The new product development process: a stage by stage guide
by Duncan Geddes
What is the product development process?
The product development process refers to delivering new products and services to market. Otherwise known as the new product development process (NPD), this term covers everything from initial conception right through to launch. Products can be introduced to replace, take over or expand the market.
How is the product development process used?
Product development time is used to plan and strategise the creation of a product or service, as well as to test and build it. The strategy will differ depending on the stages of development and the purpose of the product. For example, ideating a brand new product will be different to testing a service designed to replace an existing one. The process will also be different for physical and digital products.
What are the stages of new product development?
The standard product development process is made up of eight unique stages. These usually occur in chronological order, although overlap can sometimes take place. Each of these stages is explained in more detail below.
Stage 1 – Strategise
Define your objectives, conduct market research and formulate a strategy for the product.
This stage requires you to gain an understanding of the aims and goals of the new product – whether it’s replacing an old one or bringing something completely new to market. During this stage you should expect to conduct market research around your new product idea to help you understand what already exists and how your product will fit in. Ultimately, you should finish this stage with some form of strategy for the future process.
Stage 2 – Ideate
Generate ideas for the product or service through both internal and external sources.
By brainstorming ideas for your product and spotting gaps in the market, you can develop the concept into a strong proposal. Things to consider at this stage include the opportunity to improve existing product ranges. You should also analyse any weaknesses in existing products and gain a better understanding of how these issues can be resolved. Customer feedback can come in hugely handy here if you have it, as it can highlight any outstanding customer needs that are not currently being catered to.
Stage 3 – Screen
Reduce the amount of ideas to make a compact list of the best ones.
Screening the ideas you generated in the previous stage will enable you to pursue and develop fewer, stronger concepts. You should consider market and customer needs, affordability and profitability, feasibility, growth potential and relevancy. The SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis model could be used during this stage.
Stage 4 – Concept test
Test the customer response to your proposed product.
At this stage you should conduct surveys to find out more about your product or service, or compare numerous concepts to see which is the most successful. The testing phase happens before you take the product to market. You may want to find out how interested users are in the product, which features they like most and least, how the product compares to similar things on the market and the most suitable price points. This stage can help you estimate the product’s success rate, identify its best features and further screen ideas.
Stage 5 – Analyse
Analyse the business potential of the product, addressing finance.
The analysis stage will enable you to gain a better understanding of the costs associated with product development and the potential profits to be made. In order to come to these figures, you must assess the product price, estimate sales volumes, recognise a break-even point and understand the lifecycle of the product.
Stage 6 – Development
Develop the product before bringing it to market.
At this stage you’ll create a prototype of the product, which can then be tested to ensure it performs as expected. The prototype can be anything from a mock-up to a sample. Any issues with the design can be identified at this stage and as many updates to the prototype as needed should be made.
Stage 7 – Market test
Test the product to find its strengths and weaknesses before evaluating whether it’s ready for the next step.
This stage may need to happen a few times before the product is ready to continue – different, improved prototypes should be tested based off feedback from the users. It is important to ensure the product or service is tested in conditions that you would expect it to be used. Findings can be formatted through questionnaires or surveys, or through focus groups. Any good feedback can be used when approaching customers after the product has launched.
Stage 8 – Commercialisation
Take your final product to market, making it available to the general public.
The final stage of the product development process, commercialisation will see you launch your product or service. This stage involves pricing, which should be based on covering your expenses, market competition, the product’s lifecycle and selling channels. Also, part of the final stage is protecting intellectual property – registering a design, applying for a trademark or filing a patent.
Other common structures of the product development process
Another possible structure for the new product development process is made up of four stages: fuzzy front-end (FFE); product design; product implementation; and fuzzy back-end. FFE addresses the idea creation stage and is referred to as fuzzy as it happens before the formal development begins. Product design covers both high and detailed-level design, whilst product implementation is the market testing of the product. Fuzzy back-end refers to the market launch of the product.
Useful product development resources
Product development software
Product development qualifications
In terms of the forms of qualifications you can achieve related to new product development, the Chartered Institute of Marketing offers a one-day training course on Product Innovation (NPD). The course targets managers who want to be more successful with their development. The course aims to address challenges, product planning and lifecycles. Universities such as Bournemouth, Brunel and Edinburgh offer Bachelor’s degrees in Product Design, whilst Cranfield University offers a Master’s degree in Global Product Development and Management.
As well as manufacturing foam-based products, we also offer design and development services. With in-house expertise and strong relationships with raw material suppliers, packaging firms and logistics providers, we can create prototypes for our customers and have been doing so for the past 20 years.
We even offer advice on materials, the manufacturing process, pricing, packaging, logistics and launching the product. We’ll also sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure all information is held confidentially.
Get in touch with the team to find out how we can help to support the product development process in your business.