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Product Planning - Gathering Product Intelligence

What's out there?

As part of your product planning strategy, learn about how competitive research can help you define a product offering that can distinguish your craft from what the market currently has to offer. #woodworking #competition #research #craftNow that you have selected the product that you would like to make and sell, it is usually a good idea to next research the internet to see what is already out there.  The internet offers a wealth of information that you can collect to assist you in defining a successful product offering and associated selling strategy.
 
Many crafters might skip this step of gathering product intelligence, but it can really help you better understand the market and it's opportunities.
 
It's always a good idea to determine how your planned craft measures up to what prospective buyers encounter during their initial internet searches.
 

Where do prospective buyers start their search?

According to an April 2016 report in NetMarketShare.com, Google is the leader handling close to 70% of all desktop internet searches and 94% of mobile searches. This, making Google the place where you want to start your product intelligence gathering. Although there exists several studies out there with varying results, according to SearchEngineWatch.com, the number 1 ranked website presented by a Google search gets about 33% of the click-through traffic. The top 5 sites get a total of 75% of  the click-through traffic. With that in mind, it becomes very important for you to realize that these sites will likely be the first ones that a prospective shopper will visit. So you better take a look to see what these top websites have to offer as it pertains to your planned product.
 

What do you want to look for?

While exploring these ranked websites, your focus will be on gathering product information.
Although not all websites will have all the information described below, here is a list of elements that you should consider in your product offering research:
  • Product design
    • Are there any trends that are either emerging or are in full swing that you can take advantage of? (e.g.,the use of recycled materials)
    • Are there particular styles that seem popular? (e.g., Arts & Crafts, Mission, contemporary)
    • How important are product dimensions for your target market (e.g., the size of tables for apartment dwellers, smaller homes...)
    • Are natural finish or certain colors more in style? (e.g., what seems to be the popular color palette) 
    • Are there any particularities with the hardware that make these products more attractive or stylish?
    • What are the key craftsmanship characteristics? (e.g., dovetail joinery, exotic woods, etc)
  • Product features
    • What are the common must-have features?
    • How elaborate are these features?
    • Are there any 'premium' features that could appeal to your target market? (e.g., high end hardware)
    • Are these features something that you can integrate into your existing product or as a new version in your expanded product line?
    • Would these require additional tools, skills or third parties?
  • Feature pricing
    • What are the incremental prices for models with these additional features?
    • Would these incremental prices cover your costs to implement these?
  • Add-on services
    • Are personalization services offered? (e.g., engraved name, embossed logo or image)
    • How difficult would it be to add a personalization element to your product?
    • Would these require additional tools, skills or third parties?
    • Is gift wrapping offered? Is there a selection of gift wrap materials and design?
  • Buyer rating and comments (if available)
    • What are buyer praises for these products?
    • Does your product have some of the qualities that buyers are raving about?
    • What are the problems or complaints that people are having with the products you have found?
    • Can you solve these complaints and perhaps position your solutions as standard features?
  • Pricing (as a general guide)
    • Are the products you are observing mass produced with lesser quality materials and workmanship?
    • Do the prices make sense with respect to the target price you were considering for your craft?
    • Are the prices typical for the sales venue? (e.g., big box store, hand made craft e-commerce site)
  • Package deals
    • Is there any kind of promotional pricing? (e.g., Get 3 toys for the price of 2)
    • Is there a bundle price if this product is purchased along with accessories?  (e.g., candles with the candle holders)
    • Are these value-added accessories something that you can bundle into your product offering?
    • Must you acquire or build the accessories ? (e.g., Can you acquire the candles at wholesale prices?)
  • Seasonality
    • Is this a product with seasonal demand? (e.g., Christmas, Easter...)
    • Is this product typically given as a gift or tied into a life event (e.g., graduation, wedding, etc)
    • Will this product sell when off-season (e.g., unlikely large demand for Christmas ornaments in May)
    • How do you plan your inventory for seasonal demand?
    • How soon must you get your product in the sales venue?
  • Shipping and delivery
    • What are the shipping options and costs?
    • Is this something you can offer?
    • What additional costs would be associated with packaging and shipping?

Things to consider while collecting your data:

  • The objective here is to review and gather whatever product information the top websites have to offer.
  • The elements described above might not be available on some of the sites you will visit.  For example, an e-commerce site might give you access to buyer feedback, but not sales history to determine seasonality. 
  • The sites listed by Google might not be for your direct competitors. The focus here is to gather product intelligence.
 

So, how do I get competitor information?

  • The sales venue where you plan to market and sell your products is where your real competition is.
  • Having this product intelligence now allows you to better assess the competition's products in the sales venue of your choice.
  • Whether you plan to use any of the popular on-line sales venues such as Etsy.com, Ebay.com or Handmade at Amazon (to name only 3 of several), you now need to search those specific websites to determine who your competitors are and how their products measure up to your planned offering and the product information you gathered.
  • Many of the e-commerce sites used by crafters also give you vendor and product feedback, which are once again an opportunity for you to learn from what their customers have to say.
  • You see, if you did a good job of gathering your product intelligence, this arms you with a wealth of opportunities to differentiate your product from your chosen venue's competition.
  • Now, not only can you offer a better product, but even develop a line of products at various price points with the features the other crafters never considered.
  • Beating the competition is the name of the game, product differentiation is the weapon.

 

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