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Does racking our brains for new products really help our coffee shop?

Foreword: We always hope to push out the old and bring in the new to catch the eyes of customers but have you ever considered that the definition of what constitutes a new product changed long ago and has quietly become a powerful “springboard” into other areas?

In one of our recent classes for café managers, we were discussing marketing strategies for new products. One student raised a question: how many genuine new products can be created now?

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Everyone fell silent.

I quickly recalled the voice of a friend who two years ago remarked: I’ve already racked my brain but just can’t think of any new products to create. Coffee is still coffee, syrup is still syrup, “pearls” are just a different texture, cream quality is all about the same…

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How many things are there today that are really considered “new?”



The new definition of a “new product”

Looking at ingredients, new products in a café are simply the “permutations and combinations” of raw materials. Promoting new products each quarter has become a headache for product developers. 

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Traditional thinking has allowed those in the coffee industry to focus only on the materials themselves while overlooking a fact: why do we promote new products?

We always hope to push out the old and bring in the new to catch the eyes of customers but have you ever thought that from the vantage point of raw materials it is becoming increasingly difficult to “create” new products?

Anything anyone is capable of thinking up has already been done in the long river of humankind’s history.

Is there no way around this?

When one method of thinking isn’t getting us anywhere we must attempt another: the definition of “new product” changed long ago and has quietly become a powerful “springboard” into other areas.




The shared assistance of products, promotions, and outlets

Let’s take a look together at Starbucks’ Christmas season.

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Starbucks launches new Christmas products at the end of every year. The public is already familiar with this and it seems as though that time of year everyone is looking forward to the emergence of something new.

At the same time, as soon as their new Christmas products come out, industry insiders always begin to ridicule that they are virtually indistinguishable from past years’ products: coffee, milk, cream, different syrups and decorations... but just because they can be ridiculed does not prevent Starbucks from making a large profit. 

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Occasionally it takes this author to visit Starbucks and see their warm decorations to realize just how near Christmas is and in a flash, she’s wondering whether or not she ought to order a voluminous but warm and sweet cup of Christmas coffee.

This is a marker that the holidays have arrived and we are all participants in it.

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How does this work?


The reason for the success of Starbucks’ new Christmas products is at least comprised of the following points:


  1. They are clear about the positioning of the new product line within the whole café as well as understand how to take advantage of the angles and how hard to try to create something “new”;

  2. The repetition of the annual theme year after year and the creation of similar “new Christmas products” actually enforces mass consumption habits among consumers;

  3. New products are popular and aesthetically pleasing, utilizing not only raw materials to make a visually attractive product but also the packaging and promotion of visual effects;

  4. At every storefront in all areas and with the utmost energy they market their new products simply and clearly allowing them to appear prominent. 



New products serve the market and brand positioning is particularly important: should we focus on product development or commercial promotion? 

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For example, one of our students is from Shanghai. Her café is well-positioned to bring the best coffees from all over the world into your home. Thus it is imperative that she stock her shelves with the best-tasting and most-exquisite boutique coffees.


When stocking the shelves, she will certainly tell her customers about the differences between the new products and let everyone experience them personally.

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New products are no longer just products. They function as new vehicles for marketing promotion.


Product departments must collaborate with other departments and instead of focusing on raw materials in the traditional sense, they need to become a bloodhound becoming adept at sniffing out market trends. The transformation of things lies not in their numerical rise and fall but rather in their refinement and details.



How to create something “new”?


At this point in the discussion there may be some who have already begun drawing up plans for stocking their shelves with new products.


For the time being we will not go into details regarding methods and intensity of promotion but we have organized a few areas below in need of attention to share with you:


They must be attractive

No matter how high the quality of used raw materials, if they do not possess visual attraction then in the end, one will be inwardly dejected and forced to sell at massive discount.

Methods for enhancing visual attraction include color pairing, utensil choice and packaging, diversified use of multiple elements (for example, some coffeehouses use dry ice as a stimulating element to catch the eye) etc.

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After enticing customers with attractive products, if the drink they consume is high-quality, then it will likely complete their “WOW” experience and they will be more than happy to share it with their friends. 



Strong Customer Operability and Satisfaction

Our customers hope that they can interact with both café and baristas. Though some are shy, if they come into contact with new products containing some drink prep which forms a bridge of communication between them and others.

For example, at Torch, the coffee and milk in an iced latte must be mixed by customers.

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At the same time, in order to ensure the concentration of coffee in the drink, we have specially designed and added a “coffee puck”. It rolls to and fro in its glass cup, colliding into the walls and bringing a little fun to customers on scorching hot summer days.

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In the coffee industry, iced lattes certainly are not considered new products but if they have strong operability, they can nonetheless be quite novel.




Repetition of key tasks

Customer habits are becoming increasingly important in the marketing process. This is actually not so difficult to tap into. Simply do important things with regularity.

For example, at Torch, a professional coffee competition is held on the last week of every month.

The time and nature of the event’s content are both fixed and do not change.

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And the result? At the end of the month, people actively inquire as to entering the competition and they are not limited to just industry professionals but also amateur enthusiasts.

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Of course, we take every event seriously otherwise customers would not come back.

If you can expose customers at regular intervals to these kinds of events and new products then they will begin looking forward to being delightfully surprised.

That’s over half the victory!



We’ve shared so much! Do you have any ideas you want to discuss regarding the “new” in “new products”?

Let’s discuss them together!