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What is product innovation?

At a glance

  • Product innovation is the act of developing new products, services or features that help solve a preexisting issue or prove to be attractive or helpful to customers.
  •  There are a variety of ways to innovate, from simple market expansion or iterative development to disruptive innovation and the development of new technologies.
  •  Potential benefits of product innovation include enhanced brand recognition, improved customer loyalty and retention, and market expansion and diversification.
  • Learn the foundations of marketing and business with an online degree program at University of Phoenix!


Product innovation refers to when a company develops and introduces new products, services or features to the market, such as when a car company releases a new model with a fresh design and updated features.

The process hinges on creating something novel and differentiated — something that addresses customers’ needs or solves their problems in a better or novel way than what’s available.

Product innovation ranges from incremental improvements to radical breakthroughs. It encompasses multiple aspects of business, from technology to design to packaging to pricing.

Considering its scope, it’s no surprise that product innovation can offer numerous benefits to companies, including:

  • Competitive advantage
  • Increased market share
  • Revenue growth
  • Customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • The ability to attract top talent and partnerships

Here, we sit down with Joseph Aranyosi, an associate dean of the College of Business and Information Technology at University of Phoenix, to learn more about product innovation and how to implement innovative practices into your business model. 


Learn in-demand business skills with a Bachelor of Science in Business. 

Headshot of Joseph Aranyosi

Joseph Aranyosi
Associate Dean,  College of Business and Information Technology 

Types of product innovation

Product innovation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are a variety of ways to innovate in business, such as the development of disruptive, new products, smaller feature updates or expanded market opportunities for existing products.

“Remember that innovation is not always about being unique or first to market — it’s about adapting to opportunities that arise. For example, small savings in resource costs or updates to supply chain workflows can result in larger revenue margins over time.” – Joseph Aranyosi, Associate Dean, College of Business and Information Technology, University of Phoenix

Product development process

The product innovation process involves a series of steps aimed at developing and introducing new or improved products to the market. A product design and development course can help business owners jump start their creativity when it comes to product development.

While the specific process can vary depending on your industry and company, here’s what’s usually involved:

  • Idea generation
  • Opportunity identification
  • Concept development
  • Feasibility assessment
  • Design and development
  • Testing and validation
  • Manufacturing and production
  • Launch and marketing
  • Monitoring and improvement

Disruptive innovation

Disruptive innovation can create new markets or disrupt existing ones by introducing novel solutions that offer significant advantages over established ones. Most of the time, disruptive innovations check the following boxes when they’re brought to market:

  • Address unmet needs
  • Lower the barriers to entry
  • Offer unconventional value propositions
  • Redefine performance metrics
  • Disrupt existing business models
  • Make iterative improvements and adoptions
  • Shift customer preferences
  • Overcome industry inertia 

An example of disruptive innovation in marketing is the rise of influencer marketing. Influencer marketing has disrupted traditional advertising and marketing practices by leveraging the popularity and credibility of individuals on social media platforms to promote products or services.

In the past, businesses primarily relied on TV, radio, print and digital ads. However, influencer marketing has transformed this landscape by introducing a more direct way to connect with consumers.

Disruptive innovation improves upon existing markets and business models whereas radical innovation creates entirely new markets or value networks.

Radical innovation

Radical innovation is characterized by its transformative nature, disruptive impact and ability to reshape industries. Often, this means introducing entirely new technologies, products or business models to the market. Radical innovations might have the following qualities:

  1. Disruptive technology:
    • Example: The introduction of smartphones revolutionized marketing. Marketers had to adapt to new platforms and opportunities, such as mobile apps, location-based advertising and responsive website design.
  2. Transformational impact:
    • Example: Social media platforms transformed the way companies interact with consumers. Businesses shifted from traditional advertising to content marketing and influencer partnerships to engage with their audience.
  3. Paradigm shift:
    • Example: The rise of content streaming services disrupted the traditional TV advertising model. Companies had to rethink their ad strategies and allocate budgets to digital streaming platforms.
  4. Market creation:
    • Example: A popular rental application created a new market for short-term lodging rentals. The company introduced a platform on which homeowners could monetize their houses, apartments or spare rooms, changing the way people think about travel accommodations.
  5. Competitive advantage:
    • Example: A popular electric vehicle technology has a significant competitive advantage because the marketing focused on sustainability and cutting-edge technology, setting the company apart in the automotive industry.
  6. Risk and uncertainty:
    • Example: Cryptocurrency marketing faces significant risk and uncertainty due to market volatility and regulatory changes. Companies in this space must continually adapt their strategies.
  7. Long-term vision:
    • Example: A particular search-engine company had a long-term vision for self-driving cars. Although the technology was radical and faced numerous obstacles, the company believed in the potential and invested in marketing and development.
  8. Ecosystem collaboration:
    • Example: A popular smartphone application store is an example of ecosystem collaboration. Developers, marketers and the overall company work together to create a thriving marketplace for mobile apps, benefiting all stakeholders.
  9. User-centric design:
    • Example: A popular e-commerce online retailer recommendation system is built on user-centric design. By analyzing user behavior and preferences, the company tailors product recommendations, thus improving the user experience and boosting sales.

These examples illustrate how radical innovation in marketing can lead to significant changes, opportunities, and challenges in the business world.

Incremental innovation 

Incremental innovation refers to making small, gradual improvements or modifications to an existing product, service or process rather than introducing radical changes. Some key features of incremental innovation are:

  1. Continuous improvement:
    • Example: An automobile manufacturer regularly makes incremental improvements to its existing car models, such as enhancing fuel efficiency, safety features and infotainment systems, to maintain competitiveness in the market.
  2. Evolutionary nature:
    • Example: Smartphone manufacturers release new iterations of their products every year with slightly improved features, like better cameras, faster processors and longer battery life, reflecting the evolutionary nature of incremental innovation.
  3. Risk mitigation:
    • Example: When a pharmaceutical company modifies an existing drug to reduce side effects or improve efficacy, it reduces the risk associated with developing an entirely new drug, thus mitigating potential financial and regulatory risks.
  4. Customer-driven improvements:
    • Example: Social media platforms continuously gather user feedback to make changes to their interface, functionality and algorithms to enhance the user experience and meet customer demands.
  5. Cost effectiveness:
    • Example: A manufacturing company implements process improvements that reduce production costs while maintaining product quality, allowing the company to offer competitive prices and improve profitability.
  6. Risk diversification:
    • Example: A diversified investment portfolio that includes a mix of low- and high-risk assets can be seen as an incremental innovation in risk management, reducing the impact of market volatility.
  7. Market stability:
    • Example: The food industry introduces new flavors and variants of existing products to cater to changing consumer tastes while maintaining market stability. For instance, a cereal company launches new flavors of an established cereal brand.
  8. Quick time to market:
    • Example: A software company releases regular updates to its applications, addressing bug fixes and adding new features based on user feedback, allowing it to quickly respond to market needs.
  9. Cumulative impact:
    • Example: Over time, a chain of coffee shops may improve its menu offerings, store layout and customer service based on feedback. These cumulative changes can lead to increased customer loyalty and higher sales.

These examples demonstrate how incremental innovation involves making steady, small-scale improvements to existing products, processes and services, providing benefits such as risk reduction, cost effectiveness and stability in the market.

Platform innovation

Platform innovation refers to the development of new technologies, systems or frameworks that enable applications, services or products to be built on top of a common foundation, creating a scalable ecosystem and facilitating interactions and exchanges between different stakeholders, often leading to new business models and opportunities. Here are some benefits of platform innovation:

  • Expansion of customers
  • Shared ecosystem development
  • Innovation acceleration
  • Scalability and efficiency
  • Collaboration and co-creation
  • Monetization opportunities
  • Future-proofing and adaptability

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Process innovation

Process innovation refers to changing production technology or methods for improved outcomes. This usually benefits the people involved in the process or the end users of the product or service, or both! Here are some ways in which process innovation can create efficiencies within a business:

  • Automation and technology integration
  • Standardization and simplification
  • Improved resource allocation
  • Lean and agile practices
  • Streamlined communication and collaboration
  • Continuous improvement culture
  • Data-driven decision-making
  • Enhanced customer experience
  • Cost reduction

Social innovation

Social innovation is the development and implementation of new ideas, strategies and solutions that address social and environmental challenges. It usually involves finding novel approaches to tackle complex problems and create positive social impact. Unlike traditional approaches, social innovation considers the broader societal and environmental implications of solutions.

This type of innovation can improve society or the environment by:

  • Addressing unmet needs
  • Empowering communities
  • Creating sustainable models
  • Catalyzing systems change
  • Leveraging technology and digital solutions
  • Collaborating and creating cross-sector partnerships
  • Influencing policy
  • Raising awareness and changing mindsets

Marketing innovation

Marketing innovation is the development and implementation of novel marketing strategies, tactics and approaches that lead to improved customer engagement, brand awareness and, ultimately, increased sales.

By differentiating themselves from competitors, businesses can stand out and attract the attention of their target audience. Then, they can enhance customer engagement and create memorable brand experiences.

From there, it’s about market expansion and discovery of new markets or opportunities, market dominance or partnerships. Through innovative market research, segmentation and targeting, businesses can identify untapped customer bases or new geographical markets.

Marketing innovation also plays a critical role in launching new products or promoting existing ones. From guerrilla marketing to social media contests or interactive product demonstrations, there are many ways businesses can generate buzz about their products or services.

Marketing innovation leverages data and analytics to gain insights into customer behavior, preferences and purchasing patterns. This empowers organizations to optimize marketing campaigns, target specific customer segments and personalize marketing messages.

Challenges of product innovation

As with any strategy, product innovation comes with drawbacks. Here are a few examples:

  • High development and implementation costs
  • Time and resource constraints
  • Uncertain market acceptance
  • Disruption to existing products or services
  • Intellectual property challenges
  • Competitive response and market dynamics
  • Customer education and adoption challenges

By conducting thorough cost-benefit analyses, risk assessments and market evaluations, businesses can make informed decisions and mitigate potential challenges associated with product innovation.

Despite potential challenges, the ultimate goal is for the reward to outweigh the risk. A variety of benefits can come from taking a chance on innovative product development.

Benefits of product innovation

Product innovation can contribute to a business’s overall success in several ways. These include:

  • Competitive advantage
  • Increased market share
  • Enhanced brand recognition
  • Improved customer loyalty and retention
  • Premium pricing opportunities
  • Market expansion and diversification
  • Positive public perception and reputation

By consistently offering new products, businesses may continue to attract additional customers while retaining existing ones. 

Strategies for successful product innovation

Best practices for product innovation involve a systematic approach to maximize the chances of success. Don’t forget to:

  • Set clear goals and objectives
  • Conduct market research and identify trends
  • Foster a culture of innovation
  • Evaluate existing products and processes
  • Foster cross-functional collaboration and delegate tasks as needed
  • Prototype and test a new product
  • Implement agile project management

“Successful innovation is about questioning inherent assumptions and listening to feedback from a variety of constituencies,” says Aranyosi. “What issues frustrate our customers? Is there something we can do about that? What else could we be doing better? Oftentimes, a simple fix can go a long way toward improving product performance or building customer loyalty.”

Education for innovation

A bachelor’s degree in business can provide individuals with a solid foundation in business functions, including marketing, finance, operations and strategy. Courses in innovation management, marketing strategy, market research and entrepreneurship can specifically contribute to a better understanding of product innovation principles and practices.

Research and data analysis skills can be learned in programs such as a Bachelor of Science in Business. Through research courses, you will learn how to evaluate data for validity, reliability, patterns and trends. And with data analysis courses, you’ll learn how to present quantitative and qualitative data in a way that drives strategy, decisions and, yes, innovation breakthroughs.

By following these best practices, individuals and businesses can navigate the complexities of product innovation more effectively and potentially increase their chances of developing successful and impactful innovations.

Earn a business degree from University of Phoenix

If learning more about product innovation and marketing interests you, consider learning the fundamentals of business. Explore opportunities through earning an online Bachelor of Science in Business. This degree offers courses in marketing strategies, market research, consumer behavior and more.

University of Phoenix offers a variety of additional degree programs and certificates for those looking to enhance their business knowledge. They include:

  • Marketing Certificate — In this program, you’ll learn about consumer behavior, marketing strategies, market research, marketing psychology, brand awareness and more.
  • Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship Certificate — In this program, you’ll cover topics such as business opportunity evaluation, market analysis, business analysis, business development and more.
  • Associate of Arts with a concentration in Business Fundamentals From management to accounting, skills learned in this program are essential for anyone looking to build an educational foundation in business. 
  • Master of Business Administration Prepare for higher leadership roles! This degree program lays the foundation for careers in business management, operations and more.
  • Master of Management Take your understanding of business organization and management to an advanced level. This degree program is perfect for those with experience in the workforce who are looking to take on greater leadership roles. 
  • Doctor of Business Administration Expand your understanding of organizations, work environments and industry. This program invites participants to delve into cutting-edge research in the field of business and develop skills for solving complex organizational problems. 
Headshot of Michael Feder


A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.


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