Chapter 2 How to Evaluate Market Viability for Your Products
After you determine your products’ viability, you should be able to answer these two questions:
- Can my business produce profit with this product?
- Can I ultimately scale my business with this product?
You could conduct formal research with tools like concept testing, prototype testing, market testing and focus groups to find the answers to these questions. However, taking this approach can be complex, expensive and time-consuming.
To make it easier (+ save you time), we’ve compiled a list of things to consider when determining if there’s a commercial market for your product.
Things to Consider During a Product Viability Analysis
To start, you’ll need to ask yourself some serious strategic questions about your product’s viability.
- Is the product idea practical?
- What obstacles or challenges lie ahead?
- Will it need support services of some kind to ensure customer satisfaction?
After answering these questions, you’ll need to shift your focus to the more tactical aspects of your product and how it will impact your business model.
1. Consider product size and weight.
The size and weight of your product will have an impact on how much you sell.
If the product you’re considering is large, awkwardly shaped or heavy, you may have high shipping costs. To add to the complexity, UPS & FedEx prices fluctuate, which could negatively impact your budget.
Think you can pass the cost of shipping on to your customers? Think again.
Shipping cost is a top reason for cart abandonment.
Shipping cost is a top reason for cart abandonment.
If you can provide your customers with free, fast shipping, you significantly increase your chances of winning their loyalty.
That being said, free shipping is tightening profit margins across all industries, making it harder to stay competitive and offer a leading customer experience. By having a smaller product, you can minimize shipping costs and satisfy your customers’ desire for quick and easy delivery.
2. Consider product fragility.
Fragile products need extra attention when shipping to ensure they arrive in perfect condition.
Typically, durable products cost less to ship and lighten your customer service and reparation burden for products that break en route to the consumer.
Bonus? They also usually cost less to store.
Fragility shouldn’t completely dissuade you from offering a certain product, but keep in mind that opting to sell fragile goods will increase costs for shipping, inventory and customer service.
3. Consider SKUs.
Many entrepreneurs forget that a single item can often be associated with multiple SKUs.
A SKU, or stock keeping unit, typically refers to color, size and other variations of a single product.
The more SKUs you have, the more attention, time and money you will need to spend in tracking and maintaining inventory.
Let’s look at how a t-shirt breaks down in SKUs to get a good idea of the process.
You’ll not only need to stock a variety of sizes (small, medium, large)…
But also colors in each size (small and red, medium and red, etc.)…
And perhaps even male, female and children’s sizes (small, red and women’s; medium, gray and children’s; large, blue and men’s).
SKUs can quickly add up, adding a level of complexity to how you will fulfill, manage and distribute the product.
Don’t let a large amount of SKUs discourage you, but keep an eye out for additional costs and reparations associated with product mix-ups during fulfillment.
4. Consider product lifespan.
Having a consumable or disposable product is often perceived as a great choice from a business perspective because you can improve the way you earn customers’ loyalty and, ultimately, build your business off of repeat sales.
Think of the grocery store model. Inventory churn is high, competition is fierce, but the location and price point generate loyalty, pulling in consumers on a weekly basis.
Better yet, consider the subscription box business model, in which your customer signs up for monthly deliveries and payments.
Think recurring, if possible, when considering your product offering. Overall this can help lower your marketing costs and increase your average customer lifetime value.
Now — let’s talk about perishables.
There are many successful businesses out there that sell perishable products, like Jeni’s Ice Cream, who serves up quality, handmade ice cream and frozen yogurt with unique flavors.
However, their road to success didn’t come without challenge—like storage, shipping and production.
When offering a perishable product to the market, you’ll need to set proper expectations for your customers regarding timelines and cost. By being transparent, you’ll retain customer loyalty and be able to deliver a better customer experience.
With Jeni’s Ice Cream delivery box, they’ve done just that—plus, they used a content-first approach to integrate the logistics into the overall brand messaging.
5. Consider seasonality.
Seasonality means that there are different levels of demand for a product throughout the year.
Do you buy sunscreen in winter?
How about holiday decorations in the summer?
Of course, there are different aspects to consider, including where your target customers are located (if you’re selling internationally—keep in mind your winter could be their summer).
Seasonality is not an exact science. But, there are multiple ways to navigate the challenge, including running timely promotions and shipping internationally.
Whether or not you view your product as a seasonal one, seasonality does still affect revenue for all online stores. For example, some of the most highly anticipated shopping holidays—like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday—result in some of the highest sales of the year.
To make sure you can manage a seasonal product or capitalize on holiday buzz, you’ll need to determine your own business downtime, and work to off-set expectations and costs during those periods.
6. Consider price point.
Selling a product with a higher price tag doesn’t prevent you from finding ecommerce success.
How are these brands able to find success at a luxury level? Through their product quality and service to their customers.
If you choose to pursue a product that solves a pain point or services a passion, you’ll naturally find it’s much easier to acquire customers.
Remember, you’ll want to make sure your prices are still attainable for your target customer. So, when you determine the market viability, keep in mind how you can maintain functionality at the forefront of quality and luxury.
7. Consider competition.
If your items are sold locally and readily available in major retail stores like Target, WalMart, Amazon or other online outlets, your ecommerce journey just became an uphill, snow-covered journey from the get-go.
That’s not to say that you can’t be successful selling a commonly-found item, but the more niche your products, the less competition you’ll have—and the more leverage you have to win a large share of the market.
Don’t let this deter you—after all, competition can be a good thing—just be sure to let it inform your market viability research.
8. Consider yourself.
Yes, on top of choosing a product that’s viable in the market, you should select one that you actually enjoy yourself or one that solves a problem you have personally experienced.
Building a successful business often requires long hours, and those can either fly by or drag on endlessly depending on how passionate you are about what you’re selling.
Be passionate, find yourself a niche and start selling to other passionate people just like you.
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