Ever wondered how come some products launch into the market and instantly become an overnight hit with consumers?  You may be forgiven for thinking that the Product Developer threw serious cash into a massive advertising campaign to promote consumer awareness the product. But that alone does not make a product fly off the shelves.  There is the old Swahili saying that goes: “A good product sells itself”…

What makes a product good in a consumer’s eyes? It’s a product that took time to study how its consumers would likely respond to it, or best understood consumer tastes, preferences and usage habits and then packaged these unique insights into the product offering.  Consumers can hardly resist such products simply because they are literally made with them in mind.

Market research can help you predict how your customers are likely to react to your new product. “Will they like it, will they hate it? What specifically will they like about it, what will put them off about the product? What challenges will they have in using the product etc”……These are all questions that can be anticipated and answered by product testing.

Product testing is one of the services offered by market research companies using different methods such as In-home usage tests (IHUTS) and Central Location Usage Tests (CLTs). IHUTS are basically conducted in a research participant’s home and are most preferred when the consumer’s interaction with a product may need to be measured over a period of time in an environment that is natural to its use. For example, product testing for a new hair shampoo product would best be conducted in an IHUT.

Central Location Usage Tests, CLTs involve consumers testing products in a central location that is ideally neutral to the product. The environment where the CLT is conducted is controlled and standardized to ensure all factors are constant to eliminate any form of bias and results reflect individual respondent responses.

As experts in CLTs, one of the ways we ensure clients achieve best outcomes from product testing is by proper planning and preparation of the venue where CLTS are to take place. It is important to ensure that participants experience a product in a uniform environment free from any bias, especially in the case of sensitive sensory experiences such as color, taste and smell tests.

Conducting a CLT. Room was specially adapted to optimize respondent answers.

One of the ways optimal control of CLT environments can be achieved is by controlling the flow of natural light and regulating temperature within a room. Light control can be achieved by darkening or covering windows to block out daylight or using a window-less room or hall. In place of natural or ambient light that can affect the perceived brightness of a room at different points; each participant’s testing station is fitted with a bright daylight bulb table lamp against a sterile dressed table top. This ensures participant observations are standardized, unbiased and unaffected by any distraction in the natural environment in which they are testing product properties such as color.

For taste tests, respondents are given salt free/sugar free crackers and plain bottle filtered water to cleanse and rinse mouths in between sampling different tastes. This ensures that sensitivity and taste differentiation abilities in respondents are optimized throughout the process.

Scent tests for products can be quite challenging for respondents so screening and recruiting will need to be extra thorough to ensure there are no participants who are adversely affected by allergens or smells that trigger medical conditions such as rhinitis or asthma. Having ruled out these eventualities, the ability to make distinction to different scents may be hard to achieve after smelling different product smells for a couple of rounds. Nasal cleansing can be achieved by having participants inhale raw coffee grounds to reset one’s sense of smell.

From these processes, clients gain unique insights into what their consumer preferences for different product tastes, scents, smells, textures and usage. With these insights, product developers can easily predict which properties or combinations in a product will most likely be a hit with consumers based on the quantitative and qualitative data collected. So the next time you try out a new mint and cherry flavored mouthwash that’s extremely popular please spare a moment to appreciate the science that went into developing the correct flavor profile that made it a best-seller.

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