4 key steps to designing products that sell.
Innovate the concept . . . every time.
At Jett, we have the privilege to work alongside some of the world’s largest sports brands. This often means acting as their ‘go-to’ product design team, developing products for diverse consumer needs, across a huge range of categories and in-line with critical commercial objectives.
To do this effectively however, we must know that what we design will sell. Beautiful design is one thing, but will it be a product that customers buy? Will it perform to meet expectations? If the answer is no, both the client’s brand, as well as our own, can experience declining sales and damaged reputations.
So, how do we do it? How can we be sure that what we design will succeed in the market? Well, over time we’ve learned a lot and we believe it’s all about bringing innovation to the concept every single time. Here are our four key steps as to how:
001/ KNOW YOUR MARKET
To be successful in developing any product, you have to know the market inside and out. That means researching everything. The key phrase here is “ask and observe.” The more you do this, the more complete the picture you’ll build. At Jett, we’ve found that it’s critical to ask these questions, and to gather data from a wide variety of sources.
Analyze your competition by ASKING questions like:
- What have they released?
- What’s in the development pipeline?
- Who are they targeting this season?
Then, do the same for your target market. This has to include more than just the end consumer which means considering retailers, wholesalers and dealers. How do they buy, what are their margins and what pricing structures do they employ? What do they think the market is missing and what sells the most – all of these insights must be included.
Look internally, too. Often, we see partners overlooking the wisdom of their sales team. Your sales team is a really valuable resource here, so leverage their experience!
- What are they seeing and hearing in the market
- What feedback have they received?
- What are customers asking them for?
Your preconceived ideas about the market might be totally thrown off by what the sales team has to say. That can be a very good thing because fresh perspective is critical to true innovation and great ideas.
Finally, and perhaps the most important thing, is to be actively engaged with the market. You have to appreciate the products you design from the user’s perspective. You can’t understand what makes a good product from behind a desk. It’s just not possible.
At Jett, we make every effort to live and breath what we do. Being out there, participating in the sports themselves, and talking to fellow athletes and enthusiasts – that’s where we’ve found that we learn our most valuable insights. We listen well and learn.
002/ KNOW WHAT’S TRENDING
To be successful, you have to make sure you stay ahead of current trends and influences.
At Jett, we work between one and two years out, constantly looking to the future. To do this means taking what I call “a 1000-ft view” of the competitive landscape and those markets in close proximity.
Why? When you’re on the ground, you can get restricted and weighed down by the nitty-gritty of day-to-day focus. All the minutia of the product you are developing becomes an echo chamber where the urgent starts to overpower the important. It’s hard to see the future when you’re stuck in the present. Zoom out and look at the whole picture. When we’re doing this ourselves, we try to remember these three things:
SALES DATA is your friend here as long as your view stays broad. Review the data from across the board. Don’t just focus on products similar to the one you’re currently developing. Market trends appear as you identify what’s fading and what’s emerging. You’ll notice colors, styles, functional features, what customers want, and what they don’t.
TRADE SHOWS AND DEALERSHIPS are a great source for emerging trends. Make notes on what you see. That may sound like a no-brainer, but a lot of people go to trade shows and let everything wash over them. Stay focused.
SET ASIDE PERSONAL PREFERENCES. Again, this sounds like a simple thing. But it’s something many people fail to do and it’s a big mistake. There are always going to be trends we don’t like, colors we think are too bland or too loud, styles we think are ugly. You can’t think like that. Put the customers’ preferences before your own.
003/ INNOVATE DON’T EMULATE
This third step requires that you pull together everything learned in your research and begin putting it to work. You know the trends, you understand the market. It’s time to design a product underpinned by those factors.
I define innovation in the market as creating and improving products that meet consumer wants and needs. But innovation doesn’t just mean releasing a successful product in a new color. You have to make real-world improvements to your products. Innovation must have real benefits to the customer. Does it make their active lifestyle better, easier or safer in some way? Because change for change’s sake isn’t going to cut it. Put another way, innovation isn’t truly innovative without a direct tie to a known customer need.
Use the trends analysis that you’ve completed and design toward what’s emerging in the market. I always say, “look for clear water.” Find those open spots in the market and find them early. The earlier you identify and enter a market opportunity, the more success you’ll have. You have to lead. If you just follow what everyone else is doing, the market will be saturated. By that time, the “blood is in the water”.
Another characteristic of true innovation is the customers’ discovery process. At Jett, we often don’t tell consumers all the improvements we’ve made. We find that letting customers discover some of these elements for themselves gains trust and creates customer loyalty.
That’s not to say that you can’t discuss your innovation – you can and should! You’ve worked hard to make this product better and customers should know it. Just try keeping a couple pieces of innovative flare held back for the consumer to discover themselves.
004/ DESIGN WITH THE END IN MIND
Our goal is ultimately to bring products to market. So, for everything we design, we’re always asking questions such as:
- Is it manufacturable?
- Can we deliver all the features at an acceptable price point?
- Who do we need to work with to integrate this new technology into the product we’re designing?
- Who’s the best manufacturer to bring this to life?
- How can we coordinate all this, while staying in budget for the client?
At Jett, we have world-class team to help us figure out the answer to those questions. But beyond them, there are a few other things you need to keep in mind whenever you design a product.
CREATE EFFICIENCIES. Maybe the most important factor here is that throughout the design process, you need to consider ways to create efficiencies in production. You must ensure that the product you’re designing can be produced in the most cost-effective, efficient manner possible. So, make full use of the wisdom from the development and manufacturing experts on your team, as well as your wider supply chain too.
Innovation in production is also innovative and cannot be overlooked. Never be afraid to ask them for ways to decrease cost without losing product value. Some of the most successful products are the ones that add value to the product through efficient, cost-saving designs. Innovation like that drives prices down – bringing high value products to market at an affordable prices.
We see evidence about this all around us. Take the flat-screen TV for example. When they first appeared, they were so expensive, almost nobody could afford one. Today, thanks to consistent innovation and efficiency in production, almost everyone has a flat-screen. That’s good news for consumers, for manufacturers, and for product developers. When things are efficient, everybody wins.
So, there you have it. My four steps for designing products that sell. With one more important note: Collaboration is key.
Developing products is a collaborative process that requires cooperation and coordination, between dozens of different partners and providers. Be respectful of all your colleagues – both in-house and out of house. At the end of the day, we’re all links in the chain. Lay pride aside and work together to bring your vision to the market. Remember, humility can be contagious… as is pride.
Thanks for reading, if you’d like say hi or find out more please get in touch.
Josh Kellogg / Creative Director & Founder