I recently came across the new ad from Domino’s Pizza where they show a clip of focus groups they conducted with consumers about their products. I love it! The message was clear: they listened to their customers. Their management and product teams were brave enough to really pay attention to what customers think. I’ll be eternally grateful to Domino’s pizza for the message sent about the value of market research.
This may not sound as a novel idea, but many, many companies go about their business thinking they don’t need to conduct market research in order to improve their products and grow. They believe they know enough about their industry and product category that there is nothing new to learn. Then there are companies that are barely aware of the importance of research, but see it as an expense and not an investment. They prefer to throw spaghetti at the walls and see what sticks.
I don’t know how many focus groups Domino’s did or if they also used other research methods to test their improved pizzas, but the important thing here is that they were willing to listen to their customers.
Now regarding methodology for new product development, I always advise clients to combine qualitative (e.g. focus groups) and quantitative research (e.g. surveys) methods.
Qualitative research is by definition exploratory and it is used, when we don’t know what to expect, to define the problem or develop an approach to the problem. It’s also used to go deeper into issues of interest and explore nuances related to the problem at hand.
Quantitative research is conclusive in its purpose as it tries to quantify the problem and understand how prevalent it is by looking for projectable results to a larger population.
Here are some guidelines to use both types of research in new product development.
Use qualitative research to:
- Develop an initial understanding of how customers perceive the product category
- Look for a range of ideas and feelings about your products
- Understand different perceptions about your products between groups and categories of people
- Uncover underlying motivations and factors that influence the decision to buy your and your competitors’ products
- Provide information needed to design a quantitative product testing
- Explain findings from a quantitative product testing
- Explore different creative solutions to position and advertise the product
Use quantitative research to:
- Recommend a final course of action on which product version should be launched
- Find whether there is consensus on product appeal, benefits and current or potential customers’ purchase intent
- Project results to a larger population of customers you are targeting
- Identify evidence regarding cause-and-effect relationships between different factors relevant to the product and purchase behavior
- Test specific hypotheses about your products
- Identify and size market segments
- Describe characteristics of relevant customer segments
Combining both approaches when developing new products will give you a solid foundation to make the right decisions for your business grounded in consumer insights.