Product innovators and marketers spend an exorbitant amount of time and effort perfecting their products before they bring them to market. So, after they spend all this time behind the scenes developing the packaging, positioning the marketing materials and finalizing the product itself, how do they know when the innovation is ready for launch?
Developing a product is a journey. From idea formation to concept testing, innovators need to devote a lot of time ideating, creating and testing before launching. For example, let’s think about the journey for developing a new flavor profile. We know that testing different flavors is an important step in the innovation process, but we also know that arriving at a winning formulation in the lab doesn’t necessarily mean the product is ready to go to market. Why? Consumers don’t make purchase decisions in the vacuum of a lab. This strictly controlled environment is not going to capture the full range of experiences that happen in the real world.
So if purchase decisions aren’t based on just flavor, what are they based on?
People make purchase decisions based on the holistic offering of a product—from the proposition to the product experience. Consumers can’t form a realistic opinion about a product until they’ve taken the time to use it. In this way, experience drives purchasing power and ultimately an innovation’s success.
This is critical for brands to recognize, as they need to understand the consumer experience before launch and then validate that the experience is both positive and differentiated to ensure the product’s in-market success. To meet this criteria, the offering needs to deliver on two aspects: It needs to meet the promise offered to the consumer, or even better—exceed it, and it needs to be unique enough to inspire the consumer to have the experience again.
If a product doesn’t meet these measures, a marketer is going to have a hard time enticing repeat purchase behavior. If everything else is equal, including constant support, a product that checks all the right boxes on experience can yield 30% more unit volume over the first year in market compared with one that does not.
The real life consumer experience with a product will ultimately determine whether it delivers on its promise. Thus, when it comes to testing a product before launch, getting as close to the real-life path-to-purchase and trial of the product itself helps us understand what will happen in the real world. Replicating this experience for the consumer through product testing will give you the best line of sight into this question. Here, the consumer engages with the innovation in their everyday, natural environment. Based on before and after experience interviews, marketers can understand how consumers will respond to the product once it’s launched.
So when is a product ready for launch? While there is no exact formula for any innovation process, brands should only launch a product after they have a holistic understanding of the consumer experience from proposition to consumers tasting, using or consuming your product. Remember, the experience must fulfil two buckets in order to be set up for success.
Marketers spend too much time and effort developing their innovations to launch them without testing them ahead of time. There are many in-market forces that are out of our hands, so why risk something that is in your control?