In a previous post, we discussed how conducting marketing research early in product development can help point you in the right direction by brainstorming new product concepts, identifying and optimizing your best ideas, and validating these ideas before investing in development. In this post, we are discussing another point during the product development process when research can provide valuable intelligence to help increase the likelihood of success: just before product launch.
Final Check of Product Features
As you prepare for product launch, it’s a great time to bring in actual, unbiased end-users to get reactions to features, usability, and overall design. At this point, it is important to identify any unforeseen drawbacks of the product, so that they can be corrected or mitigated in communication, packaging, or other elements of your marketing strategy. End-user reactions will also tell you which benefits are most important to emphasize in marketing communications.
To give consumers the opportunity to use the product in a “real-world” setting over time, consider in-home usage tests (IHUTs) or on-the-job testing for B2B products. It may be beneficial to incorporate a survey or diary (text or video) to record usage experiences, behaviors, and variations in usage scenarios.
Central location tests (CLTs) can also allow the consumer to use the product as if they were in their own environment, and for some product categories, may be a preferred methodology. For example, some products are more complicated and may require someone to demonstrate its features. Or the product may be too large or expensive to send home with consumers.
For one of our clients, the product being tested was a wood chipper, so The DRG conducted central location tests in a parking lot where the products could be demonstrated and used without disturbing nearby residents and businesses. While consumers weren’t able to use the product at their home, they still were able to test the product to understand what they liked or disliked about it. Several product improvement opportunities were identified to increase the likelihood of a successful product introduction.
Refine Your Marketing Strategy
Pre-launch marketing research can provide feedback on packaging, POS displays, advertising concepts, and other elements of your marketing mix. Research can be especially effective to make sure that your messaging and communications resonate with the target audience and also fit with your brand’s positioning and image. It can also serve as a predictor of measures like purchase intent. Through developing a better understanding of your target audience and potential product users, you can improve your marketing strategy, including where to distribute the product (online, in store, etc.) and how to price the product to optimize sales and profit.
Both quantitative and qualitative techniques can be effective. Surveys allow measurement of your target market, but qualitative might help you more in the earlier marketing planning stages, especially if you’ve done minimal research to date with prospective buyers. Or you can get the best of both worlds with a quant/qual hybrid.
In one pre-launch research project, The DRG asked consumers to use the product and then, participants were asked to complete a survey to rate their experience and provide more information about their usage and buying behavior relating to the product category. They also were asked to write a review of the product, similar to a post on Amazon or Yelp. By adding the review component, we gathered both quantitative and qualitative insights as well as real consumer reviews to post online before launch (with participants’ permission).
Test Product in Real World
A test market, or “soft launch,” among a select market/geography can be one of the most effective ways to assess the potential success of a new product. The key benefit of a soft launch is to gain actual sales data as well as primary research intelligence on topics such as:
- Effectiveness of communications
- Likelihood to buy or re-purchase
- Product perceptions
- Purchase experiences in the category
- Product usage
- Fit with the brand image
- Likelihood to recommend
- Competitive comparison and advantages
Having this type of information before a full launch gives you the ability to fine-tune all aspects of your new product and marketing strategy before committing to a large-scale product roll-out.
As you plan to launch your next new product, be sure to include marketing research in the process. You might uncover something valuable that will help you connect with and better appeal to your target audience. After all the hard work by you and your team, it’s worth pausing briefly to test your product with potential buyers, so you can fine-tune your product and optimize your marketing strategy for success.