What are the distinguishing features of a good product test? Our customers return to this question again and again. We have gathered over thirty years of experience to answer this in the following summary.
If you answer these questions for your product test - such as a Central Location Test (CLT) - then nothing is standing in the way of a successful product test.
1. Decide the goal of the study and determine what you want to achieve
Formulate your research question as concretely as possible. Have you determined that the CLT is the best option for answering your question? A CLT is often used at the beginning of an innovation process, i.e. when a new product should be developed, improved, or augmented. The CLT delivers insights into the sensory properties of a product under standardized conditions, the emphasis in comparison to other approaches is placed on the controlled environment and standardization.
2. Decide which target group fits most closely with the product being tested
Try to determine from the onset which target group you want to survey. Are you interested in the opinion of all typical consumers or just heavy users? Keep in mind that the more narrowly defined the target group, the more costs are incurred in putting the target group together. Once the target group has been defined, the question of an appropriate sample size arises. For example, for a quick overview of the performance of a newly developed prototype (Indication testing), samples of n=80 to n=150 are often sufficient. For further analyses (e.g. preference mapping or segmentation) 200 participants is sufficient.
3. Decide which market or markets you want to test and where you want to test them?
Select a test studio or several studios according to your relevant target markets. Do the preferences of your consumers differ within a country? Then you should divide your sample among different test studios in the relevant regions.
4. Identify your expectations and requirements for the test studio
Which geographical location is relevant? Is it a country, city or a high foot traffic area like a pedestrian mall? Do you need highly standardized conditions in sensory laboratories or are normal multi-functional rooms sufficient? What equipment features do the selected test studios have to meet, e.g. a separate kitchen or special refrigeration capacity?
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5. Decide how your products should be evaluated. Which aspect should we pay special attention to during the testing?
Regarding the evaluation of your products you should consider, among other things, how they should be served. Can your products be served direct from the packaging (e.g. chewing gum or chocolate bars), do they require special preparation (e.g. portioning ice cream) or are they just an accompanying part of a dish (e.g. a sauce served with pasta)? Depending on the presentation of your samples, you will need different amounts of product. Plan a buffer here to have enough samples for trial rounds and over-recruitment. Also make sure that your test studio is appropriately equipped to meet your requirements for the preparation and storage of the products.
6. What do I need to consider regarding the scheduling of my product test?
Establish a schedule for your CLT prior to the start of your study to reality check the timeline of your study. A useful method for this is backward scheduling, where your product test is planned backwards from the deadline. To create a realistic schedule, you should ask yourself the following questions:
How much time do I need for recruiting the test subjects?
When do my samples have to arrive at the test studio to have enough preparation time, e.g. for coding?
How long does a session last and how many sessions do I want to do?
How many samples do I want to test per session and how much time do I need per sample?
How much time do I need for the subsequent evaluation of the data after the product test?
According to our experience you need 1 week for the conception, 2 weeks for the recruitment of the target group and further preparations, 1-2 weeks for the field work depending on the sample size, 1-2 weeks for the evaluation and reporting. However, depending on the type of your study, other factors can also be included in your time planning. This is the reason why the duration of one product test can differ greatly from another product test.
Answering all these questions will help you to plan your product test in a well-structured and reasonable way and ensures that nothing will be missed during the process. If you need support in planning, conducting and evaluating your CLT, isi will be delighted to help you. Feel free to contact us!
Anne Sophie Zurwellen
Anne Sophie is one of our working students and takes care of our online and social media marketing. She also handles our innovation management and contributes to our blog on various topics since 2020.