Throwback: 4 Product Line Challenges and How to Solve Them

two people confused looking at dairy isle

In case you missed it, earlier in 2018 we released a new research methodology around product line optimization. We know having the right product mix can easily make or break a business. But deciding exactly which products to offer, and how many to place in the market, can be a daunting task. If you offer too limited of a line with the wrong product mix, you could miss out on satisfying customers.

However, if you offer an over-extended line of products, you could risk overwhelming your consumers or retailers with too many options that don’t add up to the right incremental revenue. Unfortunately, just deciding what products to offer isn’t the only challenge product line managers face, but one of several important obstacles:

  1. Determining the Optimal Product Line: Whether you’re just starting out, or planning a new product line for next year, determining the right assortment entails figuring out which options to offer or which combination of options satisfies your target market most efficiently. For example, a brand going to market with a new women’s winter coat will likely need to evaluate which colors should be included in their line.
  2. Evaluating Line Extensions: Launching a new flavor, color, or some other variety of a product can have a large impact on the existing product line. Further, learning how many products on top of which varieties to add is just as important to understanding the incremental reach each product addition could potentially provide. In other words, if a food brand has an existing assortment of flavors and they’re looking to add a new one to it, understanding whether that flavor or other potential flavors should be added or should replace an existing one helps to understand how to best satisfy the most consumers.
  3. Entering New Markets & Retailers: Launching a product line in a new market or with a new retailer requires testing to ensure that you have the right offering based on the audience (especially if the target market varies significantly from your existing consumer base). If a brand is looking to launch their product line in a new geographical region, testing the current or potential product line-up with that specific target market will increase the success of the product launch and aid market objectives.
  4. SKU Rationalization and/or Reduction: Assessing existing product lines for reduction or rationalization may seem like an easy process due to the information likely already available on your products’ in-market success. However, there can be many external factors that influence the validity of such data points. Approaching this challenge through market research and a consumer lens serves as a better product strategy to inform whether to keep or cut certain products.

How to Solve Product Line Challenges

As a result of these obstacles, a solution for product line optimization is necessary—especially one that ensures the company budget and resources aren’t stressed. Luckily we’ve developed our own methodology to solve each of these challenges. By leveraging TURF analysis, consumer trade-off exercises, and metric evaluations, we’ve found an easy, agile venue for determining the right product line assortments.

In general, to solve for product line challenges

  • Test the product line objectives among your specific target audiences and/or retail channels
  • Assess consumer preferences through a trade-off analysis based on a key outcome metric relevant to your product
  • Evaluate options against other metrics specific to your product category for directional insights

While there are many solutions available for assessing a product mix, few can achieve the right balance between customer need and business value. To see an example of our Line Optimizer™ in action, check out the research report below. You’ll learn how a sparkling water brand utilized our line optimization methodology to determine how many and which flavors of their sparkling water line they should release in France and the U.K.

Download Report