At Pivot, we work with lots of inventors who have great ideas for consumer products. We love working with all kinds of inventors, but there’s something extra enjoyable about developing a product for everyday use—probably because the sky is the limit. Consumer products can serve innumerable purposes and do innumerable things.
Take our portfolio, for example. We helped develop the BonzaPack, a combination sports gear bag and portable seat designed for young athletes and their parents. Another product we worked on is a handheld, electronic golf ball finder, which locates golf balls with a proprietary digital imaging system. And then there’s the solar powered battery pack, a portable battery that can charge a laptop, cell phone, car battery, and more.
Each product has vastly different uses and target audiences, but they have one thing in common: they’re all designed for the general public, with intuitive functions that require no special training. That’s one of the most important elements of developing consumer products, but there are other things to keep in mind, as well. We’ve shared a few of the lessons we’ve learned over our years of working on consumer products below.
- Make sure the need you’re fulfilling is real. With industry-specific products, needs are often very specific. A voting commission needs a secure and reliable ballot box. A natural gas company needs a way to monitor their engines and prevent turbocharger failure. And any developer knows that the first step to developing your product is defining the need your product can fulfill.
- Pay very close attention to price. This is another important difference between developing a consumer product and developing an industry-specific product. While everyone prefers lower-cost products to higher-cost ones, given similar quality, consumers don’t have to buy anything you make. A hospital can’t function without certain pieces of equipment. Nor can an energy company. But it’s a rare invention indeed that your average person literally cannot live her life without.
- Don’t skip the prototyping stage. Prototypes are important in all industries, not just consumer—but there are specific reasons you want to make sure to prototype your consumer product.
But with consumer products, the need can often be harder to define. Our solar battery pack, for example, is a great product for use in a power outage, but it also works for camping. It was important, therefore, to design it so that it could meet not just the need for a portable battery, but the need for a portable battery in a variety of situations. And first, we had to make sure that the need for a solar portable battery was a true need that people would pay to fulfill.
The best way to make sure you’re fulfilling a real need for many people, and not one that applies only to you and a few of your friends, is to float the idea to as many people as you can. If you can afford to do some market research or host a focus group, do it—these can give you important insights into whether people will actually pay for the thing you’re creating.
Because of this, the price of your product becomes very important. You may have an excellent idea that will make a consumer’s daily life way more convenient—but if he has to shell out $50 when he thinks it’s worth more like $25, then he’s simply not going to buy your product.
On the other hand, if you price that same product at $10 when this consumer would willingly pay $25, you’re undercutting both your profit margins and your product’s perceived value.
McKinsey and Company advises that, when you’re developing a pricing strategy for your new product, you should look carefully at those of competing products as well as at how much you need to charge to make an acceptable profit. Then define a price range for your product, starting with the high end. Once that’s done, you can focus on pinpointing the optimum price for what you have to sell.
For one thing, consumer products must be user-friendly if they are to succeed. Remember, as we mentioned earlier: it’s extremely rare that a consumer will actually have to purchase what you’re selling. Therefore, you need your product to be easy to use and, if not attractive to look at, at least not off-putting. With the booming availability of 3D printing and computer aided design (CAD), both of which make prototyping faster and more affordable, there are rarely good reasons to skip making a prototype.
We hope these three tips on making a successful consumer product are helpful. If you could use more help, contact Pivot International. We offer product design services, manufacturing services, prototyping, even business development services, and we’d love to help you get your product to market.