Return on Product Innovation: Measuring your Innovation Pipeline

Innovation is a critical growth driver for most industries, but more so for industries that are mature. Growth industries are less reliant on an ongoing pipeline of innovations because the full potential of the existing portfolio hasn’t been maximized yet, penetration can be further increased and new markets can be expanded into, where success with existing products can be replicated. Products and brands in mature industries on the other hand are characterized by a lack of differentiation outside of price- barriers to entry are low, which increases the number of market players, pushing marginal profits down. In such an environment, innovation provides a strong differentiating factor, allowing a brand to lower dependency on price as a competitive lever.
So if you are responsible for the strategic planning for your firm and not in an early stage industry, you need to be thinking about your innovation pipeline and it’s not enough to say you have a department for innovation- in most industries only 1 in 10 innovations succeed. So you not only need to have a team in place that has a network reach both inside and outside the organization that allows ideas to funnel up, but you need to also have the right metrics in place to evaluate the performance of your innovation strategy vis-à-vis your industry. A study by McKinsey (McKinsey Global Survey Results: Assessing innovation metrics, October 2008) suggests that a large percentage of executives even at companies that actively pursue innovation don’t formally assess innovations at all.
One way to evaluate innovations is using Return on Product Innovation (ROPI) measured through in-market tests (in-market tests are also risky because your competitors can copy it and bring to market faster than you, stealing your thunder). For ‘breakthrough’ innovations that you are planning to take straight to the market without first testing, ROPI can be estimated as ‘one-year out ROPI’, ‘two-year out ROPI’ and so on. At the end of year 1, forecasts can be used to estimate breakeven time for ROPI to turn positive and marketing ROI can be used to evaluate opportunity to optimize marketing strategy to improve ROPI.

ROPI={[Dollar Sales-Cannibalized Sales]/ [Fixed Cost + (Variable Cost*Units Sold)]-1}*100

Fixed costs can include development or other one-time costs related to production, variable costs are usually ongoing production, marketing and distribution costs. You need to deduct cannibalized sales, because these are sales you would have gotten even without the innovation. This equation can be modified for any custom inputs particular to your industry or the nature of innovation. For instance, if estimating ROPI for an in-market test then using the full fixed cost for development is not fair and should be factored down based on the ratio of size of market tested vs. the total market-size.

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