Do you care deeply about the quality of your products? If so, customer-driven product development should play a major role in your design and production process. Rather than hiring engineers to handle the entire product development process on their own, clients work closely with engineers to come up with the best solutions for their customer bases. It’s a perfect marriage of marketable ideas and innovative engineering.
What’s more, this type of product development can be just as simple and cost-effective as traditional development processes. The only difference is that it gives customers more direct say over the design and function of the product. This is why product designers and business owners should strongly consider hiring engineers with customer-driven product development experience.
What is Customer-Driven Product Development?
Customer-driven product development is the process of designing, prototyping, or manufacturing a product based on customer feedback. This differs from traditional product development in that engineers and manufacturers aren’t solely relying on their own expertise or opinions. Instead, they listen closely to their clients and their customers before making any final decisions or moving on to the next step in the product development cycle.
There are two ways product developers can make the development process more customer-driven:
1. Collaborating with the client directly. Customer-driven product developers recognize that clients know their customers best. Involving clients as early as possible in this process allows engineers to incorporate new ideas based on the clients’ vast experience working directly with their customers. There’s less trial and error.
2. Analyzing customer feedback. Product developers can also involve customers and end users directly in the process. Engineers, manufacturers, and product designers can analyze customer surveys or other useful feedback to inform their design and manufacturing choices. Or, the product developer can even perform quality control tests and make note of changes that need to be made based on customers’ initial reactions to the first iteration of the product.
Regardless of which method product developers use, thinking about the customers’ needs has a number of advantages for your project—everything from cost savings to a higher return on investment (ROI). Here are just a few of the many benefits you could see when you partner with a customer-driven product development expert.
Why You Should Be Involved in the Product Development Process
Even if you, the client, have very little experience designing products or manufacturing components, your opinions matter. Ensuring that the product developer understands your intentions for a product is the best way to create something that your customers will actually want to buy or will find useful.
For example, one of the greatest challenges engineers and manufacturers face is trying to align the clients’ vision for a product with their capabilities. The client may want the product to look a certain way or perform a specific function, but if this intention isn’t clear from the start, engineers and manufacturers could easily overlook it.
That’s the main advantage of customer-driven product development. It essentially promotes clients and customers to the role of copilots who help direct engineers and manufacturers to the right destination. Here are nine other important advantages of this process:
Cost and Resources
|1. The product’s form and function are based on marketability research and customer feedback
2. Engineers gain new ideas and insights that help them solve complex challenges
3. Clients are happier with the end result because they were involved in its creation
|4. You can collaborate with product developers to keep total costs as low as possible
5. You’ll waste fewer materials on failed prototypes or end products your customers aren’t happy with
6. Less waste and faster time to market leads to higher ROI
|7. Product developers won’t have to go back to the drawing board as often during the design process
8. Teamwork makes the entire process faster and more efficient
9. Engineers waste less time and labor creating prototypes that don’t meet the clients’ expectations
This list isn’t comprehensive, as there are many other advantages of customer-driven product development. However, even if you’re committed to being involved in the product development process, you still need to work with a skilled product developer that understands how to leverage all of these advantages.
How to Find a Product Development Partner
One of the main reasons why some clients are hesitant to get involved in the product development process is because they feel like they can’t articulate their needs to engineers and manufacturers. When you lack engineering experience, it’s often easier and less stressful to let the engineers get to work. However, if you want to create a product that exceeds your expectations and has a meaningful impact on your customers, you need to feel comfortable speaking up during the product development process.
This is why you should work with product developers that not only offer customer-driven product development services, but that actively encourage collaboration. The best engineers understand that customers and clients don’t always have a deep understanding of complex concepts like rapid prototyping methodologies or rapid tooling best practices. To close this knowledge gap, engineers will:
- Offer sound advice in simple terms that the client and customers understand
- Listen openly to all suggestions and customer feedback
- Show clients the concept for the design using tools like CAD software and 3D printed models
- Research the client’s industry carefully and perform thorough market research to understand the customers’ most common pain points
With the right product development partner, you don’t have to feel nervous going into this process. You’ll feel like an integral part of the design, prototyping, and manufacturing stages. The best product developers recognize that your input and your customers’ feedback is one of the most important factors for creating high-quality products that have a positive impact on the world.
PRL’s engineers have dozens of manufacturing options available to help you solve any challenge facing your product: CNC machining, custom tooling, 3D printing, thermoplastic molding, reverse engineering, and more. No matter what stage your product is currently at, we can create it and optimize it for manufacturing.