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The other night, my husband and I went for dinner at the pizza place down the road from our house. They have some great pizzas with a crispy, traditional crust. I especially enjoy their lunch special – a giant slice of three-topping pizza and a side salad for five bucks.
On our last visit, we decided to order a large pizza to ensure leftovers for the weekend. While we were waiting for the pie to bake, the owner brought a slice of pizza for us to try. He said he was testing a new combination of toppings – shrimp and jalapeno (it is Texas after all). Since I had only gone to the restaurant for dinner, I had not expected to have a first-hand lesson in market research mistakes.
Here are the three most common market research mistakes in new product development (NPD).
- Failure to plan a market test,
- Incomplete prototype, and
- Lack of customer feedback.
Failure to Plan Market Test
Planning for a market research test, whether it is a concept test or a product use test, should be significant. Each market research event should be planned and managed as an individual project as a part of the overall NPD program. Each new product development project will include several phases of work, such as opportunity identification, concept evaluation, and market research testing. Project management tools for planning, initiating, and monitoring the work will be deployed for each individual project phase within the overall NPD program.
It was clear that the pizza guy had not planned his concept test well. First, he was testing the pizza on a relatively quiet night. He would have access to more customers on a Friday or Saturday night. He also was testing non-regular customers, which may be okay. However, the market test plan should clearly identify whether the new product is designed to expand business with existing customers or to win new customers. We only go to this pizza place every couple of months and we are not representative of regular, repeat customers.
Next, the pizza was cold. If you’re trying to showcase a new product, you should present it in the best light possible. Serving cold pizza at the restaurant skewed my opinion immediately. If the pizza was only for take-out, I would expect a lukewarm pie when I got home, but in the pizza parlor, the slices should be hot. Unfortunately, this market testing mistake can influence the normal product experience as well.
Famously, Gillette tested the three-blade razor with an incomplete prototype. Focus group participants criticized the sloppy models and lack of aesthetics of the new razor. The lesson here is that concept tests and product use tests should utilize product prototypes near to the finish good or service that will eventually be commercialized.
Lack of Customer Feedback
Finally, the pizza guy never came back to our table or to any other table to check customers’ opinions of the shrimp and jalapeno pizza. The sauce was great but the shrimp was too subtle in my opinion, but the pizza parlor owner has no idea if my opinion is in the majority or minority. In fact, he doesn’t even know if I actually ate the pizza!
Market testing must include a method of feedback. Of course, this should be determined during the planning phase of the market test project, including whether the data will be qualitative (opinions and stories) or quantitative (statistically significant). With eight slices per pizza, even quantitative data could be gathered within a couple of weeks with little cost.
Many companies fails to plan for data collection during a market test. Some considerations for customer feedback are:
- Testing the product alone, or with others;
- Testing with supervision, or none;
- Gathering market test data; and
- Interpreting market test data.
Avoid Market Testing Mistakes
Market testing is a crucial piece of work to ensure a new product development effort is successful. Yet every market research investigation should include careful consideration to avoid three common errors. Be sure to carefully plan any customer tests, especially concept tests and product use tests. It is also important to test a prototype that is near to the final commercial product and is presented nicely. Finally, plans for the market research project must include a methodology for gathering customer responses. Without collecting impressions of potential consumers, the test is just a waste.
Market research is one of six key arenas to demonstrate mastery of new product development best practices. You can learn more about NPD and market testing in an NPDP certification workshop. Otherwise, please feel free to contact Global NP Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 281-280-8717 for more information on market research.
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