Product testing: your secret weapon to achieve product superiority

Why benchmarking is crucial to your product optimisation strategy

The ultimate goal for any product is to be number one in the market. When it comes to setting your product apart, have you considered that your competitors could hold the key to help you get there?

If you’re looking for a scientifically proven way to continually perform better than the competition, then this post is for you.

We are exploring one of the most potent product optimisation tools at your disposal, benchmark testing.

What is Benchmark testing?

Benchmark testing, also known as benchmarking or comparison testing, is a component of market research which falls under the banner of product testing.

“Based upon 40 years of marketing research experience spanning thousands of research projects, I am convinced that product testing is the single most valuable marketing research that most companies ever do.” – Jerry W. Thomas

Product testing provides insight managers, product managers, research and development teams, and marketers with analytical insights that they can use to make better product decisions and improve:

  • customer satisfaction
  • customer retention
  • brand loyalty
  • return on investment (ROI)

Benchmarking is the practice of testing your product against specific, quantifiable metrics to see how much better or worse it performs compared to competing products.

The benefits of benchmark and comparison testing

With accurate and regular benchmark testing, you can:

  • Make your product superior to your competitors
  • Maintain product superiority and customer satisfaction (taking into account changes in consumer tastes and preference over time)
  • Understand competitors strengths and weaknesses to identify threats and gaps in the market
  • Close performance gaps and enhance your competitive advantage
  • Reduce manufacturing costs through product formulation or processes without degrading the product
  • Measure the effects of brand name, pricing, and packaging on consumer’s perceptions of product performance and quality

It goes without saying, the highest-calibre product enjoys the highest customer loyalty and market share. Response to advertising improves, customers are prepared to pay more and profitability soars.

How does benchmarking work?

Benchmark testing provides quantifiable, realistic, concrete performance targets. It helps you to understand and apply industry best-practice to your product and process.

“Market intelligence—the result of the research—is now crucial to run a successful, innovative, forward-thinking business in the new age.” – Dynamic Business

There are four types of benchmarking

  • Competitive benchmarking

Ideal when you want to assess a product’s position in relation to other market players. It is highly beneficial to the food and beverage industry.

  • Strategic benchmarking

Ideal for correcting product development strategies by analysing the processes of the top performing competitors.

  • Functional benchmarking

Ideal for assessing functions and processes –and can sometimes lead to uncovering innovative solutions to improve your procedures.

  • Internal benchmarking

Ideal for gauging which internal methods, structures and procedures within your organisation yield the most output with the least use of time and resources.

How to get the most out of your benchmark and comparative tests

There are four key elements to achieve accurate benchmark testing:

1. Know what you want to achieve.

A clear goal will yield clear results. Would you like to?

  • Evaluate
    • Product features
    • Overall product performance
    • Product durability, manufacturing and quality
    • Packaging and labelling
    • Ease of use
    • Health, safety and compliance considerations
  • Verify performance claims
  • Examine customer experience and perceptions
  • See how your product measures up to industry standards and best practice

2. Regular testing over time

Regular testing ensures that products performance stays in line with targets and helps you to quickly identify any industry changes and stay ahead of the curve.

3. Use a professional, experienced research company

An accredited, independent research partner will conduct your benchmarking tests with precision, and know how to analyse the data correctly.

Market research professionals ensure that data integrity, confidentiality, and crucial factors which can impact the accuracy of results (such as sample size, the ratio of new and existing customers, real environment testing, and critical variables) have been taken into account.

4. Budget appropriately

Few companies budget for regular product testing and competitive benchmarking which is vital in achieving product superiority. They are missing huge opportunities!

Not only does product testing improve profitability, but it also helps you to avoid devastating losses revenue and brand equity caused by launching a new or renovated product that fails.

Recent product tests that made the news

The recent Kellogg’s Rice Krispies debacle is a prime example of why brands should use a reputable research partner to test, test and test again.

Kellogg’s changed their recipe with disastrous effects. The new formula did more than drastically change the taste of the product; it resulted in the breakfast cereal losing its iconic “Snap, crackle, pop!”

An article featured on timeslive.co.za explains that the change was motivated by Kellogg’s wanting to source all their major ingredients locally. Kellogg’s SA confirmed that testing had been conducted. They said that the test group comprised mothers and children that were either existing consumers, those who had lapsed or had never consumed the product.

Consumers were not happy about the change and were quick to voice their opinion on social media, deterring hundreds (if not thousands) of existing and potential consumers. Looking at the public’s comments, a few questions arise:

  • Were there actions standards set that the new product would need to reach?
  • Is the product a replacement for Rice Krispies, or is it a completely new product?
  • Did respondents test the product in-home, that is, in the same environment where they would usually consume the product?
  • Was the sample size adequate?

There are many variables which can impact the results (and therefore, accuracy) of product testing. Subtle things like what you ask and which stimulus the respondents are exposed to can make the world of difference. It means knowing whether a consumer merely likes a new product or if they would choose it over the existing product. It’s knowing if the numbers justify replacing a current product or merely launching a product variant.

If you want to reap the benefits of benchmark testing, find a research firm with a proven track record that will guide you through the entire process.

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