Doing more with less.
That is the quick summary of ESOMAR’s 2021 report on what characterizes the life of consumer insight professionals right now (Esomar), so if you feel overwhelmed with demand, find comfort in knowing that you are not the only market research professional balancing cuts in budgets, shortage of resources and the need for ever-more consumer insights.
At the same time consumer trends are popping up and out at a historically high rate.
Working with FMCG clients through many years, I’ve observed the accelerating pressure to optimize and innovate products faster. Meanwhile, 95% product launches fail (Harvard Business School), often because there was not sufficient market research and concept testing at the right times ahead of the launch to establish what job a product or service will do for the consumer.
Not that there is a lack of data: companies spend $73.4 billion on market research every year (Statista).
So obviously the problem must be in what data is generated and at what point in the process.
Thus, improving the innovation process to ultimately launch commercially viable products and services centers around optimizing the resources spent, both in terms of budget and manpower as well as making sure the consumer insights actually become activated in developing the right concepts at the right time.
This blog post is about getting the necessary insights at the right time to get the best foundation for a successful product launch or relaunch.
When you finish reading this, I have walked you through an approach to your innovation process to tackle the most common challenges we meet among our FMCG clients, including:
Consumer insights are indispensable in a consumer-centric product innovation process: if you want to reduce the amount of money you spend on launching products and campaigns that fail, you need to test and assess with consumers along the way.
What most often fail is the early-stage insights that you need to determine whether or not a concept is actually worth investing further development resources into.
In the illustration below I have marked the insights steps that need prioritization to optimize the resources spent in the rest of the product innovation cycle.
There are two tests that can show what product ideas to invest in and which to discard. By ensuring early involvement of consumers you can focus on the concepts likely to perform well in your consumer segments.
A concept qualification is done when the first concept ideas have materialized in an innovation process.
Typically, these concepts are developed with input from a market assessment that may stem from a consumer segmentation, market profiling, or a customer journey analysis. At this stage the concepts only exist as a short concept description with a simple visual mockup.
The concept qualification is used to speed up the innovation process by, on an early stage, point focus on those few concept ideas that resonate with the audience before you invest too much in developing inferior concepts.
The key insights from a concept qualification should include
The next step is to dig deeper on the concepts that survived the concept qualification. This is done in a concept test.
With a concept test the surviving ideas from the concept qualifications have been further developed and are now tested on a range of KPIs.
The point is to identify the concept's strengths and weaknesses across these KPIs such as likability, purchase intent, differentiation and brand coherence and ultimately decide whether the concept is good enough to continue into product development.
Whether you are looking to test a single concept through monadic testing or multiple concepts through sequential monadic testing, you will be able to identify the most suitable concept for the given audience and identify weaknesses and strongholds.
Key insights from a concept test should include
Doing more research might seem counterintuitive when one of the things I promised you in the beginning was a way to move faster from idea to market.
However, you want two achieve both a shorter time-to-market and a higher success rate in new products launched, right? After all, shit arriving at the speed of light, is still shit.
By implementing concept qualification and concept testing early in the innovation process, you are setting yourself up for the “getting it right” part, so now we are moving on to the “getting it fast” part.
The trick here is to standardize and streamline the process.
We helped Nestlé’s Global Ice Cream R&D Unit speed up their time-to-market by setting up a concept test framework that could be used continuously.
For this, we developed a simple and efficient questionnaire matching their product and market that standardized the different parts of the concept test. The setup allowed flexibility with regards to the number of concepts tested from time to time, but drastically reduced the time spent on questionnaire development and data analysis where a standardized report was set up that automatically updates with incoming data in real-time.
You can study the full case here.