What Is Product Innovation?

G. Wiesen

Product innovation refers to the process of developing and releasing a new or intrinsically altered version of a product or service into a market. While the term may seem to imply new physical products, this term can also be used to refer to new or expanded services. Product innovation is of major importance for many companies, especially those involved with electronics, computers, or software.

Product innovation within the electronics industry often leads consumers to upgrade to a newer device.
Product innovation within the electronics industry often leads consumers to upgrade to a newer device.

While the term “innovation” typically refers to advancements in an existing product to produce a new or revised salable item, product innovation can refer to both new products and improvements upon existing products. When a wholly new product or service is made available for sale to consumers or businesses, it is not necessarily a form of product innovation. For such innovation to truly occur, the product must be unique, at least at the time of release, in some way so that it stands out among competing products or services. This is often the purpose of such innovation: the release of a new product that seemingly stands alone in a particular field.

Product innovation can also occur with reference to an existing product, however, or a product that is similar to others available in the market. This type of innovation can include anything from how the product is manufactured, including both methods and materials used, to the actual product or service. When a company introduces a new mobile phone, for example, it is releasing a product that is, to some extent, already available to the public and consumers. Product innovation in such a field, therefore, requires that a business develop new ways to produce such phones or to release a phone with features and technology not otherwise available.

Consumers are often interested in product innovation to see what new features or products are available, but businesses often see such innovation as opportunities for new revenue. Innovation that leads to a cheaper manufacturing process, or one that uses renewable resources and energy that may be less expensive in the long run, can help reduce operating costs. New products, or major innovations in existing products, can bring new customers and increase revenue for a company. In highly competitive fields, such as consumer electronics and computer software, product innovation often allows a company to establish itself in the market and develop a new business identity.

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Discussion Comments


@Vincenzo -- There is a good argument for that, but think about why that is not possible. Let's say you've got a couple of smart phone companies. One comes up with a great innovation, but holds off implementing it for a year because it doesn't want its customers to get angry about having obsolete phones.

Meanwhile, the other one comes up with a similar innovation, implements it immediately and starts shipping phones.

By the time the first company releases its phone with that innovation, it will look like a "me too" company instead of an innovator and no one in the technology sector wants to be slapped with that label.


There are times when innovation can be a real problem, though. There is nothing worse than buying a new something (usually electronics) and having it made obsolete in a few months due to innovation.

Is there anything really wrong with holding on to innovations and releasing them in a product all at once so that people might enjoy something that is current for a bit longer?

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