Product research is a large and very diversified group of consumer studies. Solutions applied within that group differ both in terms of the subject of research as well as used research methods. Yet, what they all have in common is providing support in taking business decisions concerning the offer design and development.
Why is it worth conducting product research?
Product research allows one to collect credible information concerning consumer preferences with regard to proposed offer. It makes it possible to get more familiar and better understand the needs of:
- decision-makers in the purchasing process,
- customers making purchases,
- end users.
This type of research constitutes a valuable source of information about the possibility of boosting the value of a specific product in the eyes of a particular customer group. Conclusions from such research often determine the success or failure of a given offer available on the market. They may result in the development of breakthrough ideas and the creation of innovative products.
Product research yields data that is essential for effective product management at each stage of the life-cycle. It plays a huge role at the stage of concept development and market launch – allowing one to minimize the risks associated with misguided ideas. Yet, that research is of significant importance also at the stage of sale decrease – at that point it may become an important source of inspiration on how to prolong the product’s life.
Product research areas
Below we present sample questions posed by companies in the course of offer design and development to which product research may provide answers:
- Is there a need for a new product on the market? If “yes”, what features should it possess, how can it stand out from the already available offer and who will be interested in it?
- Does a given product meet all key consumer expectations? If “not”, what could be changed to make it respond to recipients’ expectations more?
- How is the product utilized? Does it, for example, have functionalities that are not used? If “yes” then why and what can be done about it?
- What drives the purchase of a given product? What really makes a difference for people making purchasing decisions?
- Is the product considered attractive in comparison with other competitive and substitute products on the market? If “not”, in the development of which features one should invest?
- Are promotional actions (packaging, logo, visual elements, catchphrases, advertising campaigns) effective and well-perceived by recipients? If “not”, which from the considered ideas should be implemented?
One of the product research types is functionality testing. Just like all other types of consumer research, also this one plays a significant role in both, the B2C as well as B2B channel. Its value has been proven, among other things, by one of the projects conducted by PMR for a producer of medical equipment.
Creative sessions conducted together with medical personnel helped to obtain detailed information, e.g. with respect to the methods of using disposable equipment. Yet, what proved to be equally important was the fact that research participants together with a professional drawer prepared a draft of an ideal device that would fulfil all their needs. As a result, an ideal device could be introduced for sale in medical equipment stores.
What proves really helpful to managers at the stage of new product creation are concept tests, that is studies devoted to various ideas and designs considered by a given producer or distributor. Within that group of studies what may be subject to analysis are concepts for products, packaging, marketing communication (visual materials, texts) as well as advertising campaigns.
Concept testing yields detailed information concerning the needs of recipients. Yet, what should be borne in mind is that one should not stop after receiving superficial opinions but continue to get to the ones hidden in our subconscious. Thanks to that, time and effort will be later devoted exactly to those projects that are most likely to be successful on the market.
One of the examples of this type of research is a study conducted by PMR for a new diary product dedicated to lactose-intolerant consumers.
In the course of in-depth interviews PMR researchers identified taste, packaging and marketing concepts that were best suited to the preferences of customers. As a result, it was possible to introduce an offer that meets all key expectations of that narrow, yet demanding group of customers.
Product studies are most commonly conducted in the course of new offer preparation. Conclusions that can be drawn from them may be helpful in adjusting existing concepts. They also constitute basis for taking strategically important decisions concerning, for example, the offer structure, positioning of particular product versions in comparison with the competition as well as marketing and sales strategies.
This type of research is used more and more commonly by companies when they strive to modify a product that is already available on the market. What should be taken into account in this case are both, product features and their functionality as well as packaging, price and associated marketing activities. The overriding goal of such research projects is to determine how the current offer should be modified to adjust it to the changing expectations of customers. It is of utmost importance in case of end-of-life products for which sale drops are recorded.
One of the interesting projects conducted by PMR in the field of product research was a project dedicated to flooring systems.
Using the concept of online community as well as research tools that were specifically developed for the purposes of this project, the PMR team managed to discover even those needs and expectations of customers which initially seemed unidentifiable but in the end turned out to be hidden in the realm of the unconscious. Proper execution of the research has, therefore, led to gaining unique knowledge about consumers, which allowed one to build a competitive advantage.
One of the key aspects considered in the course of offer preparation is price. It has to cover the costs of production, logistics and distribution and also bring a desired return on investment. Yet, from the customer perspective the price must primarily be attractive and offer good value for benefits that a given product provides. Customers evaluate the purchase cost by taking into account a whole range of various factors – price as compared with competitors does not have to be the most important thing.
Price tests help entrepreneurs to take a number of significant decisions concerning pricing. They indicate how much customers are ready to pay for the offered product. They show how price elasticity of demand develops. They also facilitate price positioning of various versions of the same product. What is also important to remember is the fact that price tests do not always lead to price decreases.
In one of the research projects PMR team accompanied a company from the tourist industry in the process of a new offer launch. The biggest challenge preceding portfolio expansion was the assessment of price sensitivity of customers from various countries using various currencies.
Price tests made it possible to create a consistent pricing strategy that was adjusted to the specificity of each researched customer group. And this – in combination with the improvement of offer parameters as such – resulted in the development of a very favourable and interfering tourist offer for customers.