Avoiding Common Mistakes Made in the Fuzzy Front End
The fuzzy front end of new product development is a critical stage of innovation. Although fashion companies are unique in many areas, new product development (NPD) is one area where a number of parallels can be drawn to other industries. Pre-project and early project activities will be highly important in determining the success of a project. Recognizing the myths and truths of the fuzzy front end can help to avoid mistakes, and ensure that successful projects are delivered on time, and on budget.
#1 Avoid Viewing the Fuzzy Front End as a Creative Process That Should Be Void of Boundaries
New product development requires creativity, but creativity in business requires structure and boundaries. Developing and bringing a new product to market is a business decision above all else. Therefore, the process needs to be completed in line with business goals, budgets, and resource restrictions.
Businesses can avoid a lack of structure by ensuring that;
- Decisions made are relative to real insights and market data.
- New ideas are validated against insights and data, and are developed with awareness of future marketing, manufacturing, and distribution limitations.
It is also important to recognize that creative innovation is not always a guarantee of success. Ideas should be firmly grounded in relation to the identified needs of a consumer group.
#2 Insights Need to Be Seen as More than Just Triggers to Develop New Products
Insights guide new ideas, but they can do so much more than that. Businesses should take care not to make the mistake of seeing insights as triggers only to develop new products. Insights can also help to develop new strategies, or choose new directions for a brand.
- Product insights are highly specialized and lead to development of new collections or individual products based on a consumer need.
- Brand insights address consumer needs on a larger scale. One example would be when an insight helps to fulfill the needs of consumer accessibility to products. Developing new sales channels could in some cases be more important than developing new products.
#3 Insights and Idea Generation Are Often Seen as Completely Separate to NPD
More businesses are recognizing that NPD and the fuzzy front end are a part of the same process. However, there are still some that make the mistake of separating the processes.
The fuzzy front end is more than exploration, and businesses should view the entire development process holistically. Using the fuzzy front end as an idea tunnel, while also paying attention to commercial interests at the earliest stage, will allow for better opportunities when products go to launch.
#4 Avoid Segmentation That Limits the Complexity of Consumer Profiles
Consumers cannot be easily categorized, so segmentation should not be seen as the only driver of idea creation. Businesses should take a wider view of consumers while understanding that;
- Needs change depending on circumstances. What are the circumstances that lead to purchasing decisions and shifting needs?
- Consumers hide half of their personality. There are always two sides to consumers. An identified need is not always the real desire. Observations of purchasing patterns should be just as important as consumer research and feedback.
#5 Marketers Should Be Wary of Focusing Solely on Emotion During Idea Generation
Although emotion is a key driver in purchasing decisions, marketers and creative developers should avoid placing too much emphasis on consumer emotion. Other areas which are equally important are;
- Practicality/Functionality – This is especially important in fashion when it comes to apparel.
- Culture – Fashion is highly dependent on trends, and these trends can shift with evolving culture, and vary between different cultures. The United States is unique in that cultures can change from state to state, and even city to city.
Understanding consumers and generating ideas based on insight is necessary to bring successful products to market. The fuzzy front end is critical, because it sets the path of any project. By understanding common mistakes and misconceptions, businesses will have higher success rates with innovative ideas that speak to consumer wants and needs.
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