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Failure to Launch: 5 missteps in Product Development Market Research

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Stephanie Douglass

Sr. Director, Marketing and Operations

Consumer product research is easily one of the largest categories in market research. Regardless of industry, all organizations are constantly innovating their products and offerings to stay relevant in an ever-changing world.  From understanding consumer need states to finalizing the perfect price point, market research touches every stage of product design and development. Perhaps the reason for that is how high the stakes are when it comes to launching a new product. The investment of time and money in innovation is tough to recoup when a product launch goes wrong. That's why getting the right questions asked at the right time in your product development strategy is critical.

For product managers and marketers, understanding what their target customer wants next is a tall order. Aside from getting the core unmet need correct, there are also decisions around features, pricing, and positioning – any of which can be costly to get wrong.

MDRG has identified 5 areas where sometimes clients get it wrong when executing a new product development research strategy.


1. Skipping due diligence

Thankfully, this is not a common mistake. Most organizations understand the value of competitive research and understanding the category prior to making any decisions about new product opportunities. But some don’t go far enough. Not only do you need to understand what your competitors are doing, but it’s also critical to look at new technology and start-ups in the category. Often times it’s the little guy that is the most innovative and possibly encroaching on your territory.


2. Undervaluing Qualitative Research

Frankly, qualitative research should be a mandatory part of any consumer product research plan. Speaking directly to your consumers and understanding what is missing in their experience with your product is the most critical component of innovation. Some companies handle this through ongoing customer panels. Others will use a market research firm to recruit product users and better understand their experience. Mobile ethnography can be a particularly effective method for understanding how users interact with your product in their current environment. Observing their behavior will reveal opportunities you might not find through online surveys or focus groups.


3. Hoarding Insights

Too often we find insights teams so focused in on the client they are serving that they forget to advocate for the research to be distributed more widely. Insights surrounding consumer need states will directly inform how the product is ultimately marketed and positioned. Even if this falls to the product team, insights from the research conducted could prove invaluable to understanding how consumers interact with a brand. The brand and marketing teams may find some nuggets of information that tell them more about how consumers want to be marketed to. Further, the customer experience team could use the information to shore up gaps that are identified. Plus, the more information you share, the more you will get in return.


4. Rushing to finish

There are always pressures to come in under budget and on time. However, the risk of launching a product incorrectly far outweighs the time and expense of an additional two to four weeks to iterate and optimize. Whether the research is a broadly distributed user test or just a quick trial of friendly customers, ensuring the final product performs as intended and meets the identified need is well worth any extended time to market.


5. Not listening to the research

Yes, this happens. A lot. Sometimes research reveals insights that don’t prove out your hypothesis. Sometimes, research disproves the hypothesis. Your research team does NOT want to deliver bad news, but isn’t this the very reason we advocate for market research in the first place? While there may be ample momentum and excitement in your organization about this new product launch, if the research says it won’t work….listen!


There are multiple reasons these mistakes happen but most stem from time and expense. Fortunately, there are tons of tools, platforms, and organizations that have found a way to conduct research quick and inexpensively. These days, time and expense should never be a reason against research. Even if the information you glean is not quite as robust as what you are used to, data should always drive your decision-making in the realm of product innovation.



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