New product planning has been defined by the American Marketing Association as “the act of making out and supervising the search, screening, development and commercialization of new products; the modification of existing lines; and the discontinuance of marginal or unprofitable items”. Simply stated, product planning decides the nature and other related aspects of the articles produced and sold. Product development is a more limited term but includes the technical activities of product research, engineering and design. Product planning and development is the result of the co-ordinated efforts of large number of specialists – engineers, scientists, marketers, etc. Product planning is usually described as ‘Merchandising’ and it covers both, the existing and potential products. This activity, therefore, must deal with the proper balance between the old and the new products.
New product planning is a very long and complex process, and it deals with changes in :
- The kinds of goods or services offered by a marketer for various segments.
- The number or kinds of products, or different lines, that the company offers in various segments.
- The width of product line offered.
- The quality levels or levels acceptable to various classes of consumers in various target markets.
- The degree of distinctiveness.
- Increased societal and governmental constraints.
- The growing shortage of new product ideas in certain areas.
- Shorter time spans between the emergence of the idea and the physical launch of the product.
- The costliness of the new product development process.
The following decisions are important in new product planning :
- Improving the existing product lines and services,
- Weeding out unprofitable items in the product line (simplification),
- Expansion of the current product line (diversification),
- New product development for the present customers, and
- New product development for new customers (diversified products).
The role of new product development
Whatever may be the size and nature of operations of a firm, product planning and development is necessary for its survival and growth in the long-run. Every product has a life cycle and it becomes obsolete after the completion of its life-cycle. Therefore, it is essential to develop new products and alter or improve the existing ones to meet the often-changing requirements of customers. The role of new product development can be stated in terms of :
- Ensuring that the product mix, matches changing environmental conditions and that product obsolescence is avoided.
- Enabling the marketer to compete in new and developing segments of the market.
- Reducing the marketer’s dependence upon particular elements of the product range or vulnerable market segments.
- Filling excess capacity.
- Achieving greater long-term growth and profit.
Introducing new product is rather difficult as it involves long-range planning. Customers’ need should be identified, competing and substitute products should be evaluated and, above all, the strength of the company should be examined before deciding to produce a new product. Product failure defeats the very objectives of a firm. In a survey conducted by Booze, Allen and Hamilton, it was revealed that firms with well-organized product planning programmes have only 40-50 percent product failures. When this percentage is compared with the overall industry product failures (80 percent), one could easily be convinced of the need for product planning.
Recommended reading: Stages of new product development