How Product Developers Can Still Perform Pre-Launch Concept and Product Testing on a Tight Product Development Calendar
It’s not unusual for a tight product development calendar to leave product teams feeling pressured to get products out the door quickly. This pressure is also often in opposition to other initiatives like innovation and newness, and of course, quality. Simply put, product teams are trying to accomplish a lot on short timelines, and this crunch can often result in skipped product development steps including concept and product testing.
Without concept and product testing, there is little near-market confirmation that the product will do well post-launch. Further, product testing helps to validate quality and performance as well as identify areas for improvements (which make products more desirable and more aligned with what customers are looking for).
Tight product development calendars may not feel like they leave a lot of room for what can be perceived to be time-consuming product testing. It may instead feel easier to hand out some product prototypes to some coworkers, friends and family, or maybe conduct a basic survey or informal focus group.
The risk with those methods is fairly clear, though – if you aren’t getting feedback on your products from unbiased customers in your target market, you can’t be confident your customers will be satisfied with the product you’re launching.
Product developers have historically been in a seasonal struggle choosing between gathering pre-market product testing data that they can be confident in, and less rigorous testing that could be achieved faster. Good or fast – pick one. Fortunately, technologies specific to product development have been advancing.
But before discussing how to work effective testing into a tight product development calendar, we should acknowledge the common reason why these timelines are made shorter in the first place: specifically, brands’ efforts to decrease the risks of advance product development and manufacturing far out from retail buying while fashion trends continue to change so rapidly.
Product development calendars have been compressed in order to mitigate the risks of longer timelines by increasing product relevance closer to market – all while brands are trying to achieve more overall within their product creation process. Next, we’ll look at some of the initiatives now often included in the overall product creation process.
Common Initiatives Within the Product Creation Process
The Freedom to Ideate
One of the most important aspects of early product development is having the space to generate ideas that can eventually become a viable (and testable) product concept. This process is a key driver of newness within product lines which can come from reimagining current styles to developing completely new products. While not always bound to a product season, ideation often accelerates when brands are evaluating trends and strategizing their upcoming season’s products.
Engaging in Meaningful Innovation
If the product is new, there are many steps involved to ideate, prototype, test, refine, and finalize what is intended to be an exciting new product. Innovation should be considered an ongoing effort but also often gets collapsed down at the innovation/item-level as plans for commercialization fit within a target delivery season.
Engaging in The Customer
Just as brands work to condense their product development calendars in an effort to deliver on-trend products, the world’s leading brands and retailers are also making significant commitments to enhancing their abilities to connect with their customers within their product development process.
Similar to the risks and challenges associated with long development timelines, often cited data like last year’s sales performance are decreasingly relevant as fashion trends continue to move rapidly. Now, brands are leveraging new and agile ways to include the voice of the customer within their design and development stages, resulting in more actionable pre-market customer feedback.
How to Include Concept and Product Testing in Your Product Development Calendar
Whether your brand is looking to introduce or enhance its concept and product testing, here are four core considerations that will help streamline your efforts.
Review Your Product Development Calendar
Laying out every step of your product development calendar that spans from product concept to product launch is key to ensuring collaborative processes are designed to move smoothly with everyone aligned. Here is where brands designate specific points within the product development calendar at which concept testing and product testing are to take place (for advanced concepts and innovation, this process is often more fluid).
If the timeline isn’t clear and adopted, it’s easier for steps to lag or fall through the cracks which can lead to delays, then skipped steps. Establishing a calendar meeting cadence to discuss progress and maintain visibility on the process helps to identify any major changes that can impact the product line.
Anticipate Potential Process Changes
Depending on the size and scale of your organization and product development teams, anticipating and implementing calendar changes can be accomplished through a range of deliberate efforts. These can include simple process-change kickoffs, cultural changes supported by team check-ins or even fully supported process change management led by dedicated roles and staff. In order to be truly prepared and set your new or enhanced product testing program up for success, it’s best to identify these potential changes ahead of time, be proactive and plan on an appropriate level of transition support.
Accept That No Product Development Season is Exactly the Same
Even if nothing goes awry during a seasonal product development timeline, each time you engage in product development is going to look a little different. Certain steps in the process can be more fluid or unpredictable, including the application of feedback obtained during concept and product testing.
When you can collect product tester feedback in real time, disseminate that feedback quickly among teams, and apply it right away to concepts and products within the development cycle, you remove a lot of the drag that can come from the testing phase (MESH01 provides a highly efficient approach to concept and product testing that leverages a targeted community of testers and a robust platform for fast, valuable feedback). These efficiencies are designed to create time for product improvements based on the gathered feedback.
While you can’t predict how every stage of the product development calendar will unfold, you can now accelerate critical stages like product testing and make sure they are a valuable and relied-upon step in your product creation process.
Leverage Purpose-Built Technology
It’s common for companies to use disparate software solutions for different operations. While the best-of-breed approach can be valuable, it’s important to confirm the functionality and efficiency of the overall product development technology ecosystem. The key is to avoid both an overwhelming amount of tools as well as tools that weren’t designed for your end use, as this is how work can be slowed down, lost, miscommunicated, or inaccessible to different departments. This appears to be especially true in undeveloped product testing processes, where providing a purpose-built platform for all involved creates critical efficiencies that help keep products on target and on time.
When adding or enhancing concept and product testing, a platform like MESH01 that is designed specifically for product design and development is a proven way to ensure that product teams can leverage valuable tester feedback and insights that will impact the bottom line.
It Pays to Add Concept and Product Testing Into Your Product Development Calendar
Product development schedules are tight. This is exactly why MESH01 has created a testing platform that allows you to conduct testing, and collect and apply actionable feedback from unbiased testers quickly and efficiently. Unlike other testing platforms and methods, MESH01 is designed to fit within even the most demanding timelines.
You don’t have to slow down – you just need to use tools designed to work efficiently within your product development calendar. And MESH01 can help.