When you have an idea for a new product, first you must situate it. How does it compare to other products that are similar? What big benefit does it offer, and to whom? How large is that market? Where are the hurdles and how will you overcome them? What is your likelihood of success?
Whether you identify as an inventor, entrepreneur, product developer, or designer, these are important questions.
To answer them, study the market. Two of my favorite tools for studying the market are Google Images and Google Shopping. There is still great value in visiting brick and mortar retailers in person to make observations and befriend salespeople. But, there's no denying the ease with which it's possible to comb through Amazon product reviews -- another great resource for studying the market. You never have to leave the comfort of your home.
Another tool I highly recommend to people who enjoy inventing, designing, and marketing new products is YouTube. When my business partner Andrew Krauss recently made a video about this subject for our YouTube channel inventRight TV, I was inspired to write about it. That's because YouTube is a phenomenal resource for education and discovery, especially for those who like to develop new products.
To help you study the market, seek out and watch reviews of similar products and live demos.
What do consumers appreciate about similar products?
What do they complain about?
How do they use the products?
Are they worth what they cost?
Observe, listen closely, and take good notes. (Including whether or not the video is sponsored.) Then make sure to read the comments in search of additional golden nuggets. Do others agree or disagree with the assessment? What are their concerns?
Video reviews are so dynamic. You can watch how products are handled and how they are packaged, which is another potential arena for improvement.
YouTube is also home to a genre of videos that explain how products are manufactured, which I encourage you to check out. Learning about manufacturing methods can be hugely useful. If your goal is to license your invention, companies that are interested will ask the following questions right away.
Can it even be manufactured? (Meaning, how do we do it?)
And, what does it cost?
If you're making a simple improvement to an existing product, there's a good chance it can be manufactured. But why not take the time to gather some additional information? You may determine that your invention is not feasible as is, actually -- leading you to redesign or walk away. On the other hand, you may discover ways to alter your idea so that it has a greater benefit or meets another need. (Don't go crazy on the bells and whistles though. Products that are over-designed struggle to make it to market.)
Product developer David Barker loves using YouTube to study the market, and in particular, watching "How This is Made" videos. For him, they're often a source of creative inspiration.
"The information not only informs me if something is possible, but also can help inventors come up with new ideas, different applications and additional possibilities," he explained.
The sky is the limit! And the devil is often in the details. By that I mean, seriously, pay attention. Accidental discoveries can be a powerful source of invention. If you aren't focused, you could miss something.
YouTube is impartial, unlike the opinions of your friends and family. I don't recommend asking strangers what they think of your product idea either. There are industry experts who may be able to shed some light. But just because someone is an expert in entrepreneurship or marketing or licensing (like I am) does not mean they can usefully assess or evaluate what you've come up with. You need to let the market tell you what it wants. YouTube can help.