Bringing an innovative new product from the drawing board to store shelves requires the collective efforts of many different workers. Experts are needed to identify consumer demand; design and build prototypes; and strategically introduce new items in a particular market. Among several other specialties, new product development jobs are available in market research positions, research and development (R&D) engineering, product testing, quality control, and brand management.
Market researchers are economics experts who help companies decide what type of products to manufacture. Professionals learn about consumer opinions and needs by organizing focus groups and conducting surveys. They research competitor products and try to determine if their own companies can break into particular markets. Once an idea for a product seems plausible, researchers predict the time and money it will take to complete prototype testing and start manufacturing and distribution efforts. They usually submit their findings in formal proposals to supervisors and executives to gain approval.
R&D engineers and their assistants employ their technical skills to bring ideas to life. Engineers design blueprints, schematics, and computerized simulations of new products. After working out the details of a design, a team of engineers can begin constructing physical prototypes. Depending on the item, prototype design can take anywhere from a few days to several months or years. Prototypes are rigorously inspected and tested to make sure they are safe, reliable, and efficient. It is common for experts in other types of new product development jobs to give their input during testing to help engineers focus on the end goal of satisfying customer needs.
When successful prototypes are approved for mass manufacture, brand managers, copywriters, and workers in similar new product development jobs begin tactical marketing campaigns. They identify a target audience and create campaigns to generate interest in the product. Brand managers also meet directly with retailers to demonstrate the product and convince them to begin carrying it.
The education and training requirements for different new product development jobs can vary greatly. Most market researchers and brand managers hold at least bachelor's degrees in business administration, though many professionals at leading corporations have master's degrees. R&D engineers typically need to possess advanced degrees in their specialties, pass national licensing exams, and work as assistants or apprentices for up to five years. In addition, specific employers may have their own requirements for applicants to meet, such as experience in sales, customer service, and management.