Product Trial: A Marketing Research Tool

Product trial can drive a skeptical purchaser. In a recently completed research study for a new product launch, it quickly became clear that the proposed concept had merit but was too far out of the consumers’ experience to achieve success with a simple shelf placement. “Try it, you’ll like it” as a marketing strategy seems like a no-brainer if we believe in our product and are confident it will withstand taste expectations. Yet, how many times have brand managers been guilty of focusing on getting a package design that shouts “new” for the purposes of attracting the attention of the retailed, for shelf space? These are critical considerations but are meaningless if the consumer is unconvinced that the product is the best tasting, most convenient or of highest quality.

New product launches often ask consumers to switch from one that is tried and true. Convincing consumers that your alternative presents a better option can be a naturally hard sell. That’s why offering coupons and in-store sampling opportunities have become important marketing events.

In addition, there is a wealth of intelligence to be gained from integrating a sampling event with pre-launch market research. In our recent online study, members of our pre-determined target audience responded to questions regarding intent to purchase a described product with somewhat expected skepticism. Quite a few respondents reported that they would not be interested in purchasing the product without tasting it first. That sampling opportunity would result in several benefits:

• Affirmation that the product meets baseline criteria for both taste and convenience • Data that reinforce claims of taste and convenience • Testimonial comments that take the tasting panel members' comments to the broader population

Like any other marketing research, sampling represents an important investment in a successful product launch. The research outcomes from honing in on the likely buyer population are compelling package form and design, message hierarchy, and effective promotional outlets, representing a significant return on that investment.

However trite it appears, turning a skeptical consumer into an enthusiastic advocate demands trial.