or not) with your product or service. In the smart objects market, more specifically, you can opt for different business models, since you can combine the one-time purchase of a physical product with a subscription-based service. That must also be taken into account early on.
You can rely on a design firm to help you make the right choices. IDEO, Whipsaw are among the best known designer groups worldwide and used by the largest brands, but local designers, such as ALTO, André Lafleur RD&D, TAK Design, or Tactix have a high degree of expertise and can tailor their services to your specific business needs.
Protect your ideas!
Developing a product concept is where you find out what the real value of your initial idea is. An entrepreneur who does not want to miss an opportunity will try to protect its full potential. It is the right time to consult with a legal expert and devise the best way to protect your idea. These experts can also help in finding a proper name for your new product, based on the market segment you target, similar products that are already on the market, etc.
Once you have taken care of all these details, the development of your product can move on to the next step. You take its design and create the first prototypes that will help you find flaws, glitches, or characteristics that might make it harder to manufacture.
It is still not too late to have some early adopters test the product and apply further changes. Some technologies are more difficult that others to integrate. Think about radio frequencies, sound quality, etc. They might require a bit more back and forth to work as expected.
Once your idea goes through the design process, it suddenly begins to look like a real product. But it’s not over yet: you will need to validate the design to make sure it can easily scale.