Product Optimization (or Product Testing)
Product testing is, perhaps, the single most important type of research any company ever conducts.Achieving clear-cut product superiority in a category is the surest way to build brand share, engender customer loyalty, and boost profitability. Better products tend to command higher prices and be more responsive to advertising investments.
Product Testing Applications
- Achieve product superiority over competitive products.
- Monitor the potential threats posed by competitive products.
- Reduce cost of product formulations and/or processing methods.
- Measure the effects of aging on products (shelf-life studies).
- Monitor product quality from different factories.
- Predict consumer acceptance of new products.
- Determine the optimal set of ingredients or features, given a price point or profit goal.
A Moving Target
The consumer’s palate is a moving target. Consumers' tastes evolve over time. Fashion and style trends affect every industry (clothing, shoes, automobiles, foods, lawnmowers, washing machines, jet engines, etc.), even though the rate of change varies greatly by industry. Competitive actions can redefine a product category in a matter of months. That’s why product testing and optimization must be viewed as a strategic, ongoing activity. The human race’s preferences and proclivities are a moving target.
The Testing Environment
“Real environment” testing (i.e., testing a product the way it is typically used) is almost always the most accurate method of product evaluation. For example, having consumers evaluate food products in their homes rather than in a laboratory or test kitchen is usually recommended.
Products should be tested using a standardized system so that each product is tested in exactly the same way. Decision Analyst designs and operates product testing systems customized to the products, goals, and needs of each client. A “systems” approach is essential so that every product is tested in precisely the same way. Normative data can then be accumulated to aid in the interpretation of subsequent product tests.
For in-home usage testing, Decision Analyst developed Optima®, a standardized monadic system. Each product is tested in exactly the same way, and this allows results to be compared across tests and over time.
Product testing methods vary by product category. For consumer packaged goods, in-home usage testing is typically the recommended method. For durable goods, however, product clinics are generally the preferred method. For services, some type of customer satisfaction tracking or mystery shopping is recommended. Regardless of product category, the following principles generally apply.
If you conduct hundreds of product tests per year, then it may make sense to consider building a private product testing panel consisting of category users and your customers. We have the staff, software, and systems to build and operate online panels to support product testing, sensory research, and in-home usage testing.
Decision Analyst designs and implements comprehensive testing systems based on package invitations. The purpose of on-package or in-package testing systems is typically quality assurance or quality control. Every nth package invites consumers to answer the basic question, “How good is this product?” Respondents log in to a website and rate the product. This provides an economical way to monitor the quality of products over time and monitor the quality of products from different factories. It’s also a viable method of product testing when large numbers of different products must be tested on an ongoing basis (e.g., private-label products).
Product Clinics (Durable Goods)
For durable goods, central-location product clinics are an important technique. Automobiles, washing machines, and refrigerators are examples of products that lend themselves to clinics. In a product clinic, the test product (say, a new car) is placed in a central-location facility along with major competitive automobiles. Potential buyers of that type of new car are recruited to view, examine, and evaluate all of the cars on display. Decision Analyst is adept at planning and executing complex product clinics.
Nonfood Product Testing
The concepts, methods, and techniques of product testing can be adapted and applied to almost any product category. Our staff has evaluated:
- Airliner seats
- Cellular phones
- Educational toys
- Electronic games
- Film & film processing
- Foodservice products
- Frying pans
- Game prototypes
- Gaming devices
- Glass windows
- Hotel rooms
- Microwave ovens
- Personal computers
- Restaurant entrees & side dishes
- Restaurant exteriors & interiors
- Retail store layouts
- Washing machines
Services can be improved through product testing. Services are nebulous and vaporous compared to physical products. Services can be evaluated by various types of customer satisfaction research or mystery shopping. Decision Analyst designs and operates research systems to monitor and improve the quality of services in service industries.
Product Optimization Services
Decision Analyst is a recognized leader in consumer product testing and optimization. Its staff has evaluated more than 1,000 foods, beverages, and other products during the past four decades. The firm has many staff members with extensive experience in the conduct and analysis of product testing and optimization studies. The company is a leader in the development of analytical techniques to enhance product testing and optimization.
If you would like more information on product testing, please contact Jerry W. Thomas, President/CEO, by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.