Use Consumer Research To Drive Product Innovation | WSS
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Brands that want to stay ahead of the curve must put their customers at the heart of everything they do. That means going beyond surface-level assumptions and diving deep into the minds of their target audience. By leveraging the power of consumer research, they can uncover valuable insights that will help them create products that not only meet expectations but exceed them.

This article will explore how brands leverage consumer research to fuel innovation and differentiation. We’ll delve into the role of consumer research in the product development lifecycle, how insights are gathered to inform new ideas, the importance of validating concepts with consumers, and how a consumer-centric approach can lead to a decisive competitive advantage.

Understanding the Role of Consumer Research in Product Development

Consumer research is a vital component of the product development process. It involves collecting and analysing target consumer data to understand their needs, preferences, attitudes, and behaviours. This information is then used to guide all aspects of product design, including but not limited to features, pricing, and marketing strategies.

Consumer research can take many forms, such as home use testing, focus groups, and product testing. Each method provides a unique perspective on consumer insights, and brands often use a combination of techniques to gain a comprehensive understanding of their target market.

Gathering Insights to Inform Product Innovation

One primary way brands use consumer research is to identify unmet needs and pain points in the market. By understanding consumers’ challenges and frustrations, brands can spot opportunities for innovation. They can then develop new products or features that address these gaps and provide unique value to their target audience.

For example, when Nestlé wanted to improve its popular KitKat chocolate bar and reduce its sugar content, it turned to extensive consumer research. Through a combination of focus groups, surveys, and sensory testing, it was discovered that the proposed reformulations produced an excellent wafer, but the chocolate coating was too sweet and didn’t have enough depth of flavour.

Nestlé’s product development team worked to reformulate the chocolate recipe based on these insights. They experimented with different cocoa blends and increased milk content in manufacturing processes to create a chocolate coating with a more chocolatey taste and a less sweet profile. They then conducted multiple rounds of sensory testing with target consumers to refine the recipe until they achieved the optimal balance of flavour and texture.

The result was the launch of a new KitKat (denoted with “Now with extra cocoa and milk” on the packaging) that delivered the same great taste while reducing sugar by 10% – meeting a key marketing pledge made by the company to reduce sugar by 10% across its confectionery portfolio.

This example illustrates how consumer research can be leveraged to optimise even well-established products. By gaining a deeper understanding of consumer preferences and pain points, Nestlé was able to innovate their offering without losing market share in a highly competitive snack market.

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Validating Product Concepts and Prototypes

While generating new product ideas is crucial, validating these concepts with target consumers is equally important. Before investing significant resources into product development, brands need to ensure that their ideas resonate with their intended audience. Consumer research plays a critical role in this validation process.

Through concept testing, brands can present early product ideas to consumers and gather feedback on various aspects such as desirability, usability, and perceived value. This feedback can then be used to refine and improve the product concept before moving into the prototyping phase.

Once a prototype is developed, brands can conduct user testing to observe how consumers interact with the product in real-world scenarios, such as in-home product tests. This hands-on feedback provides invaluable insights into the product’s usability, functionality, and overall user experience.

Continuous Improvement and Iteration

Consumer research doesn’t stop once a product is launched. Ongoing research is essential for continuous improvement and staying ahead of evolving consumer needs. By regularly gathering customer feedback, brands can identify areas for enhancement and make data-driven decisions to optimise and iterate their products.

Post-launch research can take many forms, such as satisfaction surveys, product reviews, and social media listening. By analysing this feedback, brands can uncover opportunities to refine product features, address issues or concerns, and improve the overall customer experience. This iterative approach ensures that products remain relevant and competitive over time.

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Unlocking Competitive Advantages Through Consumer-Centric Innovation

As we’ve discussed, brands that prioritise consumer research are well-positioned to drive innovation and differentiation. By leveraging insights gained from their target audience, brands can create products that truly resonate and meet their customers’ evolving needs.

Consumer research plays a critical role at every stage of the product development process, from identifying unmet needs and staying ahead of trends to validating product concepts. By adopting a consumer-centric approach, brands can unlock a powerful competitive advantage and foster long-term success.

At Wirral Sensory Services, we specialise in helping food, beverage, and FMCG brands gain the deep consumer understanding needed to drive innovation and differentiation. With over 25 years of experience in sensory and consumer research, our expert team can design and execute bespoke consumer research solutions tailored to your needs.

Whether you’re looking to explore new product ideas, optimise existing offerings, or gain a competitive edge in your market, we’re here to offer support and expertise at every step. Contact us today at +44 (0)151 346 2999 or to discuss how we can help you unlock the most powerful consumer insights.