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The online evolution of product testing

Published 16 Aug 2016 2 minute read

Product Testing

Over the years I’ve learnt that if there’s one constant in life and business, it’s change. Whilst it’s crucial to both for development and growth, change and innovation can also (unfortunately) be a very messy business – and it certainly doesn’t always live up to the glamour and hype surrounding it.

In today’s age of agile development and even faster failure, the design industry sees an increasingly large amount of concepts fail to even progress to market – and for those that do, the outlook can still be pretty bleak.

Do I need to say anything more than ‘Google Glass’ to give a shining example of a concept that somehow slipped the net along the way and failed to live up to both customer and business expectations…?

So what can businesses do to make the bumpy road to development and growth that little bit smoother? The answer is of course market research – and the more disruptive the change or proposed product launch, the more important it is to carry out thorough research beforehand to limit red faces and redder bank accounts after. In this cut-throat business world we live in, market research is something of a saviour, allowing businesses to explore early experiences and feedback to shape the concept and influence development as well as enabling them to support the said product with the appropriate sales messages and marketing. It might not eliminate risk entirely, but it definitely mitigates a lot of the obstacles and potholes on the path to innovation.

Consumers today are changing, though – and marketers are becoming increasingly savvy to the fact that they can no longer force products into the lives of these new consumers who are increasingly empowered by online information, networks and peers. And as millennials approach peak spending years, this trend is going nowhere fast. Unfortunately, possibly because of stringent concept and product testing guidelines, the market research industry has been slow to adapt to these changes. However the good news is that party because of necessity and partly because of the technologies available today, market researchers are finally catching up and starting to evolve. The result? More agile and conversational research which reduces product development lead times and a growing respect towards research participants themselves who are now considered co-creators of value rather than passive respondents.

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As a response to this new trend for agile new product development and the persistent desire for ‘faster, cheaper, better’, there has been a considerable rise in the number of researchers adopting online methods such as research communities with mixed methodologies involving multiple research phases to enhance product testing and research capabilities. This new structured approach to collaboration within online research communities offers lots of exciting potential for researchers to deliver fresh levels of insight whilst at the same time promoting levels of customer-centricity – the perfect combination for Generation Y.

Here at Further, we put this new approach to the test recently when working with LinkedIn to research and develop future online learning and development solutions. Supported by our research community platform and our lovey team, the project involved three separate phases of community activation and engagement: customer immersion, concept and product development and product refinement. As a result of the research techniques used, we were able to deliver a fresh new understanding of latent unfulfilled needs which inspired both the concept and product development. Far from replacing more traditional forms of qualitative research such as in-depth interviews and brainstorming workshops, we actually found that the research community supported elements of the research whilst also gaining feedback and insights across LinkedIn’s global network of employees, which in turn enabled them to co-own and shape the developments.

Our earlier US ‘milkshake’ example illustrated the dangers of deploying limited research fixated upon evaluating specific aspects of the product mix, in this case flavour (naive to the later discovered insight that milkshakes were largely being consumed as breakfast substitutes, enabling the company to tailor ingredients accordingly). Could this research oversight have been avoided by engaging customers in an online research community involving a customer immersion phase, to gather contextual feedback on consumption using online diaries and blogs, with hang-outs amongst selected individuals? Of course hindsight is a blessing but we will let you be the judge!

Do you want to learn more on the key benefits of online qualitative research? Why not download our Essential Guide to Online Qual for more information:

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