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Identifying Product Opportunities: The SET Factors

The identification of product opportunities should be the core force that drives companies that manufacture products, supply services, and process information. A product opportunity exists when there is a gap between what is currently on the market and the possibility for new or significantly improved products that result from emerging trends. A product that successfully fills a Product Opportunity Gap (POG) does so when it meets the conscious and unconscious expectations of consumers and is perceived as useful, usable, and desirable. No one asked for a SnakeLight before it came out, and no one in the auto industry expected the success of the Mazda Miata.

Successfully identifying a POG is a combination of art and science. It requires a constant sweep of a number of factors in three major areas: Social trends (S), Economic forces (E), and Technological advances (T). The Social factors focus on culture and social interaction. The Economic factors focus on excess income that people perceive they have, or that they expect to have to give them purchasing power. The Technology factors focus on direct and imagined impact from new scientific discoveries in corporate, military, and university research and the implied capabilities stemming from that research.

Changes in the SET Factors produce Product Opportunity Gaps (POGs). Once a POG is identified, the challenge becomes translating the POG into the development of a new product or the significant modification of an existing product. In both cases, these products are a hybrid combination of a new aesthetic and set of features stemming from the possibilities of new technology that match emerging shifts in consumer preference. An example of a product hybrid that successfully filled a gap is the Apple iMac. By integrating the monitor and CPU, and by using translucent plastic combined with a variety of bright candy colors, the iMac has become easier and more fun to use than other computers. Offices and homes look sharp with an iMac on the desk, setup is a breeze, and cable management issues have all but disappeared.

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