In our second article in the series on fresh produce NPD, Lorraine Fountain, our New Business Development Manager, explains why data and consumer research are the backbone of new product validation.
The process of developing a new product requires a thorough understanding of customer needs and preferences, as well as the ability to anticipate market trends and consumer behaviour. This is where data and research play a vital role.
From gathering and analysing data on the marketplace and your target customer, to holding consumer panels to gain invaluable feedback, research underpins every single stage of the NPD process.
Not only does it help you to understand the market and identify any gaps, it also enables you to keep on top of trends and stay relevant in a busy retail landscape.
In our last article we talked about NPD validation and what it takes to go from concept to creation. A major part of this process relies on quality data and research.
At every point of the NPD journey – whether that’s the ideation phase or creating a concept - you need to fully understand the market, the target consumer and any wider societal and economic factors that could impact your market opportunity.
Put simply, you cannot do too much research. But where do you start? And what types of research and data should you invest in? Here we talk you through just some of the tools we employ to keep our household brands ahead of the curve.
Understanding your market
Market research is a crucial element in the NPD process. It is a distillation of data that allows you to take actions that ensure you best meet the needs of consumers and grow your business. It can help you identify:
- Who the consumer really is, not just the demographics
- What they want fromyou
- Size of market and therefore size ofprize
- Where they might expect to findit/buy it
- What price are they willing to pay
- How they would use it
- How the packaging should function
- Brand messaging and if thismotivates them to choose your product
From surveys and focus groups to interviews and customer observation, these tried and tested techniques help you identify what your consumers really want, which in turn enables you to make informed decisions throughout the NPD process.
- Surveys allow you to gather feedback from a large number of target customers. They can be conducted online or in-person, covering a wide range of topics, such as customer preferences, product features, and pricing.
- Focus groups and consumer panels bring together a small group of target customers to discuss a specific product or concept. Participants are usually asked to provide feedback on the product, discuss their opinions, and suggest improvements.
- One-to-one interviews with your target audience enable you to gather detailed insights into their needs and preferences. You can tailor your questions to audience profile and demographic.
- Customer observation allows you to observe consumers in a natural environment to gain insights into their behaviours and preferences, including purchasing decisions and marketing reaction.
- Competitor analysis is also highly valuable as it acts as a point of comparison, helping you to identify your strengths and weaknesses against each potential rival. This will help you carve out your own USPs.
- Social media is increasingly becoming a platform for consumers to share their preferences – good and bad. Social media listening provides real-time insights into customer sentiment and trends, giving you instant data at your fingertips.
Take the learnings
Sometimes, your research will throw up feedback that challenges your ideas, or opinions that you may not have considered before.
Gather as much data as possible, analyse it, and learn from. And remember, if it doesn’t give you the answers you hoped for, listen and act accordingly. Afterall, these are your target customers talking.
Investing in research and data shouldn’t stop when your products finally hit the shelves. Harnessing the power of data and consumer insight should be an ongoing process to enable brands to keep up with trends, understand changing consumer behaviour and adapt.
No brand should ever sit still. Even the biggest brands in the world are constantly evolving. They listen to their consumers and adapt constantly. They are agile and nimble, and reactive to trends and feedback. These are the brands and products that remain relevant.
Partnering with experts
Partnering with the right research company is critical.
Consumer research is a complex field that requires specialised knowledge and skills. By choosing an established, specialist research company, you get access to a wealth of resources, such as consumer panels and databases, and have a dedicated research expert that can design, collate and analyse your data.
Having an external, unbiased perspective is invaluable when conducting research, as it ensures more objective findings. By making this investment into such a key part of the NPD process, you will reap the benefits of well-designed, reliable research, that can be used to influence and inform your decision making process, from concept to creation.
And remember – providing them with a clear brief is fundamental to your success. Make sure you are very clear on what you are proving or disproving and validating. Define what success looks like to you, and always plan for making changes.
When you’ve gathered all the research and data you need, make sure you use it. Don’t just leave it in a folder that is never opened again. Analyse the results and learn from the findings – don’t simply ignore them if they aren’t what you expected or throw up complexities to overcome. And remember to review the findings over time – the market is constantly evolving so make sure you keep up to date with these trends and attitudes.
In today's highly competitive fresh produce environment, the brands that prioritise data and research in their NPD process are the ones that carve out their place in the market, remain relevant and stay ahead of the curve.
To find out how we can help you gather this invaluable knowledge,get in touch today.
As our New Business Development Manager, Lorraine works with breeders to bring their brand ideas to life. With 35-years commercial experience in the food industry, she has a wealth of knowledge of the fresh and chilled FMCG market and has worked on a range of categories, from cereals and sugars, to prepared fruits, brassicas and fresh lamb and pork.