Why and When Competitive Benchmark Testing Is the Best Solution for Your Brand

Our last post looked at how product testing is your secret weapon to achieving product superiority.  With that, we looked at benchmarking as a way to gain powerful insights to improve product performance and market share.

In this post, we will take an in-depth look into one of the most effective types of benchmarking, competitive benchmarking. This is where you can use information about your competitors’ products to guide improvements on your own.

Competitive benchmarking is particularly favoured by the food and beverage industry, and for a good reason. It provides valuable insights as to why consumers pick a competitor’s product over yours and what you can do to turn that around.

What is competitive benchmarking?

Just as the name implies, competitive benchmarking is the practice of comparing your product to competing products.

Independent third-party market research companies conduct various tests to:

  • Determine where your product does well or falls short so that you know where you need to focus your attention.
  • Find the reasons why sales have stagnated or not growing as expected
  • Learn where your competitors excel and how you can apply what you’ve learned to your product.
  • Understand more about what motivates consumers to pick your or competitors’ products so that you can build on the right things
  • Gain a clear picture of who your loyal consumers really are versus who you think they are.
  • Analyse and pinpoint what changes need to be made to improve product performance
  • Acquire the factual, numerical data you need to motivate proposed product changes that to company stakeholders
  • Prepare the statistical data you need for competitive analysis and reporting on product positioning.

When do you need competitive benchmarking?

Information from your internal sources, such as sales data, can only go so far. You can see that you have a problem (sales are dropping) but not the underlying cause –the “why”. That’s where external data can help you measure your success.

If your market has become price sensitive and are willing to go to a competitor because of that, competitive benchmarking will confirm it. You’d otherwise only be able to tell with speculative guesses.

Competitive benchmarking will further reveal your audiences taste preferences allowing you to figure out where you can make product formulation changes that will enable you to reduce your prices without losses and retain market share.

Consumer Preferences Evolve

“19% of consumers say superfood claims would encourage them to order a dish or beverage from a restaurant.”1

Besides consumers needing to tighten their belts, there could be other factors that influence your target audience’s decisions. These are subjective and could be linked to trends or the mere fact that our actual tastes can–and do–change.

For example, there could be a trend to move away from products packaged in glass, because plastic doesn’t break if you drop it. Perhaps your consumers have become more conscious about the amount of sugar or salt in products?

Surveys may reveal this information, provided you knew to ask the right questions from the onset. Competitive benchmarking let’s your consumers put the finger on why they specifically choose your product or another.

You’ll also gain quality insights into what your competitors are doing (what is clearly working) and see what you can adopt. You then perform a second test to see how much you have closed the gap, allowing you to perfect your product before you go to market. That way, you can ensure a higher return on investment.

“Right now, Middle Eastern ingredients are being used in new ways, desserts are becoming less sweet, and functional ingredients are contributing both color [sic] and flavor [sic] to dishes” —Mintel Menu Insights

What Can You Measure With A Competitive Benchmark Test?

  • Physical product characteristics
  • Product packaging and labelling
  • Quality of product and packaging
  • Success of reformulation
  • Appearance
  • Texture
  • Aroma
  • Flavour
  • Products’ ease of use
  • Taste tests
  • Overall likes and dislikes

Market Research from Mintel1 recently revealed that “19% of consumers say superfood claims would encourage them to order a dish or beverage from a restaurant.”

Why Do You Need A Professional Market Research Company For Comparative Benchmarking?

The short answer is to guarantee that you get accurate data specific to your objectives.

Competitive benchmarking testing is a science. It takes years of training to develop the skills to design and conduct tests that will give you the exact information you need to reach your goals. New technology and mythologies are developed all the time, a professional market research company makes sure that it is always up to date.

If tests don’t follow the strictest protocol, your results could be skewed, sending you down the wrong path altogether. It’s far too big a risk to go through all that effort and costs on reformulation or new design that bombs out in the market.