When you've already got a successful line of products on the market, bringing something new to your customers can feel daunting. How will the new product land? Should you just stay in your lane? What if your customers aren't interested?
But don't let these concerns hold you back. It's still possible for retailers to stack the deck in their favor when releasing new products.
In this post, we'll walk you through some tried-and-true techniques to successfully launch a new product or collection with your existing brand.
Table of Contents
What is a product launch?
A product launch is when a retailer introduces a new product into its online or physical store. It’s a coordinated plan that defines the steps you’ll take to bring the product to market. A launch plan also involves how you’ll promote the product for months afterward to gain traction and sales.
It can be as simple as introducing a new color of shoes or as complex as rolling out a whole new clothing line. Product launches can occur virtually and in stores. Your goal is to make sure all your employees and target customers know about the new product.
Benefits of launching new products
Launching a new product is a big decision and, when done right, can lead to the following benefits:
Higher sales and conversions
The math is simple—the more products you offer, the higher your potential sales. Of course, various factors play into the profitability of launching new products. However, if you know your audience and know how to design products that meet demand, you should see an increase in sales and conversions.
Our branding, storytelling, and messaging are crafted to a very specific audience. This makes the product highly relatable and has amazing conversion rates of around 37%.
When done right, product launches drive more traffic to your stores and website. This means more eyes on your other lines, which can further increase sales.
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Increased brand awareness
Studies show that 56% of global survey respondents cite friends and family recommendations as sources of new product awareness. Each time you launch a new product, you release a series of ads, emails, social media posts, and blog posts to get more eyes on your business. If you do this consistently, people will become familiar with your brand and its products (including those coming soon).
More product variety
Your product assortment, also known as your merchandise mix, is the variety of products you offer customers. These products shape your image and define why people shop in your store.
A wide range of products can reduce dependence on limited items, but the items must connect with your brand. If you’re selling high-fashion boots and suddenly start selling toasters, you’ll confuse customers and hurt your brand.
It all depends on your business model. For instance, if you cater to women who love boots, you'll focus on adding various colors and designs of women’s boots. However, if you want to attract a broader audience, you can offer a new line of products, such as men's boots or kid's sneakers. Each new product you launch is an opportunity to reach and delight your customers by offering merchandise they’ll love.
Pitfalls of launching new products
A failed launch is every entrepreneurs’ worst nightmare. Yet, it happens to even the best of us. According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, each year more than 30,000 new consumer products are launched, and 95% of them fail.
Take, for example, Amazon's failed Fire Phone— they discontinued it after 13 months and shut down the idea altogether.
While there are ways to reduce the odds of this happening, it's still good to know the common pitfalls so you can steer clear of them.
Let's take a look.
Launching products that aren't fully developed
You get an incredible idea and sell yourself on it before doing any market research. Having a great concept is a good start. But you need to understand what the market needs to design it with features people will actually pay for.
Without that input, you risk a poorly designed product that doesn't sell well. Or worse, thousands of dollars down the drain. If you don't already have a solid understanding of your target market, why not talk to them? What do they need that they haven’t got? You may find key insights necessary to create a successful product.
Introducing a product your audience doesn't want
Before you design a product, you have to validate it. Otherwise, you risk releasing an item no one will purchase. Again, this is where talking to your customers (or audience), and conducting competitor research prove helpful.
Developing a product on a hunch isn't a good idea. Instead, use data-driven methods like surveys, interviews, and analytics to determine whether your ideas resonate with potential buyers and address their pain points.
Find out if there are other products similar to your idea. If there are, it means there's a market. But if there are too many, the market may be saturated. If you know what’s already on the market, you can compare your concept and find ways to make it better.
“The first questions you should ask yourself are around validating your business idea: How many people are actually going through the problem you want to provide a solution for? And would they be willing to pay for your product/service”, says Matt Perry, Marketing Specialist at BuyMoldavite.
“The quickest way to get answers is to go directly to the source. Get in touch with real people within the scope of who you're trying to help and listen to their feedback. You can set up a dry test by creating a landing page for your idea and adding a subscription button to see who's interested,” he adds.
“Outline the features, benefits, and your desired outcome for your customers. You can efficiently gauge if there's a demand by tracking the number of clicks. If many people interact with it, that's enough validation that you have an idea worth investing in."
Oversaturating your product offering
This can happen when you release more than one or two items at once. Or similar products that detract from your original product offering. An example of this is when you launch with too many options.
For instance, 50 color options for a shirt with the same design. When you introduce too many variations of something, consumers often gravitate to a few items, leaving a ton of unsold inventory in your stock.
You validated your product, designed it, and now it's ready for launch. But is right now a good time? Or even three months from now?
Timing is everything, especially for seasonal products. However, even if consumers buy your product year-round, they may not be in the market for it when you release it. There's also the possibility of launching a product into a new market too soon, not realizing that a major shift is about to occur. Or releasing your product too late and having a competitor steal your thunder.
"You can make or kill your product by entering the market too early or too late,” says Gerrid Smith, CMO at Joy Organics. “Allowing competitors to beat you to the punch will detract from the excitement you've worked so hard to create.
“In order to stay ahead of the pack, you must be aware of what's going on around you. Stick to your timetables and be sure of your competitor's speed if you want to be the first on the block to sell your product as the best and newest answer."
“You can make or kill your product by entering the market too early or too late.”
Introducing new products
The biggest problem companies encounter when launching a new product is lack of preparation, according to research by Harvard Business Review. Let’s look at how to release a product from scratch:
- Get researching
- Write a positioning statement
- Understand your competition
- Create a go-to-market plan
- Build a promotional plan
- Create suspense
- Build relationships with influencers
- Promote it to your email list
- Get visual
- Track sales and performance
- Test location
1. Get researching
As with any good business plan, it pays to do your research. Does your new product target the same demographic as your previous products, or are you trying to break into a new market?
Either way, taking the time to do comprehensive market research before you create your launch plan will give your new collection the best start possible.
If you want to reach your same target market, a great place to start research is with your current customers. Looking to some of your top customers for feedback on your new collection will gauge how it'll land with your larger audience. These customers already love you and want your brand to succeed.
On the other hand, if you're trying to take a new direction or break into a different market, you'll want to start by profiling your new target customer. Your new target market likely has different demographics from your original brand.
Building a persona to go along with this new market will help you decide which strategies will work best to help you successfully launch your new collection.
2. Write a positioning statement
A position statement briefly defines your product or service, its target customers, and how it serves the needs of that audience.
This is useful both externally and internally. You can place a version of it on your website and marketing material, and share it with stakeholders and teams in marketing, sales, and support.
It's similar to a value proposition, but goes deeper into the brand's identity, purpose, and what differentiates it. So you'll answer questions like:
- Who do you serve?
- What do you offer to them?
- How do you offer it?
- What's your mission and why?
- How does your product compare to competitors'?
As an example, here’s Nike's positioning statement:
“For athletes in need of high-quality, fashionable athletic wear, Nike provides customers with top-performing sports apparel and shoes made of the highest quality materials. Its products are the most advanced in the athletic apparel industry because of Nike's commitment to innovation and investment in the latest technologies.”
3. Understand your competition
How are your competitors positioning their product or service? Who are their customers? Where and how do they promote to this audience?
Knowing your competitors' strategies provides insights into how to approach your product's development. Use this to identify potential customers and the top marketing channels to reach them. Study the content and formats competitors use to achieve their goals. Then consider incorporating them, but in your own brand voice and style.
Of course, this is easier when there's a level playing field. Trying to compete against giants is possible, but takes creativity.
Imagine trying to compete with a common product like this:
While it seems challenging, it's definitely possible. Here's what one small business owner decided to do to compete in this tough market:
"We made epic wins and disastrous failures with launching a new product. We sell boring household products dominated by global brands like Clorox, 3M, and Rubbermaid. Rather than fighting Goliath head-on, our process is to find a niche these giants find too small to bother with,” explains Jae Jun, marketer at The Crown Choice.
“Instead of creating another boring broom, we identify who we want to sell to, what the target customer is looking for the most and currently buying, and then we add features to amplify the perceived value, such as a handle that doesn't break or fold down easily for storage.”
“These products are still selling strong as we don't try to sell to everybody. By keeping our product launches very narrow and focused, large competitors don't creep into our space, and small competitors can't.”
4. Create a go-to-market plan
A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a roadmap for reaching prospective buyers through multiple touch points and gaining a competitive advantage. It's a plan to engage with prospects throughout the funnel from awareness to purchase.
A GTM strategy should include:
- Identifying where your prospects spend time online
- Developing a website presence
- Creating social media profiles
- Building email lists and email campaigns
- Establishing partnerships with influencers
- Launching events
- Offering incentives to drive traffic
- Measuring success using analytics tools
The goal of any GTM strategy is to increase sales while decreasing costs. You'll need to be strategic about which tactics you choose, based on your budget, resources, and current performance metrics. For example, if you're not seeing much growth, you may decide to focus more heavily on paid advertising instead of investing in organic SEO.
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5. Build promotional plan
Ensuring a successful product launch relies heavily on your marketing: the more people who know about it, the better the odds of selling out. But to achieve optimal results, you need to promote your product and its launch.
After conducting market and customer research, use it to develop a marketing campaign.
Here's what to do:
- Decide on your budget and launch day
- Choose the outlets to use (social media, podcasts, guest blogs, paid ads)
- Select your offer (BOGO, freebies, discounts)
- Consider partnerships (social influencers, affiliate marketers, non-competitor brands)
- Launch promotions well in advance (at least two months)
- Measure the reach and conversions (waitlist signups, email subscriptions, pre-orders)
- Refine your strategy to improve reach and conversions (change channels; experiment with offers and ad copy)
And don't forget about your biggest supporters—your existing customers.
“Your loyal consumers are critical in terms of product promotion, since they're more likely to not only purchase it, but also spread the word about it to their networks,” says Adam Fard, Founder of Adam Fard UX Agency.
“This can be accomplished through a private, in-person, or virtual pre-launch party, as well as an online tour, preview, or demo. Alternatively, there may be a specific invitation to try it out and provide feedback. These customized gifts demonstrate your appreciation for loyal clients and also assist in retaining their loyalty."
6. Create suspense
When launching a new collection, you don't have to show all your cards at once. Creating suspense around your new product will build buzz, and get people talking before it hits the market.
Instagram, in particular, is a great platform for giving customers a little sneak peek of what's to come, without giving away the whole shebang in one go. You can achieve this with behind-the-scenes pics (before launching your new product or collection) and teaser photos, like this post from Adidas:
Doing a countdown to your new product launch is another way to build excitement. Use a plugin or app like Countdown Timeror Hurrify to install a countdown clock on your Shopify store. To build buzz in-store, you can put up a countdown on a chalkboard or using digital signage.
7. Build relationships with influencers
Modern consumers tend to rely more on online customer reviews andword-of-mouth referrals to decide which products to buy. So, it makes sense they'd be more likely to check out your new product if they heard about it from a real person.
For this reason, connecting with influencers is a good way to reach your target audience and build brand trust. These relationships can take different forms:
- Free Product: For micro-influencers or influencers who are already big fans of your brand, simply giving them free product might be enough to get coverage of your new collection.
- Paid Advertising: For some, being an influencer is a full-time job. More established influencers will likely have a standard rate for promoted posts on their social media accounts and blogs.
- Brand Ambassadors: Brand Ambassador programs vary widely. Some provide ambassadors with a continuous stream of products as new lines are launched. Others offer a mutually beneficial platform for cross-promotion between brand and ambassador. Regardless of the specifics, this model is more of a long-term formalized partnership between influencer and brand.
8. Promote it to your email list
Using your email list to notify your customers about your upcoming product launch allows you to track helpful stats, like open rates. Plus, you're reaching an already-engaged audience with minimal effort. Using your email list to announce your new line also offers you the ability to give customers more context about your new product.
💡 PRO TIP: Want to create beautifully branded emails to promote your next product launch? Use Shopify Email to create, send, and track campaigns, all from within Shopify—no coding experience required.
9. Get visual
Visual merchandising can benefit a product launch if you sell your products in real life — like at pop-ups or craft fairs. Humans are naturally drawn to new things, so make it clear that event attendees are getting the first peek at a new collection or product.
Sometimes your target customer needs to give your product a spin before committing to buy. Customers might feel nervous about dropping their hard-earned dollars on a completely unfamiliar product.
One of the easiest strategies to make customers feel comfortable about your new collection is to let it speak for itself. Make sure to use high-quality photos and videos. Here's an example of a post using all angles and close-ups of the product:
10. Track sales and performance
Calculating the total sales of a new product launch is one way to measure performance. But there are other key metrics to monitor along the way. These small indicators will tell you if it's time to modify an ad or increase spend for a high-performing channel.
Here are some metrics to monitor to determine if your launch is headed toward success:
- Website traffic and page views
- Time on landing pages vs. bounce rates
- News coverage (a.k.a. social media and blog coverage via influencers and brand advocates)
- Lead generation from promotional channels like email and paid ads
- Product adoption vs. returns
- Customer feedback/sentiment
Look for and solicit customers for information to guide the future of your new product. Maybe the size, color, or other design factors need tweaking. If a redesign is in order, then consider doing a relaunch.
11. Test location
A hybrid retail model with an e-commerce website and local storefront can potentially boost sales. But only if you choose a good location. Consider a short-term lease in one part of the city to see the footfall it receives. You may learn that moving to a different part of town can boost traction.
It's also good to test the product's location within your store. For instance, try placing it near other relevant products for cross-selling. Electronics stores use this tactic all the time. They'll put a surround sound system near the large televisions, and wall mounts along the path to the checkout counter. It's the power of marketing psychology, and it works to boost sales.
A leading Australian supermarket increased overall sales by 18% within three months by improving its product placement. It used technology (similar to HotJar) to learn customer traffic flow and place products in “hot zones”, which represent highly-visited areas of the store.
Product launch ideas and tips
Studies show that only 21% of people buy new products as soon as they come out, compared to 62% who prefer to buy them after they’ve been out for a while. So what can you do to improve the chances of people buying your new product?
Run a contest
Social media makes it easy to run contests these days. The most common strategy is to run giveaways on both Facebook and Instagram, with nearly 45% of brands preferring those networks simultaneously.
Giveaways offer many benefits for retailers. With them you can:
- Build hype for your product launch
- Generate more post-launch engagement
- Grow your social following
- Get people to sign up for your email list
Overall, contests and giveaways are great for growing an audience and expanding your reach. When the contest requires followers to “tag a friend” in the comments, like the post below, your existing followers do the work of sharing your post for you.
Come up with a contest that is relevant to your product. For example, if you’re launching a new yoga mat, create a contest that challenges people to try a new pose everyday for thirty days. Yoga enthusiasts would be excited to participate.
Everyone loves getting something for free. Depending on your product, samples can get existing and potential customers excited about buying your product. You can include them free with orders or offer them for a low (or no) fee in your online shop.
Way of Will is a Toronto-based essential oil line that offers up to three free samples for orders. This approach allows customers to try new products for free (and makes them feel special).
Many small perfume producers offer sample sizes online for $6-$7 to reach customers who don't live near a physical store.
This works well for products consumers must see (or smell) in person before buying. Samples are also useful for new products with few to no reviews.
There are many ways to use samples to benefit your brand — it's just finding the one that's right for you.
Let them test it out
Nike knows that letting someone test a product is an effective way to get them to buy. Nike has a test van that visits running groups to allow runners to test the season's new shoes before purchasing.
The sneaker market is pretty noisy, and Nike knows letting runners try before they buy increases the odds of them dropping $150 on their shoes instead of on someone else's.
Recently, Adidas started using the same approach, so clearly, something's working.
To take advantage of this tactic, consider setting up a product demo table within your physical store. You can also offer demonstrations at in-person sales events like fairs, festivals, and markets to demonstrate how customers can use your products.
After all, more retailers are going from traditional storefronts to showrooms. The future of retail skews toward experiences — where customers can try it in person, buy it, and then have it mailed to their doorstep. So, facilitating this immersive brand experience can create brand loyalty and set up your new products for success.
Offer incentives for early adopters
Shoppers love a good deal. Almost 90% of consumers used coupons in 2020, and nearly 70% of consumers love receiving them. Use this to your advantage by enticing customers to buy at a discounted price.
Melanie Cohen, Co-Founder of Ezixy, uses coupons to build trust and sales simultaneously. “After launching a new product, we use coupon codes to bring the attention of our existing customers to that product,” she says.
“We email them a $10-15 coupon as a special "loyal-customer discount." The human psyche tends to not let any coupon go unused. We have recorded about 37% of our existing clients that receive coupons come back to our site and make purchases. Once there are enough purchases and we have gained client trust, we terminate the promotion."
Leverage PR strategies
Guest appearances on podcasts. Writing a guest post for blogs. Publishing a press release. Partnering with influencers for online promotions. These are all great examples of PR strategies used to boost visibility and sales.
As you're planning your product launch, find channels your target customers frequent. You can use tools like SparkToro to learn more about which influencers, podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites they visit.
Use this information to create a PR campaign for outreach to see which influencers are willing to collaborate. Then design relevant posts that offer value, while humbly mentioning your upcoming product. The link back to your site will also drive traffic and interest before the launch date.
Collect customer feedback
Don't underestimate the power of customer surveys and interviews. The feedback you get from these methods is golden and can direct your marketing efforts and product design. So start this early on and continue it throughout the launch (and even after).
Here are several tools to make gathering customer feedback seamless:
- Survey Monkey: Free tool for creating simple questionnaires or polls. SurveyMonkey also has an API so you can integrate their survey into other apps.
- Google Forms: Google's free form builder allows users to easily create forms without coding knowledge. It includes features such as conditional logic, data validation, and automatic reminders.
- Typeform: Another free survey-building tool. Paid options are available to offer more fields and customization.
- Poll Everywhere: A tool to design surveys, polls, and even quizzes. Free and paid options are available.
- Shopify Email: Send surveys to segmented customer lists and measure email performance all from Shopify admin.
Here's an example of a product maker asking Twitter followers for feedback:
Extra || Poll— hana pearce ☾ || 20cm Kuroo Plush Sample Soon (@tekushii) October 27, 2021
In the case that I’m not allowed to change the color of the vest, will it affect your decision of buying the product?
Make collecting feedback a normal part of your product launches, and you’ll soon see the benefits of happier customers and higher sales.
Start launching new products at your store
Launching a new product is exhilarating—but it can also be nerve-wracking and intimidating. It's less so when you have a go-to-market strategy and marketing plan to drive the right eyes to your product. With the tips above can build a complete plan to design, promote, and monitor your product—both before and after launch day.
The only thing to do now is to get started!
This post was originally written by Altaira Northe and has been updated for accuracy and freshness by Michael Keenan.
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