How to Prototype a High End Product

You have an idea and want to get feedback from customers regarding desirability. Do they want it? Do they want all the features that you’ve decided to include in your product? Which features do they value the most? What is their willingness to pay for such value? Those are all questions that are answered with a prototype.

Prototyping is the activity of testing an assumption with the intent of learning.

Literature advises you to prototype fast and cheap. Be scrappy and have a prototype that is just good enough to get quality feedback from your customers. But what if you are prototyping for a high-end product? What if your selling point is the materials you’re using? The craftsmanship? The premium buying experience?

Understand which aspect of the product you’re prototyping for

The success of your product in the market depends on three aspects: desirability, viability and feasibility. They answer the following questions:

  • Desirability: should you build it?
  • Viability: is it worth building?
  • Feasibility: can you build it?

The questions we have outlined in the beginning of this post (do they want all the features in the product, which features do they value most, what is their willingness to pay for such value) all answer questions regarding desirability. Contrary to what you might believe, prototyping for those desirability-related questions doesn’t necessarily require you to build the actual product – and that is how you can prototype your high-end offering.

Let’s take an example

Let’s say you were designing a $7,000 sofa, and it’s time to test desirability through prototyping. It’s not possible to convey the premium details, materials and craftsmanship by manufacturing a sample of the sofa itself (that will be an expensive way to prototype). Instead what you can do is compile a brochure – either online as a web page or as a physical, printable brochure. You can convey the high-end features of the product through graphics, text and 3D renderings. Sample elements in the brochure could include the following:

This is certainly a much cheaper (and quite possibly quicker) way to prototype your $7,000 sofa (or any other high-end offering you have in mind). This would also work for service-related propositions. For example, let’s say you were testing a premium spa in a geographic location where there aren’t any. You’re not sure if the market is big enough or if there is a need for such a service. You can fire up a website where people can sign up for announcements and get notified when the service becomes available. On the same page, you would explain the value proposition (state of the art facility and world class staff) through text and pictures. Get creative with your prototypes. Free your mind from the belief that it is difficult to prototype a high-end product. Utilize digital platforms (an Instagram campaign possibly?) Get out and talk to potential customers, armed with your brochure in hand. Make sure you also have discussions regarding their willingness to pay. Do they value your product? What feature would they add? What feature would they remove? And most importantly, why?

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