Consumers are picker than ever, so it’s no surprise that developing, finding, and selecting product opportunities is also tricker than ever. Indeed, buying trends, modern lives, shifts in consumer behavior, and fierce competition between brands of similar niches can render product managers’ and entrepreneurs’ jobs a difficult – and risky – feat.

To beat competitors, garner customers’ attention, sell to a given target audience, and maintain success, businesses selling products and services must discover lucrative product opportunities. However, even for an experienced vendor or product manager, that task is easier said than done.

Still, fear not – this fool-proof guide is filled with ideas on how business people and managers can discover product opportunities, regardless of their industry and product or service type. Let’s start from the beginning.

What are product opportunities?

Product opportunities are everywhere.

When a gap appears between what’s currently on the market and the potential for new or improved products (often resulting from emerging trends), therein lies a product opportunity.

Identifying valuable product opportunities is the driving force behind businesses that manufacture or sell products, provide services, and process information – and it’s a product manager or business owner’s job to scope these out.

Products are everywhere – but they are not just a random array of goods and services strewn without careful thought and planning. In-depth research, target audience familiarization, and market opportunity analysis back up the vast majority of products today, with the most successful of the bunch being those that tick all the right boxes in terms of what customers want and need.

What makes a successful product opportunity?

A product opportunity is deemed successful when it fills the Product Opportunity Gap (POG), meeting customers’ conscious and unconscious expectations. Only if it’s perceived as useable, useful, and desirable to the target audience does it receive “successful” product opportunity status.

Nobody asked for a smart fitness watch before Fitbit created its best-selling invention. Nobody asked for a convenient app-based taxi service and alternative to their local cab company before Uber came along and changed the game.  

The point is that many obvious product opportunities exist, usually based on obvious consumer wants and needs in any given market. However, many are not as transparent; target audiences are not even aware of certain wants and needs until that wonder product or service appears to fill the void – evoking the desired commercial response of “That’s exactly what I need!”

Though challenging, it’s an entrepreneurial and managerial responsibility to fathom what that void is and which dazzling new goodie can fill it.

How to find the best product opportunities.

Person holding a big trophy.

Successfully identifying a POG is an art as much as it is a science; whether a service provider, an e-commerce store, or anything else in between, mastering that cocktail is the key to discovering product opportunities that’ll meet customers’ known or unknown needs and, subsequently, see business boom.

With ample market research in tow to help drive product managers and business owners in the right direction, the following areas are among the best for finding winning product opportunities – opportunities that may just take a business to unforeseen new heights.

Look at Best Seller Lists

Online marketplaces, e-commerce stores, and bidding platforms typically feature a best-seller list of items customers have repeatedly bought. Even outlets selling digital products usually have a top-sellers list; for instance, sites such as Udemy.com showcase the most popular courses.

Regarding physical goods, more often than not, sites like eBay, Amazon, and various online shops within any given niche showcase a section of their top-selling products, which helps customers find goods that best fit what they are looking for.

These best-selling and “customers also purchased” sections are a treasure trove of ideas for new products to sell. After all, the featured items would not be best sellers if they did not fill the product opportunity gap and meet the target audience’s needs and expectations.

Yet, herein lies another bankable chance to one-up the competition; how can a best seller be even better? How can it meet customers’ desires on a greater level? Answer those questions, and the upgraded version of said product may be on your store’s best-seller list – not a rival’s.

Check Online Reviews

Business reviews are crucial in the modern day, with increasing numbers of consumers leaving testimonials for companies from which they’ve purchased goods and services.

Granted, reviews are intended for other customers to see; they tell potential buyers how good or bad the product or service (or brand) in question is and whether or not choosing said product, service, or company is worth it.

With 90% of customers reading reviews before making a purchase (88% of whom consider a review to be worth the same weight as a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family member), it’s safe to assume what consumers have to say bears value – especially in the eyes of prospective shoppers.

Related: Simplifying the market research process by using reviews

Although happy (and disgruntled) past buyers’ words are not just valuable to businesses and spend-ready customers, customer reviews are highly useful from a product manager’s and entrepreneur’s point of view, too. Why is that?

Well, reviews (both positive and negative) give product managers and business owners a vantage point over their rivals.

Essentially, customer testimonials offer fresh product ideas; if a consumer enjoyed their purchase and rated it highly, that’s a plus point for a prospective product idea – one that, as evidenced by glowing reviews, meets the wants and needs of the consumer.

In contrast, while any reviews on the unsatisfactory side may hurt the business that received them, it’s a plus factor and a window of opportunity for the competition – aka, the product manager or rival business owner seeking ways to wow the audience with shiny new – and better – goodies. How is that handy for product ideation?

It’s simple; taking on board what customers say they do not like tells store owners and managers what aspects to avoid, or, alternatively, how to make it better  – and generating sales over competitors when a superior version is released.

Where is the best place to check for customer reviews?

Woman holding magnifying glass to her eye.

Company Websites

Most businesses with an online presence will have a review section on their website – particularly if they sell via their site, in which case there will likely be a product star rating with customer reviews displayed somewhere on each product page.

Social Media

On the other hand, social media is another great place to sift through reviews. A company’s Facebook business page, for example, might have reviews and ratings enabled, allowing the public to give stars ranging from one to five, along with a short testimonial.

Online Business Directories

Alternatively, online business directories are ideal, with channels like Google Business Profile, Yelp, and TrustPilot remaining popular. Similar to other platforms, these directories also let people leave star ratings and reviews for companies, which are then shown to the world.

Specialist Software – Like GapScout

GapScout can help you find product opportunities from reviews.

Naturally, sieving through hundreds – no, thousands – of reviews across numerous platforms can be time-consuming and tedious.

However, specialist software like GapScout helps with this task, making it a significantly easier and more convenient job for entrepreneurs and product managers on the hunt for bright ideas for product opportunities.

In basic terms, GapScout is a nifty, simple-to-use application that effectively analyzes every review written about a business (and, handily, its competitors).

The program’s AI identifies common themes within the reviews checked and reveals the most profitable gaps in the market, enabling brands to gain a stronger advantage over the competition by meeting the exact needs of the target audience – easy peasy.

Scour Reddit Forums

Buzzing hives of eager consumers populate Reddit – and they’ve all got a ton to say about what they are buying (and have bought). Subreddits are excellent resources where product ideas proliferate. Thanks to many keen-eyed customers’ brutal but honest commentary of products and services in a wide range of niches.

With droves of positive and negative comments and insights from real customers, these forums are loaded with potential product gap discovery and product improvement ideas – so put on that dusty marketing cap and wade through them.

If one can think of a niche, there’s a subreddit for it – guaranteed. That goes for all manners of products and service providers, from services to physical and digital items. As such, entrepreneurs and product managers can take advantage of chatty Redditors and discover what they like and dislike about their purchases.

Redditors also talk about their personal and professional lives and how whatever they’ve bought fits in with that – which is golden info, as it helps business owners identify and develop goods and services that’ll improve their target audience’s lives (or, to be less dramatic, simply provide them with what they desire – but do it better).

Remember…

Finding new product opportunities is not easy, given today’s fast-paced society of quick-changing consumer trends and industry developments.

One day, that promising product is the best thing since the invention of sliced bread and ticks every single box the customer demands; the next, it’s last year’s news, with a newer, bigger, and better replacement dominating the market.

While that’s the harsh nature of sales, business owners and product managers need to ensure that said bigger, better replacement is theirs if they are to enjoy success.

Plus, their sales projection will look a darn sight more enlightening if they stumble upon game-changing product opportunities in their industry – goods or services that will stand the test of time and facilitate repeat custom.

By employing the tips in this guide, they stand a better chance of fulfilling that hard but very doable challenge – whatever their niche.

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