What is a product improvement?
When a firm improves one of their existing products, which they are already market and sell to consumers, in some manner, then this is known as a product improvement.
Product improvements can be quite substantial or quite minor. For example, for a food product one of the ingredients may be changed to improve the taste. Or the packaging may be changed to make it easier to open or to protect the product better.
Product improvements can be quite substantial with almost the entire product (that is, its features) being redesigned in some manner.
Challenges of a product improvement
- Additional costs
- Unpopular market reception
- Brand risk
- Minor increases in sales
As a product improvement requires research, potential changes to manufacturing and supply, repackaging and potentially a re-launch – there are obvious costs associated with this new product development process. Naturally the goal would be to generate increase profitability over time, but it needs to be recognized that there is a significant upfront cost component.
Unpopular market reception
Not all products will do well with a proposed improvement. The classic example given is New Coke, which was a product improvement of the existing Coca-Cola product. As you no doubt have read or heard about, this “improvement" Coca-Cola was not wanted by its existing loyal and emotional customer base. As a consequence, the company was forced to reintroduce the previous product design – that is, bring back the classic Coca-Cola.
For a poorly performing product, or one that is declining sales, or potential solution is a product improvement. However, depending on how that is executed, there is a risk of a negative reputation for the brand. For example, if a particular product is improved and the packaging carries the endorsement “new and improved – better than ever" (or words to that effect), then it is possible that some consumers will perceive that the overall brand is of poor quality.
Minor increases in sales
Depending on the extent of the product improvement, but there is a significant chance that a minor tweaking of product features (which carries a development cost), may not have a significant impact on sales. Likewise, a product that has been substantially improved, but does not have a re-launch campaign may fail to win increase sales as consumers may not notice or be aware of the various improvements and product features and benefits.