Product improvement

Product improvement is a great idea for you. You’ll make more money, outselling your competitors and selling for higher prices. It’s a great idea for your customers, too, when you make your product better, more useful, convenient or stylish.

But how do you get started?

First of all, check the reviews. Check all the things customers wanted it to do, but it didn’t. (Of course, some of those ideas might be unrealistic; I want a car that can hit 150 miles an hour and really turn heads, but on my budget, ain’t gonna happen!)

But a lot of the time, customers are a good guide to product improvements that make sense. Quite often, the words to look for are “if only”. If only my kitchen timer ran for more than an hour. (So fine, make it run for 90 minutes.) If only next door’s cat didn’t come through my cat-flap too. (What about an RFID collar that only lets your cat in?) “If only I could buy it in red as well as black.” (You can now!)

Sometimes what customers are after is a bundled product. “If only” your aromatherapy diffuser came with a set of oils to try. So if you sell the oils separately, bundle them into a pack and you’ve got a new, improved product – and because the shipping costs for the package will be lower, you’ve also got a better margin.

But also look for features that suggest there are pain points for a few customers. For instance, a backpack vendor found from a customer comment that the frame isn’t comfortable for smaller women. The back length can be adjusted, but then the front strap tends to go over the chest in a way that’s really uncomfortable.

That vendor actually advertised on their blog for focus group members – smaller women who hike or travel hard. They bought a few backpacks they could cut up and used duct tape and staples to create prototypes. A few small changes – which also included a pocket for a water bottle and a secure compartment for money – solved the problem and added value to the product.

Look at your competitors’ products too. Anything that’s a pain point across the entire niche, such as “all the protective boots and safety kit are much too big” or “all the yoga mats are too slippy” shows you a niche where if you can create a better product, the world will be coming to your door.

Meanwhile you should be tracking your competitors to see if there is anything they offer that you don’t. Ask yourself whether it’s useful before you decide to follow suit (checking the reviews should help you find out). For instance, adding catnip scent to a scratcher could attract the cat to the scratcher and away from the couch and curtains – that’s useful! Adding perfume to pillows? Probably not.

You might even buy your competitors’ products and see whether they would work better if you changed certain things. For instance, a chopstick vendor found that just asking for the end parts to be rounded instead of square didn’t cost much, but got rave reviews as they were so much more comfortable to use.

A lot of the time you will just be tweaking to add a little more value. One well regarded FBA vendor says she feels she’s failed if every new order doesn’t have a little tweak. With new colors and new materials make sure you get a sample before ordering.

Do this exercise regularly, and you’ll refresh your product and make it really stand out.That should give you some good ideas to be going on with this week!

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