Zero to Hero: Build a Brand Series – Product Analysis & Innovation Part 1

In the previous weeks, we went over Business Banking & Incorporation – where we explored different strategies on how to legally and financially enhance your business. As a way to start 2017, today’s blog post will be focusing on Product Innovation.

The ultimate goal for any business is to be sustainable in the long term. To achieve this, you need to have a Unique Selling Point(USP) that differentiates your business from the competition. This mini guide and case study is meant to get you to think outside the box in terms of product selection and launch cool & innovative products.

In terms of Private Label products, sellers normally follow one of these options:

  1. General items with unique logo and packaging.
  2. Completely unique product.
  3. Improvement over existing products.

Importing general items used to be profitable, but it’s not sustainable in the long term! When choosing products, you need to think from the Amazon customers’ point of view. How would you feel(as a customer), if you’re searching for a particular product, and find something like this:

2

This is a very bad approach as the only way to differentiate between each product is:

  • Listing
  • Photos
  • Price

Price is the most obvious one, so more often than not, it becomes a race to the bottom. This is not what we want as a brand. By creating something that the market wants & improving upon it, you will have control over your brand. This is also an asset if you plan on selling to retailers in the future – Retailers love unique, branded and in demand products!

Today’s case study involves picking an existing product and completely breaking down each aspect of it and try to improve it.

Note: This is only an example and the strategy should be applied for your product of choice.

The Product

For this case study I picked an Interactive Dog Toy Ball. Let’s have a quick overview of the product.

  • Number 1 Best Seller in Dog Toy Balls
  • 4,432 reviews
  • 2 Variations
  • Multiple Colors

Based on the initial data, these numbers may seem prohibitive, however:

  • Multiple reviews indicate the product is popular
  • Variations show demand for different sizes and colours

All that needs to be done is analysing the product carefully and see if we can improve it. So let’s go ahead with our product analysis.

Product Listing

 

Surprisingly, the listing for this product is very lacking. As seen in the above image I have pointed out the 3 main features I find lacking:

  • Poor Images & Very Bland – A product with this popularity/demand should have higher quality pictures.
  • Bullet Points – The bullet points are too short and don’t describe the product features in detail.
  • Listing Title – This, in my opinion, is the most lacking part. The title is not Keyword Optimized and they have the words “Colors May Vary”. As a customer viewing the listing, the question I ask is:  What colors are available for this product? Which color will I receive??

Product Description

 

The seller has Enhanced Brand Content/A+ Content, however, they are not taking full advantage of it. The description is short and the pictures show only the packaging instead of highlighting the product’s features. Furthermore, they included a picture of another of their products!

The description should be a keyword rich, informative section where you provide features and details to the customer.

Reviews

Moving on with the product analysis, it’s time to check the reviews – The item is a best seller after all! Reviews of customers are extremely important, more so after the Amazon Review change where all the giveaway reviews have been removed. Let’s see what the reviews tell us about the product:

The most notable aspect is that 24% of 4,430 reviews(1063 reviews) are 3 stars or lower. This already shows me that the product can be improved upon, but let’s look at the positive reviews first.

Positive Reviews

Looking at some of the positive reviews, I picked up these features customer like:

  • Fun Toy and most dogs love it.
  • Adjustable difficulty of the item makes it accessible to any dog.
  • A lot of the reviews suggest customers bought 1 or more. This is a very good sign.
  • The product makes their dog exercise more.

Positive reviews are an important aspect, as they tell you what customers LOVE about the product. If you are innovating or improving an existing product, you have to know what customers like about your competitors.

Negative Reviews

Looking at the negative reviews throughout the listing, I have noticed a common theme:

  • Cheap material – most dogs break it easily.
  • Dangerous – Some dogs have risked choking because it comes apart easily.
  • Boring – some dogs found the toy to be boring, this suggests that the toy is only ideal for particular breeds.
  • Functionality – Some customers found that the treats don’t come out properly.

When looking at negative reviews, focus on a common theme – if many customers complain about a particular feature, this can be improved!

External Research

 

After focusing on the listing, it’s time to search if there’s demand outside of Amazon USA. Remember, the goal is to build a lasting and global brand, so you need to expand your research further. I will look at this particular product and see how it performs:

Google Trends

When launching a product, it’s easy to only focus on that particular product. However, the goal is to see if there’s demand in the category. I made a Google Trends search for the keywords “Dog Treat Toys” and “Dog Toy Balls” to see if there’s any demand throughout the year for this product.

As seen above, the demand for the product is fairly steady all year round with some months experiencing high demand. This is good news as it shows that this product is not seasonal and their is interest in this niche.

Non-US Amazon

The idea is always to first launch a new product in the US market(higher demand) and expand into other countries. As you can see below, I have made a search for this product in the Spanish, UK, France, Germany, Italian & Japanese Amazon marketplaces. Although this product is listed in all marketplaces – not a single review can be found. This can mean:

  • No demand for the product outside the US – Highly unlikely considering the category(Pet Supplies).
  • The seller main focus is only the US, so releasing a better product in the other marketplaces would give you an advantage.

Amazon DE

Amazon ES

Amazon Japan

 

Re-Cap

Based on the initial analysis, my conclusions are:

Positive

  • Quality is an issue – We can make a better product.
  • Material is low-quality hard plastic and therefore we can improve the material quality or use a different material.
  • Certifications – No certifications are mentioned in the listing, by obtaining certifications we can make the product better.
  • Photos – Higher quality photos.
  • Listing – Better product descriptions & bullet points.
  • Variations – Include colors in the listing & offer 2-3 colors.
  • Packaging – With some effort we can make a better packaging.

Negatives

  • The product is extremely popular and therefore hard to get the #1 spot.
  • Large amount of reviews – However, 24% are 3 star or lower, so a better product can outperform it.

Warning: If going this route, it is extremely important to check if any products you take inspiration from don’t have a patent associated with them. The idea is to have a brand with unique products – So be unique!

What’s Next?

Once you have made significant research about a particular product. You need to make any improvements come to life. The way to do this is by either:

  • Hiring a product designer to design a completely new product based on the feedback you give them.
  • Sourcing a factory that produces similar products and see if they can make the requested changes.

I recommend hiring a product designer as they can completely experiment with different designs and you would get a unique product for your brand. When you’re happy with the result, you pass on the design to the chosen factory and a mold + sample is made.

A Note About Product Research

We are all familiar with product research tools such as Jungle Scout or Unicorn Smasher. While these tools are great, they shouldn’t be used to exactly tell you which products you pick, BUT to discover hidden gems within the marketplace & monitor sales volume. The best way to truly build a lasting brand is to:

  • Build a brand around a category/niche you’re passionate about. If you have a strong passion/interest towards a particular niche, you know what the market wants.
  • If you already have a product in a category, focus on building a list & interact with potential customers via social media. Once you build trust with your customer base, they will often tell you what products they love/want.
  • Release products which are both unique and better than the competition.

Moving Forward

Once you release a new product on the market it’s best to release other products related to the brand. This is done to:

  1. Cover many sub-niches in one category.
  2. Show expertise in your niche
  3. Build trust with your target market(if you consistently release great and innovative products)

Good places to look for new products related to your item are:

“Frequently Bought Together” section

As you can see with our product from the case study, Amazon is already showing you an item that is frequently bought by customers. 

“Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section

Same as above, Amazon gives you all the data you need to make your research easier for your next products.

“Sponsored Products Related To This Item” section

This is very important as it shows PPC activity surrounding a category. If other sellers are spending money promoting their products, then, there is interest in the market. As you can see below, Amazon is showing a lot of products.

Category Magazines

Magazines(both online and offline) are a good source of inspiration. These publications only cater to an audience actively interested in the category so they can greatly help you. Understanding the market and your potential customers will help you gain authority within your niche.

Forums

Forums are a great source because audiences discuss topics related to a particular niche. Which is very helpful because:

  1. You can get inspiration for blog posts
  2. You can segment your audience( Gender – Age – Household Income etc)
  3. Advertising – Forums have advertising sections, see what type of brands and products are advertised and do your research on that.

Tradeshows & Exhibitions

This is by far the best way to source new products. Trade shows are a great way to see trending & upcoming products and find potential suppliers. Manuel will talk about this in more detail as he has a lot of experience in this field.

Reminder: Always do your research before investing time and money into a product – Your customers and business will thank you later!

Conclusion

I hope this mini case study was helpful and hopefully it can serve as an inspiration for new products in 2017. Moving forward, the next blog posts will be written both by Manuel & myself and will focus on Sourcing, Manufacturing & Certifications. These topics have been widely covered by Manuel, however, we have some great information on how to apply them to build a brand.

We hope you had a great holiday season and both myself & Manuel wish you a Happy New Year! If you have any questions regarding this blog post, kindly leave a comment below.

All the best & happy selling,

Duncan

https://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

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Urban

4 months ago

Awesome post and truly the only way to stay competitive in the long run, I agree. We have been thinking about doing this for the past couple of months. Up until now we only changed some minor things on the products, like color or adding a simple feature.

You say this is one way:
“Hiring a product designer to design a completely new product based on the feedback you give them.”

Can you elaborate on this? Where is a good place to find a product designer. What is a normal price to pay? Will the product designer only make a sketch of the product, or should he make an exact illustration with all the dimensions, etc? What program is normally used for this work?

Furthermore, you say:
“Sourcing a factory that produces similar products and see if they can make the requested changes.”

Again, how do we source the factory? Sometimes it is even unclear whether the product we have is from a trader or a factory.

Additionally, once we tried to completely overhaul a textile product. While the initial sample was OK, the end result was we ordered 1000 pieces of a product that was not well made and we could only sell it very well below the regular price, while we even had to fix some things on each of the products (1000) here locally. Was quite a “mistake” all in all, but we did learn some things from it.

Duncan

4 months ago

Hi Urban,

First of all, thanks for the feedback! Regarding your questions:

Hiring a Product Designer

I’m not going to lie, finding a good product designer takes work, however, there are very good ones on sites like Upwork and Freelancer. The price depends on the complexity of the product, however, for a non-complicated product you should expect to pay between $750-$2500. The higher price point will be for good designers.

You ideally want to hire someone with experience designing products in your category and that has experience in designing products for both E-commerce and Retail. The process I used to find my designers is to go on a site like Upwork, and email each one that I like based on experience and skills. I then judge based on their portfolio and price.

The process

Once you find a designer, he will normally ask what you have in mind. If you are changing an existing product in the market, this will be easier by linking the products and asking for additions. If your product is something completely new on the market, the price will be higher.

A good designer will first design Concepts, these are illustrations based on what the designer has in mind. They will normally give you 3-4 concepts to choose from, based on your choice, they will make the redesign and add any additions you suggest. This is followed by:

– 3D Renderings
– Final Concept Artwork

Once you are happy, the designer will start working on the CAD design, this will be the final design and the factory will use this for creating molds or if it’s a textile product, it will have all the dimensions and info to make the final product.

Finding a factory

For completely new designs, I suggest using a sourcing service as they would have their factories of choice based on the product and guide you through it. The process should go like this:

– Sourcing Company gives you a list of factories, including pricing and all the details.
– Once you choose a factory, you show them your designs – remember to sign an NNN contract before giving any details. Pricing for the molds will be issued.
– If you’re happy with the mold pricing, the mold is created and an initial sample is made. This is referred as a Prototype.
– If everything looks good(or changes need to be made), a final sample is made, and from there the process is the same as a standard Private Label product.

Note: If you want to save on costs, there are some really good prototyping companies around the world. They have access to 3D printers etc and will create a prototype for you. This can save you money on molds and allows you to test the product. These also work perfectly for crowdfunding, where you need to raise some capital, but don’t want to risk without testing the market.

Source: I have one patented product on the market, and 2-3 more on the way by this year.

Let me know if you have any question, I can happily answer them.

Duncan

Denis

4 months ago

Excellent article. You know, I have noticed that most listings that are “sold and shipped by Amazon” have a very poor listing. Most times they only have one image.

I forgot about checking with forums, thanks for the reminder.

I would love to showcase my own product at trade shows (going retail this year) but afraid it might be to expensive and how do you set up your booth. Ok, rambling here, sorry.

Duncan

4 months ago

Thank you Denis.

That is very true, most of the products that are either Vendor Express or Central, don’t have polished listings as the brand owners gave complete control to Amazon. This is especially true for older listing(normally the ones with huge amount of reviews), before A+ content was introduced. A+ Content is different from Enhanced Brand Content as the content is a lot better and Amazon will make the listing for you. However, the major disadvantage is that you have no control.

Regarding Tradeshows, Manuel can greatly offer some insight as he set up his own booth for his Electronics company. From what I know, yes it’s expensive, but if the tradeshow is niche specific and your product is GOOD, you will make your money back and a lot of potential clients. Some insights I can give you is:

– Be prepared for a lot of work, a tradeshow takes months of planning.
– You need to be very assertive and approach people, if you’re not willing to do this, hire salespersons who are willing to sell your product.
– Don’t believe all the promises by potential buyers about orders. Normally, they promise the world to get as much information from you. The only way to know you have the order is by getting a purchase order signed. Good sales techniques to close the deal will greatly help.
– Prepare good marketing materials, this includes banners, catalogues, list sheets(wholesale pricing) and business cards.
-Study your products well, because you will get questions. The more prepared you are, the more serious potential buyers will take you. The beauty of tradeshows is that everyone is there! Retailers, media etc – is a great way of getting the brand known. The downside is, you have thousands of others competing with you – so you have to stand out.

The final one, is be prepared to chase buyers after the tradeshows, normally they would have hundreds of forms and business cards, they can genuinely forget about you! Give them a call or discuss with them, a purchase order takes a lot of work, but if clients are happy with your products – reorders will come.

Happy to answer any of your questions Denis 🙂

Duncan

Toni Tran

4 months ago

Duncan,

Your response here is extremely helpful. Question for you, if I have a product (i.e small furniture) that I would like to make changes to, would it be best to get a CAD drawing made and how much does that generally cost?

Thank you!

Dominik

4 months ago

Great case study Duncan! I have a question regarding a keyword focused title. Could you break down how, in your opinion, a good, optimized title for a labeled product should look like? Thank you!

Duncan

4 months ago

Thank you Dominik!

To answer your question, regarding titles, the only way is to provide a keyword rich title with as much detail as possible. However, it needs to be short and abide by Amazon’s guidelines.

To give you a simple example based on the case study above, one of their competitor’s listing title is:

TOY IQ BALL FOR DOGS & CATS [Dental Treat][Bite Resistant] Durable Non Toxic- BPA FREE-Strong Tooth Cleaning Dog Toy Balls for Pet IQ Training/Playing/Chewing,Soft Rubber,Bouncy,Tennis Ball Size

As you can see, the title is terrible:

– It’s too long
– Keyword Stuffing (putting multiple keywords in the title instead of focusing on 1-2 main ones)
– Very Confusing for the customer
– Unnecessary capslock in the title

In this case I would change the title to:

Toy IQ Ball For Dogs & Cats | BPA-Free | Dental Treat & Bite Resistant | Multi-use Toy Ball

In this case I kept the title very clean, while including all the elements customers are looking for:

– BPA Free
– A toy for Dogs and Cats
– Dental Treat
– Multiple uses

The key is to keep things simple, customers will get details of your products through photos and the listing itself. Amazon is also strict (and will become stricter) in making the titles as short as possible. Yes, keywords are helpful, but they should be in the listing and taken full advantage of with Amazon PPC.

Please let me know if I can help you further.

Duncan

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