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Beyond the focus group? Next generation concept testing app takes concept testing to next level with real-time feedback from target shoppers ... as they shop

By Elaine Watson+

Last updated on 28-Jul-2014 at 16:13 GMT2014-07-28T16:13:05Z

The new concept testing app enables CPG marketers to get instant feedback on what target shoppers think about new concepts in context (as they shop)
The new concept testing app enables CPG marketers to get instant feedback on what target shoppers think about new concepts in context (as they shop)

A new mobile app enabling CPG companies to get instant feedback on new product concepts from target consumers while they are grocery shopping will slash the time and money spent on testing new ideas, claims consumer insights expert uSamp.

While food marketers have been using online consumer panels to provide feedback about purchase intent for new product concepts for a while, uSamp’s new mobile concept testing app enables firms to engage with hundreds of target shoppers via their smartphones in real time - at the point of purchase, uSamp’s VP of product innovation Justin Wheeler told FoodNavigator-USA.

Feedback about purchase intent when people are in the cereal aisle vs a focus group is very different

More than 380,000 consumers in the US and 100,000 in the UK have downloaded uSamp's app to their smartphones, and agreed to participate in real-time market research tasks, said Wheeler.

So let’s say a cereal company wants feedback on some potential line extensions. By using templates, it can quickly load up a range of concepts and questions onto the platform and then identify target shoppers in uSamp’s database (which collects 180+ attributes from demographic data to purchasing behavior) that it wants to approach.

When these shoppers visit a grocery store, they receive a push notification on their cell phones asking them to take a look at the new cereal concept(s) on their phones as they shop the cereal category, said Wheeler.

And the kind of feedback you get about purchase intent when people are standing in the cereal aisle compared with what they tell you at home or in a focus group can be very different, he said.

“It’s out of context when they are at home sitting on the sofa or at a focus group in a hotel.”

To start with, you could do early stage screening

The concept testing app can help brand managers narrow down options rapidly and cost-effectively at the early stages of the product development process so that the right products are put in front of focus groups later on, he added. But it can also be used at every stage of the process.

“So to start with, you could do early stage screening of your product concepts with hundreds of online panelists [at home] for an early read, and then once you’ve honed in on which ones have the most potential, you can then pitch these to cereal category buyers in real-time as they stand in the cereal aisle.

“Then in the next stage, you could send prototype products to people at their homes and ask them to evaluate them, or [if a product has been launched in a test market] ask them to buy the product, evaluate it at home and provide instant feedback.”

Deeper, higher-quality insights within days at a fraction of the cost

CPG clients, who have been working with uSamp on perfecting the tool for about 13 months, are excited about its potential to help them gather insights more cheaply and quickly from larger groups of target consumers, said Wheeler.

Historically, said uSamp, “It could take several weeks to compile actionable insights from concept test data and the data compiled would come from as few as 30 consumers. 

“With concept testing, brand researchers will now have access to deeper, higher-quality insights from a nationally representative consumer sample, often within two days, at a fraction of the cost.”

Shelf Score: Which new products do shoppers say they are most likely to buy?

One popular part of the concept test platform is the ‘Shelf Score’ index, which measures intent to purchase.  

A Shelf Score test on new products introduced this summer (full data is HERE ) reveals the purchase intent of a nationally representative sample of consumers:

  1. Chewy Chips Ahoy! with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (82%)
  2. Cheerios Protein Oats & Honey (75%)
  3. Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreos (74%)
  4. Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Fudge Core (71%)
  5. Lay's Air Pops Crisps (71%)
  6. Pringles Tortillas (66%)
  7. Chechil Cheese Bites (60%)
  8. Kellogg's Eggo Thick & Fluffy Minis Waffles, Chocolate Delight (57%)
  9. Tombstone Original Chicken Fiesta Pizza (54%)
  10. Summer Berry Pebbles (51%) 

“Shelf Score was designed to give companies instant access and an early reading on consumer sentiment about new products and brands,” said Wheeler.

“Traditionally, CPGs track consumer sentiment using mechanics that can take weeks or even months to generate feedback. Now, we can spot products that are often released in test markets, or as limited editions, and readily score them for national interest.”

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