Friday, February 5, 2010

Thinking Outside The (Big) Box

Testing out different ways are important strategy that offers designers, business- minded men, innovators the opportunity to assume early and get the information needed to move forward more efficiently and hopefully effectively.

In the world of any consumer products, key assumptions that need to trial tested often fall in the domain of the consumer. Will this concept works with target consumers? Can we convince them to shift their consumer’s patterns? What can we expect for trial and repeat? What price is right and within market acceptable target?

The issue is key to volume and therefore is the ultimate goal for most new products. From a channel perspective, shelf space is scarce and expensive, marketing costs are high, lead times are long, the environment is demanding, and product types are rarely dictated at the individual level. From an internal perspective, getting the attention of the existing sales force amidst a more proven assortment can be difficult. And, from a competitive standpoint, an experimental offering in the traditional channel could tip a hat earlier than might be desired.

So experimentation requires thinking "outside the (big) box" in order to be most successful. The results of tests run in alternative channels can offer evidence to launch and can help refine the concept in advance. Further, in many cases, these channels can represent not only a venue for experimentation but also alternate form of distribution.

The bottom line? Don't focus on volume when running tests and trials. Rather, focus intently on speed, affordability, connecting directly with consumers and concept refinement.

Some possibilities for structuring early test trials in consumer products :

Give It a Spot identity

To fill their pantry and demonstrate their product loyalty at a fraction of the retail cost. But the company store can offer a lot more for innovators aiming to get an early read on a product.

Offering a new product internally can enable a good-enough approach across several dimensions. Shelf is less crowded and the competition is less intense but you're almost guaranteed a spot at the shelf, the price tag is cheap and the testing can happen very quickly.

Get into “Virtual” Launch

The Internet enables manufacturers to conduct small-scale launches and bypass the retail channel that do just that by setting up simple Web sites with order-taking and fulfillment capabilities.

To be sure, this is not the correct experiment to test uptake at the shelf or competitive positioning. Virtual launches could offer a lot of other advantages when testing assumptions around new concepts in terms of quick response and finding the reception of the consumers.

Secondly, such launches can create buzz as they can attract early adopters, bloggers, Twitter and Facebook users, and even the increasing numbers of mainstream press.

In contrast, on the other hand, the information gathered from other virtual launches may lead to the decision not to move forward, these exits are in many ways successes as the market experiments are conducted at a fraction of a cost compared to a true launch.

Reach for the TV Response

Television can offer a unique placement opportunity for manufacturers seeking input on product, pricing, trial/repeat, marketing, messaging and a host of other product dimensions. These channels are typically most applicable for more complex or new-to-market products benefiting from such a high-touch sales model.

Infomercials offer similar advantages to home shopping networks, with a twist. First, longer formats make them even more applicable for complicated sales models (i.e., devices, new platforms of products, new categories). Second, higher investment costs in the form of production make them more appropriate for later-stage tests versus a home shopping placement.

Sampling product service

Product testing services provide another alternative for testing consumer reactions to early product ideas. Sampling services often cater to early adopters seeking the newest products on the market. Other advantages of such services include being quick to launch, having built-in consumer bases and incorporating a feedback protocol.

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