What is Product Development for Hardware Products? - A Complete Guide

Joey Gan
2023/02/08 10:02


If you think running a business is only about selling products, think again. Product development is a key component of any successful business—especially for companies that sell physical goods. What does product development entail?

Whether you're starting up, entering a new market, or expanding into new areas, product development should be a core strategy to give your business a competitive edge. At its most basic, product development is the process of creating and engineering new products, and it involves analyzing customer needs and meeting those needs.

Product development only happens when a business releases its first item. Sometimes it's necessary to expand the product line or improve an existing product; hence, it's essential for growing companies. Some businesses often spend their earnings creating new items that are more sophisticated or of higher quality than their earlier offerings. On the other hand, some like to switch up their product development cycles, so they spend time on product development every other quarter.

This article will explain why developing robust product development strategies and implementing them on schedule is crucial for growing businesses. Knowing this enables enterprises to deploy their funding and resources more effectively.

  Table of Contents

What is Product Development?

Product development is the term that describes all phases involved in taking a product from concept or idea to market release and beyond. In other words, product development comprises the product's entire journey. Moreover, the product development cycle is different from product management. 

Many people use the terms product development and product management incorrectly. No single position is associated with product development because it covers all process aspects—from idea generation to client delivery. Each group is crucial to identifying, developing, creating, evaluating, or delivering the product.

The implementation team, mainly composed of developers, engineers, and quality assurance, may be referred to as "product development" in some businesses. However, when it comes to the personal aspect, the business should see it more as a comprehensive procedure or approach for bringing items to market. This encompasses numerous development teams throughout a corporation.

Why is Product Development Important?

The odds of a new product failing are much higher than anyone will admit, and the success of a new product often needs significant resources. Due to the substantial risk of failure, it's critical to understand why product development is imperative for businesses and consumers and why hiring professionals to design your products is the best way to ensure success.

The lifeblood of businesses and societies is product development. Cars, smartphones, and coffee makers are tangible goods that could be products. Additionally, it might be a new manufacturing method, an improved IT solution, or a fresh approach to real estate marketing.

Before launching your items to market, you need to ensure that there is a demand, that your final products are of the highest quality possible, and that your potential clients will receive value from them. Ultimately, the best products contribute to the advancement of society, either through the product line itself or by creating new jobs and income sources.

New products require a substantial investment of resources to succeed. Regardless, there is always a possibility of failure, yet the potential rewards outweigh the risks. Understanding this is necessary as businesses are always searching for ways to optimize the use of resources. Companies are persuaded to utilize the product development services of professionals and experts to ensure that the process is managed appropriately.

The following are characteristics of all effective product development cycles:

1. Offer customers new value

2. Make society better

3. Improve efficiency or Reduce the Cost of Similar Products

  • Offer Customers New Value

If you want to provide your clients with added value, you need to engage in product development. It is important to remember that the end goal of product development is to provide customers with something they will want. You can do this by creating products that are more useful, affordable, or attractive than those offered by your competitors.  

You can also create new products that meet the needs of an underserved market or a niche. You can improve existing products by making them more attractive and easier to use.

  • Make Society Better

Making products that improve society is also a great way to improve society as a whole. When you create something new and innovative, other people learn from it and see how they can apply its principles in different ways.

Making original goods more accessible in a community can promote diversity and advance humanity. Many new products are simply a slight advancement over an earlier version. Businesses that often improve their current products can create a positive perception of social innovation.

These businesses are conscious of their social obligations and diligently try to improve their employees' lives. As well, developing new products can provide clients with enormous and immediate satisfaction. It benefits society and everyone involved.

  • Improve efficiency or Reduce the Cost of Similar Products

An effective product development can contribute to society, either by improving the user's efficiency or reducing the cost of a certain food, clothing, transportation, or work.

For example, the invention and launch of the automobile have greatly improved the traffic efficiency of users; The invention of industrial robots has reduced the cost of labor and products in factories.


How to Create a Product Development Plan?

To ensure that all stakeholders' wants and concerns are taken care of and that the finished product will have market value, a product development plan should cover the entire process from concept to market.

The following sections serve as a breakdown of the stages of development necessary for a product development team:

1. Determine Market Demand

Identifying market demand for a product is the first step in developing one. It would be best to determine whether there is interest in your product and the issues it will address by conversing with customers and engaging in other market research activities, such as surveys and test marketing.

16 years ago Steven Jobs, who had an insight into the virtues of touch screens and predicted that push-button phones would disrupt the mobile phone industry(The efficiency of gesture operation is much higher than that of key operation), took the stage at the Macworld conference at Moscone West in San Francisco to unveil the first iPhone 3G, declaring it "a widescreen iPod with touch controls". It is the "revolutionary mobile phone"; it is the "breakthrough Internet communication device". 

In the following 16 years, iPhone has been dominating the global mobile phone market, so how to gain insight into users' needs and pain points is the initial part of new product development.


2. Calculate the Opportunity

Developing a product isn't always necessary unless there's a market need or a problem to solve. It is not possible for a product to solve all problems, and customers must be willing to pay the price necessary to find an effective solution.

The research report may include an insight into users' pain points, such as Bluetooth users needing waterproof, excellent sound quality, portable, and some needing built-in batteries. So if you try to design a speaker that satisfies all of these needs, it's not realistic. Either the designs will conflict, or the cost of the product will be very high. What you need to do is subdivide your target users. For example, divide Bluetooth speaker users into different types of target user groups, such as "home lovers", "outdoor sports lovers", and "work purposes", and then design and plan products in the niche of Bluetooth speakers according to the pain points of users.

Your market research should not only consider your user needs but also your marketing strategy and business analysis to determine how to optimize the market and sell your product or service. The classic 4Ps of marketing are the most basic elements - product, price, promotion, and place. The product. You need to plan your 4Ps of marketing strategy for your target audience well in advance of the actual product entering the development phase.


3. Develop the Product Concept

Your product team can now think outside the box and generate solutions to problems that satisfy market demands. This may result in developing several potential solutions, each of which must be evaluated.

If you want to design a three-guard watch, for example, you should plan its functions and parameters according to the needs of your target users (swimmers/sportsmen), and determine whether your concept product will meet their needs and meet their pain points.

three-guard watch

4. Verify the Solution

Consider evaluating and confirming your concepts because designing and making prototypes might be expensive. This evaluation can be done conceptually to eliminate designs that are not worth pursuing further. Verifying the feasibility of your product solution is not only from the perspective of meeting customer needs but also from the following aspects.

  • Whether it meets the needs of target customers

  • Feasibility of mass production

  • Cost control

  • Product team development capability

  • Retail Price

  • Estimate the competitive advantage of your products VS competitive products listed in the same period

Whether the future price will meet the expectations of the target audience (which determines your cost budget), whether your research staff is capable of meeting the product development requirements, when your new product will be launched and when your competing product will be launched,These problems should be considered and verified before the actual sample development.

5. Create a Product Roadmap

The product development team should develop a roadmap for your product once the suggested product concept has been decided. This will help you determine which themes and objectives need to be created first to address your situation's most crucial aspects. A product prototype that can be tested and evaluated by different market segments should be produced as a result of this step.

You should also evaluate the product iteration plan for 1 to 2 years based on the market and technology development, after all, there is a time limit for planning to market and for the full life cycle of a product. Take mobile phones as an example. The following figure is the one-year mobile phone iteration roadmap of the OPPO/VIVO mobile phone product planning department.


6. Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

The development of a product with sufficient capability to be used by your consumer base should result from adhering to your product roadmap. It might be a partial product, but it should be enough to market testing and get initial feedback.

The goal of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is to produce a demo with minimal cost, then do market research to obtain user feedback, and then reduce the high risk of product changes or restarts when implementing the final product.


7. Release the MVP for User Testing

The MVP should be made available to specific market segments to gauge interest, get input, and help you figure out marketing messaging, channels, and goals for your sales staff. It may include packaging design and pricing ideas and the product itself. 

This crucial step creates a feedback channel between you and your consumer base so that they can offer ideas, grievances, and suggestions to enhance your finished product.

8. Continuous Evaluation and Development

Now that the MVP has been out, you may start working on improvements and modifications to your product using the feedback you received. You can ensure that your design meets market needs by paying attention to their input. Setting strategic goals is necessary; it could take a few iterations before you have a finalized product for sale.

The next stage may be performed numerous times after this one, feeding back into the product plan. This step can continue even after a finished product has been produced to optimize your product for future modifications or improvements.

Different Product Types Determine Product Development Plans

The new product development cycle for pure hardware products and pure software products will be different. Why are there differences?

With the development of 4G and 5G networks after 2015, more and more software products can be updated online, so users can update software products very conveniently, solve bugs existing in previous versions and add new functions.

However, Hardware products cannot operate this way, because if there is a problem, it needs to be added, deleted, or modified parts to repair, and the factory or brand needs to recover the product and return it to the factory for repair, the cost is much higher than that of software products.

Therefore, they will have differences in the product development process. The process and requirements for hardware product development will be more strict. Of course, products that combine hardware and software, such as mobile phones or Bluetooth speakers, will be more strict in product development, separating non-pure software functions from software functions.

That's why some customers look for suppliers on different platforms for hardware products and software products. For example, if you want to customize a mobile power supply, you will find suppliers on some actual wholesale platforms such as Alibaba or Made-in-China. But if you want to customize a mobile app or website, you will go to a local software development company or site-building company. The areas of expertise and the product development process will be very different.

Stages of New Product Development

Bringing a new product to market, from product concept generation to determining whether it matches the market, refining through prototyping to ultimate commercialization, is referred to as new product development.

Even though it might be a time-consuming procedure that occasionally necessitates iteration, everything is done to ensure that your product is the finest it can be before it reaches your clients and effectively addresses their needs.

Let's talk about the many phases of the creation of new products.

1. Idea Generation

New product development begins with idea generation. Here, you create an idea or ideas that will enable you to address a persistent client need in a fresh, cutting-edge manner. Having a thorough understanding of your target market and the problems you want to address for them will be crucial as you develop concepts to meet client wants.

Asking, "What if we did this?" can be your initial idea generation stage.

2. Research

The next step after developing a product idea is to flesh it out through research, which can be done in different ways, including:

  •  Conduct market research and business analysis to determine the existing state of your business, any gaps your product will fill, and whether there will even be a market for it.

  • Analyzing your competition will help you determine whether there are any perceived gaps in your products or services that you can fill to serve the needs of your target market better.

3. Planning

During the planning stage, you develop your final product idea or definition based on your initial research, concept development and begin to formulate your plans to implement it.

Planning also entails developing a marketing plan that will assist you in efficiently promoting your finished product and pricing strategies that are reasonable for your target market.

4. Prototyping

In the prototype stage, you develop a sample product that serves as a mockup of what will be produced in mass quantities.

A minimum viable product (MVP), also known as a prototype, is a simplified version of your tool similar to your final product. It will help you understand how it works and pinpoint areas that need improvement.

Before you have a finished prototype, you might need to create several versions and switch back and forth between this step and the testing stage.

5. Testing

You must test your product before marketing it to ensure it meets your target market's needs and functions as promised. Therefore, in this phase, you'll show your prototypes to your target markets and solicit helpful input on how the product operates.

In essence, you want to use your product in scenarios comparable to real-world use cases to determine what works and what doesn't. As indicated above, you may need to modify your prototype depending on the conclusions of your testing.

You can start product development as soon as you believe your prototype is complete and prepared to meet your customers' expectations.

6. Product Development and Manufacturing

This stage entails developing the final product that will be manufactured once finished. You'll refine your prototype and start mass production using the knowledge you obtained from testing your MVP. You'll use a different product development process depending on your business.

Whatever your process, the planning phase should have guided you in determining how your product development will proceed. When your planned hardware product prototype has met the user satisfaction test, then it will enter the project management and product management process. All have to go through trial production, small batch MP, MP, and other manufacturing processes.

If you need assistance manufacturing your product, consider outsourcing the service to sourcing agents who are good at customizing products or product engineering such as RUIZHI Sourcing. They can assist with the manufacturing process, including finding the right factory and overseeing production to ensure that products are made to the correct specifications. As well they can help with logistics and quality control.

7. Commercialization

Commercialization, the last stage of your new product development process, is when you release your goods to the market. Your ideation, research, and iteration have culminated at this point, where your audience can finally use what you produced.

Even though this is the last stage, many companies choose to launch their products and then come back later to tweak them depending on customer feedback. Through ongoing product development, they can ensure they're giving customers the best value possible.


Product Development Plan between Hardware and Software

Product development teams have different ideas when planning and designing the functions for hardware products and software products. Hardware products need to consider more factors, which are more difficult:

  • Selling points

Hardware product managers should not simply advocate minimalism. They should have appropriate and cool functions as selling points to stand out when competing with rival products at the same level.

  • Experience

Traditional companies do hardware, and the core purpose is to sell out, sell out profit, the core goal will be accomplished.

Internet companies do intelligent hardware, let users buy, also pay attention to the continuous contact with users, so the product details experience, is the whole process: from the product concept, functional details design, specification design, product release scheme, taking goods process, unpacking experience, to the user begin to use the process, until the customer service system design, are testing the ability of product managers.

Instead of simply considering the software part of intelligent hardware: how to let the user learn the cost is low, how to make the device really reflect the intelligence, let the user behavior more precipitation and so on.

  • Cost

in the design of software products, performance, and manpower input may be considered at most. In the design of hardware products, every addition of a small function may lead to an increase in cost. Every piece of paper, every film, and every additional process will bring cost accumulation. It is the occupational disease of hardware PM(Product manager) to haggle over every ounce of configuration.

Example: In order to allow users to play in the car, the product has a built-in communication module in the hardware, choose 3G or 4G, choose Unicom or telecom, the cost difference maybe 3-4 times, need PM to take into account the user experience at the same time, see the trend, pay attention to the cost performance.

  • Performance

In the design of software products, technology, and performance rarely become the bottleneck. However, when designing hardware, especially when it comes to innovative functions, PM often thinks that the solution is feasible. However, after the hardware plate molding, the performance varies greatly.

Example: In order to meet the users' pain points, and increase the highlights and competitiveness of the product, the product has made a remote monitoring function. In the process of investigation, it is found that the chip can support the debugging of long connection technology, communication module transmission, etc., and the whole process runs smoothly! Excited! Functional and practical, the first in the industry! 

However, when the hardware was finally completed, it was found in the user test phase that the stability of wake up, the signal difference between different regions of communication modules, and the battery performance differences led to the plummeting experience.

  • Process

Users are visual animals. Designers can play freely in software, a variety of cool transitions, pages, etc., but in hardware design, every bit of design may increase the difficulty or cost of the process.

Relationship Between Product Roadmap and Product Development

It is essential to distinguish between the product roadmap and product development. Both are intended to convey how an organization thinks and plans strategically for its product. The two, however, are different tools, each concentrating on a distinct element of the product's approach.

A product development roadmap is made to keep track of and share a specific product's milestones and objectives. It is organized into sprints by agile organizations and lasts over a shorter period—just a few months.

On the other hand, Product roadmap is intended to chart the strategic vision and priorities of a product across time. Most business product roadmaps encompass a timeframe of 1~2 years. It outlines the product's key topics.

A product roadmap often includes dates to focus on critical strategic objectives. The intent of the roadmap is to ensure deadlines and delivery timelines.

Again, take iPhone as an example. Product development refers to how to do product planning for a new mobile phone such as iPhone 14xs, which is the time to be done before the new product is put on the market at this stage.

And then the product roadmap is for the next 1-2 years of product planning, how to iterate the follow-up iPhone products, what configuration parameters and functions are needed for each new product in the future, and how to plan in advance to guide the R&D department to do a good job in the pre-research of new features in advance.


Examples of Product Development

When we consider that product development takes into consideration the entire spectrum of activities needed to bring a new product to market, it can be hard to understand all the processes involved. 

Not only is it important to identify customer needs, prototyping, sourcing materials, and so on, but as well to understand the manufacturing process and testing. The product development process is complex and can vary from one market to another.

Here are a few examples of product development to help illustrate the process:

1. Mobilephone

A company decides to create a new smartphone with cutting-edge features such as a foldable screen and 5G connectivity. 

The product development process for this new smartphone would involve researching and identifying customer needs and preferences, designing the hardware and software for the phone, testing prototypes, and finally, manufacturing and distributing the finished product.

2. Skincare Products

A small startup creates a new line of organic, non-toxic skincare products. The product development process for this line would involve sourcing ingredients, formulating and testing different product prototypes, packaging design, and finally, producing and marketing the finished products.

3. Athletic Wear

A sports apparel company develops a new line of eco-friendly athletic wear made from recycled materials. The product development process for this line would involve researching and identifying customer needs and preferences, designing and prototyping the garments, sourcing sustainable materials, and finally, producing and marketing the finished products.

4. Headset

A tech company creates a new virtual reality headset with improved graphics and a more comfortable fit. The product development process for this headset would involve researching and identifying customer needs and preferences, designing and prototyping the hardware, software testing and iterating on the design, and finally, manufacturing and distributing the finished product.


Product development is a crucial process for businesses that want to introduce new products to the market and stay competitive. It involves identifying customer needs and preferences, designing and prototyping the product, sourcing materials and the production process, and marketing and distributing the finished product.

The product development process can be complex and time-consuming, but it is essential for businesses looking to bring new and innovative products to market. Successful product development requires a clear understanding of customer needs, a well-defined development process, and the ability to continuously iterate and improve upon the product. 

By following a structured approach and staying attuned to customer demands, businesses can effectively develop new products that meet the needs of their target market and drive growth and success.

If you are looking to develop new products and bring them to market, RUIZHI Sourcing can help! Our team of experienced professionals is here to support you every step of the way, from sourcing materials and product engineering to overseeing production and handling logistics. They offer a range of services to help businesses of all sizes successfully develop and launch new products. Contact us today to learn more and see how we can help your business succeed.

Article by:
Joey Gan
The Co-founder of Ruizhi Sourcing. With 10 years of experience in the field of sourcing in China, we help 1k+ clients import from China to Amazon FBA or shopify.
Contact with me at Linkedin