Launching new product ideas can be scary business. 

Even if you have an amazing idea, the competition in a global digital market is fierce. There are nearly 52 million product SKUs sold on Walmart Marketplace alone, while Amazon Marketplace hosts over 353 million products in almost any category you can think of.

In order to stand out and be profitable, it’s not enough for your new product idea to be awesome. It’s got to have something no other product has and it’s got to make its way to the exact target market that needs it. 

That’s a lot of pressure. 

What if your genius idea bombs? What if you sink all your savings into a launch, take on debt, and lose everything? Or, worse yet, what if you have one great product, and then fade into obscurity as the person who invented the piano key necktie? 

Don’t worry. We’re not going to let that happen.

Read on for some cautionary tales, hard questions, and actionable tips to make sure you’re launching new product ideas that people actually want.

The scoop on new product ideas

  • Spectacular new product idea fails: Classic mistakes to avoid
  • How new product ideas protect your business
  • 4 steps to creating new product ideas people actually want
  1. Get to know your product before you get carried away
  2. Drill down on the competition
  3. Find your fail-proof winners
  4. Choose your funding wisely
  • Congrats! It’s time to launch your new product idea

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Spectacular product idea fails: classic mistakes to avoid

Before we get into the details of what really makes for a “sure thing” product idea, let’s take a little trip down memory lane. We could have told you these products would flop. But these household name retailers didn’t get the memo until it was too late. 

That’s right, poor product ideas can happen to anyone — whether you’re a brand new startup or the world’s largest ecommerce platform (looking at you, Amazon Fire Phone).

From poor product quality to grossly misjudging the target market, there are a million and one ways promising product launches have failed.

Here are just a few of them. Laugh and learn.

Shown below, found here. Caption:

Gerber Singles were an attempt to expand beyond the limitations of baby food, and reach an adult market.

Gerber Singles (1974)

Ever heard of Gerber Singles? We didn’t think so. This was Gerber’s attempt to appeal to adults with, you know, grown-up palates. But you’d have to be pretty desperate to eat pureed Beef Burgundy, Mediterranean Vegetables, and the cloyingly mysterious Blueberry Delight, straight out of a jar. 😅

Shown below, found here.

Colgate gave a foray into frozen foods the old college try. Consumers didn’t share their enthusiasm.

Colgate Kitchen Entrees (1982)

When you think of ready-made frozen meals, a brand known for its toothpaste is not the first option that comes to mind. We may never know how this got onto Colgate’s new product ideas list, but at a time when frozen meal options were plentiful, this one didn’t find its niche.

Shown below, found here.

Amazon’s much-anticipated first smartphone failed to deliver what people actually wanted from their phones.

Amazon Fire Phone (2014)

Nobody can deny Amazon’s juggernaut status, but this is one case where they rushed into a new market without making sure the ideas for a new product actually delivered what people needed.

The innovative features Amazon was so excited about got a pretty ‘meh’ reception, and its limitations (You can only use it with an AT&T plan? It’s not compatible with Gmail?!) had early adopters abandoning it almost immediately.

The Fire Phone’s epic crash and burn is an excellent reminder that even heavy hitters need to take their time developing new product ideas.

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How new product ideas protect your business

Ecommerce is a rollercoaster, and it’s hard to predict how much traction a new product will get. 

Even if you’ve validated your idea, there’s no telling whether it will go viral with social shares like the famous TikTok leggings, or if it’ll go the way of the Nicolas Cage throw pillow

Trends and morbid curiosity (‘I need to have this ghastly thing just to understand it’) will only go so far in generating ongoing revenue, which is part of why the boom and bust cycle is all too common in ecommerce. 

Luckily, you’re smart enough to know you should always have your next new product ideas in the pipeline, which takes the pressure off each individual launch. You’re playing the long game, and by constantly churning out great product launches, you never have all your eggs in one basket.

But first, you have to make sure each new idea really is worth all that time and effort to bring to market. Here’s where the real work begins.

4 steps to creating new product ideas people actually want

  1. Get to know your product before you get carried away

We know it’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of a new product idea that seems destined to change people’s lives (or at least make life funnier and less annoying). But before you dump all your time, money, and energy into a product idea, you have to answer some very important questions. 

Sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm:

  • What problem does your product solve? What is the deep benefit here? Is it saving people time and money? Is it making life easier or more fun? Will it give them freedom, confidence, power? What difference will it make?
  • Who’s it for? Be specific here, really analyze how well the solution you’re creating will solve your customers’ pain points. 
  • What’s the product’s USP? Given the other options out there, what makes this product uniquely suited to solve a specific problem for the specific people you have in mind? (Keep reading if you need ideas on how to figure this out 😉).
  • What is your product? Get as specific as possible, and make sure every decision is based on what you’ve already written down: the problem, the benefit, the audience, and the USP. Remember, form follows function!

Armed with these well-thought-out details, you’ll be ready to make some super well informed decisions about the viability of your product idea, and determine the tweaks you need to make before you go all-in.

  1. Drill down on the competition

Here’s where some sneaky (but totally legal and un-creepy) market research and competitor analysis will make positioning your product a million times easier. Go as broad and as deep as you have bandwidth for, so you can figure out where your product fits in the existing landscape. 

This step can turn into an exhausting rabbit hole, but remember that all the work you put in at this stage saves you a ton of wasted time and expensive mistakes later.

Check out the competition

Pick 5-10 of your top direct and indirect competitors to get a feel for the context your product will be jumping into. Sign up for each competitor’s newsletter, dive deep into their website, their social media, their ads, and anything you can get your eyeballs on. 

You need to get crystal clear on the industry standard for messaging, design, and copy. You’ll see over time exactly what your competitors are sending their lists, how they’re positioning their products, and what type of content is getting the most engagement. 

With all this competitor intel under your arm, you’ll get a great understanding of how to make your product stand out as the true unicorn in its category. 🦄

Scour competitors’ product reviews

Understanding competitors’ marketing is all well and good, but what do people actually think about their products? 

That’s where reviews come in. Check out competitor websites and other channels, as well as review sites like Trustpilot and Reviews.io.

Your product will be directly compared with these options, and reviewers will tell you exactly what they love (or hate) about the options already out there. You just have to show up, listen, and follow through by giving them what they want.

What are people not telling your competitors?

Head to forums, Facebook groups, etc, to hear what people say behind your competitors’ backs. 

You know they’re not divulging everything on your competitors’ own websites. But what about when they let their hair down with friends? 

That’s when you get a glimpse into what’s really bugging them, how they really felt about that product they were so excited to try, and most importantly, the conversations where they’re griping about your industry and their deeper unmet needs. 

They may not know what their real problem is but, by looking for patterns, you’ll be able to find your opportunity to swoop in and solve it. 

  1. Find your fail-proof winners

It’s not sexy, and it’s definitely not the fun part of bringing a new product to market — but taking the time to validate your product will keep that exciting new product idea from breaking your heart and plunging you into debt.

This is where you have to face your fears and find out if people really want your new product. Not just in the, ‘Oh, that’s a cool idea, double-tap’ kind of way, but in a ‘Get out of my head and into my life right now’ kind of way. 

Because if that’s not happening, you can skip spending your time and resources bringing a destined-to-fail product idea to market, and move on to the winning ideas, right? 

Ask the people what they want

If you have an existing audience, getting feedback on your new product idea is pretty simple. They’re the most invested in what you’re doing, want you to succeed, and can give you the most helpful feedback. 

If you don’t have much of an audience, get some solid inspo by asking people you know and scrolling through online forums to find out what people are asking for. Alternatively, if you have the budget, you can pay a professional market research consultant or firm to do this for you.

Whether you send a question to your email list, post a survey or poll on social media, or run an actual focus group, it’s important to ask things like:

  • What would make this product a no-brainer purchase for you?
  • What features would be deal-breakers?
  • If we released this tomorrow, what would stop you from hitting Buy Now?
  • Want to get on the waitlist?

The ultimate validation: Pre-sales

Selling your new product before it launches will tell you if you’ve hit an idea that will sell to people who don’t share your last name. And it’s totally doable.

If the response has been enthusiastic and you’re feeling extra bold, go ahead and take pre-sale orders to ensure a successful product launch before you’ve even made anything. It’s the perfect way to fund development, production, and launch marketing — plus, it will help you ramp up more quickly, hit a positive ROI sooner, and avoid awkward conversations with friends who promised to buy your new product.

The Inside Scoop: Email is golden✨ 

The ROI on email marketing can reach 4,200%. Make strategic use of your email list and social media following to generate buzz in the months leading up to launch, and you’ll see even faster pre-sales.

  1. Choose your funding wisely

Once you’ve honed in on your winning new product ideas and are ready for your first production run, don’t forget to choose the right type of funding for your product type. 

The right choice will depend on factors like:

  • Current revenue
  • Existing liabilities
  • Your goals

For example, crowdfunding can be a low risk way to generate early traction for a brand new brand, while a working capital line of credit or a little help from Amazon Lending may work well if you’re expanding an already successful product line, and you know repayment won’t be a problem.

Just make sure that, wherever you get your ecommerce funding, your provider is flexible enough to work with your unique situation. Look for soft credit checks, a fast turnaround, and terms that don’t require you to pay interest on funding you don’t use.

Congrats! You’re ready to launch your new product idea 🎉

Launching a new product idea takes guts, and — as long as you avoid the epic product idea fails others have made before you, follow the crucial steps we’ve laid out, and make sure your target audience will appreciate your products as much as you do — you’re sure to smash it.

No more Gerber Singles. Just. Don’t.

Once you really know your audience, can confidently pinpoint your fail-proof product ideas, and get your pre-sales strategy firing on all cylinders, it’s off to the races. 

By the time your product officially launches, it’ll already be a success, with the revenue to prove it. Pop open the bubbly, celebrate the win… and then go do it again!

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