Apple. Taco Bell. Amazon. Gillette. These aren’t just popular companies with a loyal following. Historically, they’ve been the curators of successful product launches, from innovative smartphones to a new way to look at breakfast. But as we’ve seen quite often, these brands are the outliers when it comes to unveiling a new offering.

To achieve success throughout product launches and their life cycles, it’s become more important for brands to understand their audience, the market and competitive landscape, industry trends, and how to measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts. However with only 40% of developed products making it to market and only 60% of those generating any revenue at all, how can you achieve success, particularly through the lens of the consumer?[1]

Ultimately, you have to know what you’re up against. The best way to navigate through a product life cycle and all the elements surrounding it, is by utilizing data driven insights in order to achieve business success. By working with leading organizations as they set the strategy for their product launches, we have developed a checklist of pre-launch efforts that provide data to gain insights before the product even hits the stage.

Effort 1: Undergo a market and competitor assessment

Before a product launch, a brand must do its due diligence to evaluate the market, determine the target audience, and define the key messages to aid strategy. We’ve often worked with leading brands to gain insight into the marketplace, as well as develop product positioning to ensure a successful launch. A rule of thumb I’ve learned along the way: it’s imperative to understand your opponents’ strategies and messaging in order to identify gaps and opportunities.

For example, our Insight team — part of the Market Intelligence practice — recently helped a leading beverage brand to launch a new, healthy alternative product by reviewing how global organizations within key markets communicate nutrition functionality (read how this works here). Through a market and competitor assessment, our team helped the brand uncover consistent and divergent themes in communications, special attributes, and the key assets/claims that were being communicated across regions by similar brands to clearly define its strategy to market.

Effort 2: Gather consumer feedback

When a product is being developed or introduced into the market, it is imperative to listen to consumer feedback. There are a number of ways to do this, such as focus groups, concept testing, or online surveys. However, listening to your consumers on social media channels and online communities has become more and more relevant for brands.

Recently, the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) came to Ebiquity for our help in conducting a social media analysis. They tasked our teams with uncovering how mobile technology  can impact consumer expectations, as well as how it is affecting the Postal Service’s lines of business (you can read the full report here) when using  its’ services. The primary goal of this research was to discover and better understand issues facing Postal Service customers, gain insights on their needs and desires from consumers themselves, and identify services to include in a mobile app.

Through our social media analysis, we helped the USPS OIG uncover some key insights:

  • Postal Service customers want an experience that provides them with accurate and relevant information, enables convenient self-service, and helps them avoid a trip to the post office
  • Of the one million Twitter and Facebook posts analyzed between October 2014 and March 2015, we were able to identify consumer challenges and opportunities to improve existing services.
  • Through our analysis, we determined services with the highest mobile potential by evaluating consumers’ sentiment to create a user friendly personalized experience to innovation their services in the mobile application.

Similarly, other brands generate entire campaigns around engaging with their consumers to create innovation. Lays Potato Chips asked consumers which chip flavor they would like to see with their “Do Us a Flavor” contest. Glossier created a face wash by asking consumers in a blog post what they would want in a formula, resulting in their Milky Jelly Cleanser. In addition, Chobani is in the midst of a huge marketing push, turning to their social media community to develop positioning for their Chobani Flip product. By reaching out to their social communities, they receive real-time feedback on their product.

Bottom line: by including and involving consumers in a product development process and launch, you’ll begin to understand your audience, boost loyalty, and generate buzz to drive sales in the process.

Effort 3: Set up benchmarks and KPIs to evaluate success

You can’t rate success without measuring your efforts. Therefore, it is vital to setup benchmarks and define KPIs prior to the launch of a product in order to measure the effectiveness of your marketing and communications efforts. Ideally, you should identify where you’re having the most success converting your customers, going beyond vanity metrics such as visitors, followers, or registered users. While these metrics can aid in your reporting, it’s important to measure actionable metrics, identifying statistics that directly link to your business goals (read more on setting benchmarks and KPIs here).

Here are some key metrics that are often overlooked:

  • Bounce rates
  • Average time per session
  • Goal completion or conversion
  • New vs. returning visitors
  • Consumer Sentiment

While these metrics may seem very granular, they can provide deep insights into what content is engaging your customers the most, what percentage of your customers are interacting with your brand for the first time, and whether they are converting according to your goals.

Looking through a different lens

As I previously noted, many products either fail to make it to market successfully or don’t have the foundation to be successful. However, if you assess your market, understand your audience, and set up the right benchmarks, you’ll not only gain valuable insight into how consumers view your brand, you’ll also be able to provide the right products exactly when the marketplace needs it.