Founders of many emerging brands often depend upon friends and family to provide feedback on their products. While that can be helpful – and cost effective – in the beginning, it has its shortcomings. Unfortunately, many of those closest to us may tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear, sometimes standing in the way of making the improvements necessary to succeed.
That’s why objective consumer feedback is like gold. Are people actually experiencing your brand the way you want them to? Are there opportunities to make it better – from the packaging to the positioning to the taste? Would your target customer actually purchase your product, and are you targeting the right customer?
SKU partner Highlight connects brands with its community of “Highlighters” – people who provide critical, structured feedback in exchange for the opportunity to try new products. The data can be used for everything from innovation exploration, claims testing, and competitive testing to see how products perform against each other.
We talked to Highlight founder and CEO Dana Kim about the value of customer feedback – how to get it and how to use it.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative
SKU: For emerging brands, what are the benefits of qualitative and quantitative data?
Dana: Data serves so many purposes. It is of course important to develop your product effectively. But it’s also critical ammo for consumer marketing, investor pitching, selling into retailers and more. Armed with quality quantitative and qualitative data, brands can ensure they’re making smart, informed decisions.
Quantitative data deals with numbers and statistics, allowing you to test a hypothesis by collecting and analyzing data. Qualitative research is more about words and meanings. It is more exploratory. If you’d like to fill in the blanks, uncover knowledge gaps, understand more and deeper, then qualitative data is the best way to do that.
SKU: A lot of emerging brands get feedback from family and friends. What are the benefits and drawbacks of that?
Dana: We always recommend starting with friends and family! In the early days, and when you’re looking for any directional data, starting with the folks close to you is totally fine and fair. It’s a great way of getting quick-hit, cost-effective, low risk data. However, this ‘friends and family’ data that comes back should be contextualized as such. It is potentially biased, and not necessarily representative of your target audience as a whole.
The limits of “friends and family” feedback
SKU: What can be gained by getting objective feedback?
Dana: It’s critical. But more important than just getting objective feedback is getting the right feedback, from the right audience. Profiling your target audience by demographics (age, gender, household income, location, etc), psychographics (are they fitness-focused?, sustainability-forward? plant-based?) and behaviorals (where they shop, what they buy, what media they consume), and then collecting feedback ensures that when your product reaches those consumers in a broader context, you know how they’ll perform.
At Highlight, we specifically profile based on even more characteristics – diet and lifestyle, household makeup, shopping and cart behaviors, persona questions (what sneaker brand would you be?) – because robust profiling is so critical.
SKU: What are some of the ways you’ve seen people use that feedback?
Dana: Great data can inform every step of the product development and marketing process. Whether it’s choosing a brand identity that resonates, a package format that’s most user friendly, a pack size that’s the perfect amount, or a flavor profile that should be scaled, market research is critical.
Physical product testing has its specific use cases – it should be used to ensure product success once it arrives in someone’s hands. Despite all of the market sizing, competitive intelligence, concept testing, and research done pre-product, if the product execution itself isn’t great, it won’t perform. It won’t be repurchased, won’t turn, won’t be recommended. That’s the beauty of physical product testing – you can ensure all of the work you’ve done to create a great product was worth it. You can ensure your product lives up to its expectations, and continues to succeed.
Getting the right products into the right hands
SKU: How does Highlight select the right customers to sample your product?
Dana: Targeting is critical to getting the right data. In a nutshell, brands should get product feedback from consumers that fit your target profile criteria (as mentioned above), have demonstrated real interest in your product (‘concept acceptors’), and have the purchasing power (‘I buy my own things’) and ability (budget/spend in category) to purchase your product are key.
SKU: What do you do when you have consumers who have dramatically different feedback on your product?
Dana: Those perspectives are the most important! When we get our data back, we recommend sorting by NPS (Net Promoter Score) to see the top and bottom rows – the best and the worst feedback. Are there consistencies or trends in the data, around those who love your product and those who hate it? Is there anything that can be fixed product-wise to optimize and renovate? Or is there a marketing or packaging issue to be addressed? Or is it simply a targeting effort?
The beauty of contextualized research, where you ask the right questions and have robust profiles on your respondents, is that you can slice and dicethe data to make sense of it, and come away with more answers than questions.
If interested in leveraging the Highlight platform for agile product research, the company offers a special rate for the SKU community. Go to letshighlight.com and use the promotion code SKUVIP.