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Going to the Source: Consumer Testing Groups

By: Alisa Marie Beyer
Posted: November 5, 2010, from the November 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • A strong project manager is vital for a seamless transition from consumer test group recruiting to the trial phase.
  • Because a product trial is dependent upon all participants starting their testing at the same time, having all product samples on hand well before the trial start date is crucial.
  • Ensuring that all test group members are comfortable and engaged throughout the process is vital.

Consumers are the key to success in the beauty industry. However, with more than 158 million women living in the United States, how do you know if your brand is truly capturing the attention of so many different personalities and perspectives? The Benchmarking Company (TBC) has found that there is one strategy critical to the launch of a new product or brand—a consumer testing group. A proven component in the development process for dozens of brands, consumer testing groups consist of a representative sample of a specific consumer segment (or target) that tests new or developmental products before they are introduced to the market for emotional, physical and aesthetic appeal. The feedback, responses and information garnered from participants will then allow brand owners to bridge the gap between promised benefits and consumer expectations, and allow you to tease out nuances that, ultimately, will get consumers to buy your product over and over again.

Building a Team and Group

Before you begin your trail, there are several factors you’ll want to address. Start with a few key questions, such as: Will our product inspire repeat purchase? Have I targeted the correct demographic? Does my product live up to the claims (in the mind of the consumer)? Does she love the product? Even for brand managers who initially answer yes to each of these questions, if the conclusions are based only on in-house trials, there is no way of truly knowing their applicability, which leads to a discussion regarding the role of the project manager.

A strong project manager is vital for group continuity and a seamless transition from recruiting to the trial phase. Be sure all participants are well aware of their contact, and feel comfortable reaching out to the project manager with any questions or concerns. Group size is also a key factor, TBC has found that a group of between 100–150 participants is ideal—and statistically sound. And because life keeps happening and attrition is common, it’s a good idea to build in a recruitment cushion of plus 5% or so to allow for the inevitable participant fallout. Finally, be sure to very clearly define your demographic parameters: sex, age range, skin type or any other factor that could influence results positively or negatively. Leave no stone unturned—you want your findings to be as sound and reliable as possible, and even a few participants with qualifiers outside of your parameters can influence outcomes.

Samples: Focus on the Details

While organizational details may not be the sexiest parts of the process, they are essential, and ensuring you have all of your t’s crossed and your i’s dotted will only further enhance the end result of the trial.