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You’ve just come out of an important meeting. Your company is looking to expand and your boss has assigned you and your team the task of generating ideas for a new product to introduce. Filled with excitement, you want to launch something your audience will be receptive to – so you start some initial research. But where do you begin?

In this post, we’ll talk about how you can use site search data to improve your product development process and produce products people love.

Yes, It Really Works!

Site search data is an indispensable tool to use when developing a new product. It shows you what you’re customers are interested in, when they’re interested in it, and how many of your customers share this interest.

Wayne Gretzky is credited with saying, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” This could not be more true with business, and product development in particular. If you develop a product for your current environment, it will likely be outdated by the time it launches down the road. If you want to be great, anticipate where the market is heading.

Anticipating market demand is exactly what site search data allows eCommerce retailers to do when they develop/implement a product line that becomes available for purchase just as the product is gaining traction in the store.

By viewing search queries entered on their site, retailers are able to recognize growing demand for products mentioned in their search, and adjust their strategy to stock up on these products before they explode in popularity. The end result? Retailers launch their product line at the height of consumer demand and are incredibly successful and profitable in doing so. It’s all about paying attention to what customers are looking for.

Getting Started – Understanding Existing Demand

Trying to determine existing or future demand for a product is difficult. Interviews are time consuming, while consumer surveys can be inaccurate or uninformative. Site search data can alleviate some of these difficulties by showing you exactly what products customers are looking for on your site and how they describe those products.

When we talked about the unknown benefits of site search, we mentioned that a major benefit of search data is having access to a ‘dictionary’ of terms your customers enter in the search bar. These queries can be used to refine your written marketing copy, but if customers are searching for terms or products that don’t yet exist on your store, these search queries can be invaluable resources for new product development.

Armed with a new, consumer-generated vocabulary of potential product ideas and descriptive terminology, the next stage to product development with site search is to assess and prioritize which product ideas should be invested in.

Refining Your Idea – Search Frequency, Search Exit, and Search Start Pages

Now that you have a few ideas on your list, they need to be prioritized by determining which ones have the greatest demand, market potential, and existing customer interest. We do this by looking at search frequency (how often the query is searched for), search exit (after conducting a search, what did they do and when did they leave?) and search start pages (on what page of our website did the consumer start searching?)

Search frequency will tell us two things: how popular a particular query is and when these queries are searched for. When viewing query data, pay attention to the volume of searches, this will indicate which queries are being searched for the most. On top of that, the trend will show you when the searches are coming. This data can be important for new product development because it can give you key information about when customers want these particular products and you can adjust launch dates or marketing campaigns accordingly.

The search exit page can be helpful in surfacing areas or product lines that don’t fully satisfy the customers wants. If visitors are constantly leaving after viewing the ‘wireless speaker’ results page, maybe it’s not fulfilling their needs. Look for pages with search-to-exit rates above the average, and it could be that you need a new product better suited to customers needs.

Search To Exit Rate

The search start page is an obvious indication that something is amiss. This is the page that the visitor initiated their search from. Generally, it means that they weren’t able to find something they were looking for, or wanted to ensure you carried a specific product. Returning to the our wireless speaker example, if you notice that a number of searches are starting at the wireless speaker search results page, this is an indication customers can’t find what they’re looking for.

Combining search frequency with the search exit and search start pages can be critical for refining and narrowing your product selections and can provide quick insight into areas of your business that need to be addressed. To wrap up our new product development, it is important to validate ideas with some external sources of information.

Finalizing Your Idea – External Validation and Launch Timing

Now that you’ve generated ideas for your new product and have refined the list using your site search data, it’s time to quickly validate the idea with some external sources before heading back to your next meeting and pitching the idea.

By validating your idea, we simply mean looking for other data that supports the ideas that were just generated. All of our research thus far has come from internal site search data – and although that is extremely lucrative and valuable, you should ensure that the general consumer population shares the excitement and anticipation for this new product that your existing customer base does.

An easy way to validate your idea is see if others are searching for these new topics as well. Tools from Google like their AdWords Keyword Tool or Google Trends enable you to judge whether the general population is looking for these products as well. To get started with this, Kern Media has a fantastic post detailing both of these tools in regards to product development.

Google Trends

If the trends gathered through using these tools coincide with your internal data, you’re probably on the right track. You can take this even further by looking into demographic information of search users on your site, and ensure the people conducting those searches coincide with your target audience.

A final point before we send you off to start your own new product development, is that search data can help you estimate launch dates and marketing campaigns. Think of the Christmas season. In July, there aren’t many Christmas-related searches. As Christmas approaches, searches begin to increase, eventually reaching a critical mass around the November-December period. As a result, most retailers run their holiday sales around that time, rather than in April-May when no one is searching for Christmas goods. Knowing when searches are conducted can help you accurately predict appropriate dates for the development and launch of your products.

Moving Forward – Maximizing Site Search

Knowing what your customers want is paramount to the successful launch of a product. But it’s not feasible for a company to ask each customer what they want in a new product. Luckily, site search data gives an unparalleled glimpse into the minds of consumers.

Using this data, you can generate a list of ideas and further assess and refine these possibilities. When developing a new product, site search data can be a godsend, but that’s not all it’s capable of doing. Site search data can be used to find spelling/terminology variations, identify top-performing products, measure the efficacy of content strategy, and improve your marketing copy. Check out all of the possibilities here.

And that’s it, a look into how you can leverage site search data to improve your product development strategy. As always, if you want to discuss any of these ideas further, or have success stories of your own, chat with us on Twitter at @Nextopia, or give us a call at 800-360-2191!

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