Streamlined product development on Amazon

3 Stages of Streamlined Product Development for New Amazon Fashion Listings

Imagine what launching a new ASIN every 2 or 3 months could do for your sales. That’s what we’re here to talk about today. A roadmap for listing new products on the regular. 

Not just any products, but well-researched and executed ones, that have the ultimate goal of profitability at the top of the list.

The controversial brand Shein, who have grown 15X in 5 years, launch a whopping 1.3 million new products in a year.  While I don’t condone the piracy of such brands (90 copyright and trademark lawsuits in the US so far)…

There is something to be learned from their take on data-driven design processes. 

How do they do it? 

Instead of planning seasons ahead, they simply use data to see what customers are looking at and buying. Then they get it online as quickly as possible… and repeat!

Do you have a procedure for going from product idea, to research, to design, to sourcing, to development and to actual final production? Or do you just make it up as you go? 

The first time, or every time? 😆

Go Faster Wallace And Gromit GIF by Aardman Animations - Find & Share on GIPHY
via GIPHY

Starting from scratch every time is so hard! Development and manufacturing are messy processes with many moving parts. 

Going from an idea to a finished product on distributors’ shelves requires SO many steps. 

Every step you take that lacks execution shaves a little piece from your margins. 

Read on for our simple and effective process. 

The 3 Stages of Streamlined Product Development

So how do you systemize creativity and product innovation, I hear you ask? 

Not surprisingly, I have a few thoughts. We’ve helped hundreds of brands launch thousands of products over the last 8 years and our team has a diverse design and technical background. 

The system consists of 3 parts – all of which work together in a flywheel.  

TechPacks product development process
Photo via Tech Packs

The first pillar is audience research and design. The second pillar is where you nail the technical details. The third pillar is the system by which you polish it all up and make sure everything is in tip top shape. 

Let me explain further…  

Stage 1: Research & Design Concept

New listings on Amazon require a solid foundation of research. Luckily there are many ways to discover what your Amazon customers would like to buy next

Step 1

Use SEO tools to find the top few products your audience is searching for. Check competitors’ offerings of these same products to find those low competition gaps you can plug with new listings. 

What gaps are there that you can fill? 

Once you have a few ideas, use the following tips to select the best (ie the most profitable contenders)! 

💡 Industry insider shortcuts
  • The majority of your unit costs for products in the apparel or textile categories will go to fabric. Fabrics are expensive because they require many processing steps to be created. Find ways to cleverly reduce fabric usage without sacrificing design. 
  • Can you engineer the design to span multiple sizes, therefore cutting down on the number of SKUs you’ll need to stock?
  • If making multiple new listings – think about how you can group the ideas to get economies of scale. Either create multiple designs in the same product category (so you can get them all made at the same time by the same supplier. E.g. 2 sweatshirts, or 3 pairs of jeans, etc). 
  • Or, better still, create multiple listings that use the same material or fabric for the bulk of it. So you can achieve economies of scale across material costs as well. 

When you get to 1, 2 or 3 good ideas move to step 2.

Step 2

Note down some prices for similar available product designs in the category. 

This is step 2 for a reason. Start with the money. We always ask clients up front what their retail price is, and many say they will wait to receive quotes from manufacturers before they decide. Which I totally understand, BUT (unpopular opinion incoming)… 

But that way, you’re either leaving your margins to someone else to choose. Or you’re entering the market without a competitive price point. Not gonna fly on Amazon. 

Start with the target recommended retail price (RRP), so you can vet suppliers, quotes and design decisions with the correct lens. No guesswork required!

Step 3

Complete a 1-sheet page of information about your design. 

No need to become an artist overnight! Find a reference photo online and jot down a few notes. Write down your target retail price. 

create a 1 page information sheet about y our product
Photo, Anete Lusina via Pexels

Design concept done!

Vividly describing your goals in written + picture form is strongly associated with goal success, studies show.

Now that you have a concept completed that’s rooted in customer and market insight, let’s jump into the product details. 

Stage 2: Development

Here’s where you’ll fill in the details for each of your design ideas. How do your products function, open/close, how do they look on the inside, etc. 

Step 1

The first step is to decide what kind of material to use. If you know nothing about fabrics, educate yourself or hire an expert. If you go to a supplier knowing less than nothing about the materials you use, it’s a red flag for them.

No need to become an expert overnight, just read up on the basics

Step 2

Make/hack a first prototype. If you are not ready to hire a sample maker or seamstress, DIY it. 

I know, I know, you can’t sew! 

That’s ok. Buy something off the shelf, use tape, pins and scissors to get your first 3D prototype. You likely want to make changes and refine, so here’s where the combo of DIYing and also starting from something “ready-made” gets you the best of both worlds. 

Create something unique without starting from 0. 

This step is crucial (like the other steps, you’ll suffer unnecessarily later on if you don’t take the extra time). Try on this prototype, test it out on a person, a model, and make sure it functions as advertised. 

If you skip this part, you’ll be seeing a real-life test 4-6 weeks later down the line. And again, if there are glaring flaws that need improvement. You need to know now, not later when someone’s started the sewing, if you care about speed to market. 

Photo via Tech Packs

Step 3

Once your Frankensteined prototype is mocked up, it’s time to write an in-depth specification document for this design. 

There are a million details when it comes to physical products. And your suppliers are not mind readers.

What gets measured, gets made, so I say! 

Again, the slow and outdated method here is to just send off the prototype to a factory and have them copy it. But you open yourself up to the dangers of having all eggs in one basket. Quality fade is also a big issue. 

To have an accurate, technically sound and speedy first sample made by a new supplier, you’ll need to send them proper paperwork detailing ALL aspects of the product design, materials, dimensions, construction, packaging etc. This is known in the industry as a tech pack

If you make 5-6 figures from new listings, it’s a no brainer to outsource this to an expert. If not, try using a DIY template to make your spec documents. 

I’ll say it again for those in the back… Your supplier can only make as good of a product as you ask them to. Your factory is not in the business of design and development – they are in the business of mass production. 

💡 Industry insider shortcuts
  • When it comes to product specs, a picture is worth a thousand words. The people who work for your supplier may not speak English or have a high literacy level. 
  • Don’t assume anything. Again, the employees of your supplier will be working on numerous products for numerous brands, per week! They don’t know you, your brand or your customer. If you don’t specify – you don’t get. 
  • The easier your specs are to follow, the more efficiently your supplier can make your product. Be their easiest client and you’ll get better prices and be a higher priority customer. 

Armed with a prototype and your tech pack, I declare you ready for stage 3! 

Stage 3: Systematic Improvement

Now that you have a functioning design with accompanying paperwork, it’s time to get this made by professionals. Of course, diving into a 5000-piece order isn’t wise just yet (do this first!)! 

Step 1

Vet suppliers, compare materials, workmanship, prices, communication, lead times, etc. Have a first sample made by your chosen partner/s so you can evaluate. 

Step 2

The diagnosis. Once you have the first sample back from your chosen supplier, you should test it, fit it, try it out, and check it.  

Find out what’s not working, or where the product could use improvement so you can course correct. 

Check the issue against the tech pack. Does the supplier need to remake this to better follow the design in the tech pack? 

Or does the tech pack need to be adjusted?

Either way, you’ll use the tech pack itself to document the first samples testing and comments. 

check if your tech packs need to be adjusted
Photo via Pexels

Now is the time for product improvements…. Not later. Once you are into mass production, it’s too late. 

If you need to iterate and test a couple of times to hit the nail on the head, do it, then document fastidiously! 

Step 3

Step 3’s immediate goal is to sign off on a “pre-production sample” or “golden sample”. 

This is an agreed-upon reference sample by all parties, that’s the official standard for how the product needs to look. 

Getting to this approval step, combined with an updated tech pack reflecting sample developments, is how you document your product… to protect yourself from messy confusions later (on your own team as well as your supplier’s). 

Key Takeaways  

Armed with your tech packs and pre-production sample, you’re ready to begin mass production, knowing that your product will be a safe commercial bet. And that you’ve taken the necessary precautions to secure against defects and miscommunications. 

You don’t need to be as fast as Shein (vomiting out $3 polyester shirts)! But you do want to be faster than your competitors. 

Each step in this process can be done in a matter of weeks or days, and some can be done in a single day. 

To leverage your next new listing, download our product development process cheatsheet here ➡

If you want to invest time into the RIGHT parts of product development that really matter, like SEO research, selecting cost-effective materials, and quality workmanship, then having an intentional and streamlined process to follow is key.

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