Think break

A company is developing a new liquid breakfast for adult consumers between 20 and 40 years old. The consumers have identified product attributes that they wish the product to have: nutritional value (high fibre, low fat, low sugar, low salt, calcium, folate, iron and vitamins), health value (sustainable but not weight increasing); value for money; easy to pour; portion about 250 ml; not sticky or sickly sweet; mild roasted cereal flavour.

1. Outline the steps in designing the product.

2. How would you organise the testing of the product prototypes at the different steps of the ball park experiments, optimisation and scale-up so that the consumer needs and wants are evaluated at each step?

3. How would you test the various attributes identified by the consumers during the design steps?

4. How would you test the final product prototype for commercialisation?

5.8 Consumers in Stage 3: Product commercialisation

The consumer is involved in two parts of the product commercialisation: commercial design of product and marketing, and the commercial testing of the total commercial product (Earle and Earle, 2000) as shown in Fig. 5.14. Figure 5.14 shows only the steps in the commercial design and commercial testing where consumers may be involved.

The final design of the commercial product is interwoven with the design of the marketing - the market channel, the promotions and advertising, the selling method and the pricing. The consumers are involved in various aspects of these designs - usually in focus groups or other types of consumer panels such as advertising panels.

5.8.1 Final consumer product concept

The product prototype is built up to the total product concept, which is accepted by the consumer and the society. The company core product with its attributes and packaging has been optimised in the previous stage, but the final aesthetics of product and packaging, the brand, the name, the price, the advertising and the

Fig. 5.14 Steps involving consumers and their needs in product commercialisation (Source: After Earle and Earle, 2000).

promotion are added to give the commercial company product. In other words the marketing attributes of the product are added to give the final product image. The raw materials from the primary production, the ingredients from the primary processing, and the processing during manufacturing of the consumer products, are included, as these are important areas of concern for the consumers and the society. In building the final consumer concept, it is important to include the consumers' environment, what is happening and predicted to happen. The consumer' s product concept is influenced by:

• social, political, economic, physical environments;

• media and communication;

• consumers' own behaviour towards the product.

The consumer product concept is designed to convey to the consumer that the product satisfies the consumers' eating needs and wants, nutritional requirements, availability, use of appropriate materials, reliability, maximum safety, good appearance, low cost and psychological acceptability. But this has to be located in the environment surrounding the consumers, and has to be related to the correct target consumers. The product is rated with the competitors, showing product leadership, product parity or product loser. The relationship between price and the user-perceived quality is carefully evaluated to fit the consumers' perceived value for money. They may accept a high price indicating high quality, or a low price indicating ease of purchase, or they may have in-between attitudes trading off quality and price.

5.8.2 Consumers in marketing and production design

There can be some involvement of consumers with production as production builds up the product qualities for the production specifications, at the same time as they are involved in marketing design (Earle and Earle, 2000), as shown in Fig. 5.14. The marketing design includes, together with the product:

• market information - market research and analysis, particularly the targets to be set for the launch and post-launch and the methods to monitor these;

• market channels and distribution - choice, control and development of market channels, transportation, storage;

• pricing - price range, relation of price to demand, margins, discounts, specialling;

• promotion - retailer and consumer promotion, advertising, public relations;

• sales - methods of selling, terms of sale, sales reporting, analysis and forecasting.

Consumers can be involved in several of these marketing decisions. There could be consumer surveys to predict the buying of the product, and from these the prediction of sales for the sales targets. The market channel must make the product available to the consumer at the right place, the right time, the right price and the right quality, so there is research on where the consumer buys the product, how often, and how they store the product and for how long. They can be involved in retail surveys and also in shelf-life trials. Lack of shelf-life testing with consumers may show up as unwanted deterioration of the bought product in the household refrigerator. Shelf-life testing is usually done by a trained sensory panel using descriptive sensory analysis. The critical product attributes are measured over time and the changes in the retail outlet and the home storage are measured. The consumers set the acceptance levels of stored products and these tolerance limits are used as a guideline by the trained panel.

Often consumers are involved in promotional design, particularly in development of the visual material for sales promotion and the video/film for TV advertising. Focus groups or promotional consumers take part in developing the product image, slogans and educational material. Promotional material is tested with consumers to compare the various designs using measures for awareness and persuasion to try, and also to examine the clarity of the information about the product.

5.8.3 Commercial product testing

The types of consumer testing on the final product and marketing designs vary according to the type of new product and the amount of consumer research in the previous stages. If it is an incrementally improved product, there is already a great deal known of the market and, if it has already been tested in a consumer test, then there will likely be no need for a test market and it can go straight into a launch. But if the new product is a major innovation, it can justify in-depth studies with consumers on the final consumer concept, and large-scale consumer tests as well as a final test market. There can be new products within these two extremes. It is a case of balancing the risk of failure through lack of knowledge with the costs of time, money and other resources. Delay may cause failure because of launching at the wrong time or loss of confidentiality allowing competitors to launch ahead. Lack of knowledge can also cause failure because misunderstanding consumer perceptions may lead to an uninviting product image in the promotion. Some questions to be answered in the testing of the commercial product are shown in Table 5.16. The questions needing answers lead to the type of testing required.

If a great deal of information on the product and the relationship of the consumer with the product were needed, it would be a consumer use-test of the total product. Consumers would be interviewed, using in-depth questioning, on their reactions to the product, and their predictions of their future behaviour

Table 5.16 Questions in commercial product testing

Marketing

• What will be the consumers' purchasing/repurchasing behaviour?

• What will be the consumers' reactions to the prices, the promotions?

• What are the predicted pessimistic, most likely and optimistic sales units and revenue over the next months, years?

• What are the predicted competitive reactions?

• What are the predicted market shares?

Product

• Is the product what the consumers want?

• Does the product have the benefits wanted by the consumer?

• Does it have the desired attributes wanted by the consumer?

• What are the consumers' concerns about the product?

• Is the package acceptable, right size?

• Are the product and packaging attractive at point-of-sale?

• Are the product and pack ethical, legal?

• Do the brand and the product image relate to the product?

• What is the consumers' total concept of the product?

towards the product. In the consumer test, a statistically representative sample is chosen from the target market(s) so that an indication can be obtained of the opinions and attitudes of the consumers in the market. Usually a single sample presentation (a monadic test) is used and the complete commercial product is tested with appropriate sales promotion and public relations material. The product can be delivered by mail or hand delivery. Information is best obtained by interviewing either personal or telephone, but sometimes self-administered questionnaires are used. Using consumer tests to predict buying behaviour can be inaccurate as consumers have trouble themselves in predicting future behaviour.

If information on the marketing methods and their effects on consumer buying behaviour is needed, a test market would be used. The consumers would have the opportunity to buy the product in a supermarket, restaurant or other relevant retail outlet. This could be in one or two supermarkets or restaurants or takeaways, using only the in-store promotions, or it can be in a market area with the media advertising and public relations. The consumers who are buying the product and perhaps some of the consumers not buying the product are interviewed, to determine the acceptance, competitive difference, uniqueness, aesthetic worth, brand attitude and product worth. It is important also to determine consumer reactions and consumer buying behaviour in the test market, by interviewing consumers about their purchase and repurchase of the product, their use of the new product and their opinions on the new product. The sales data are found from the computer sales records of the retailers and from this, national sales can be forecast. Companies can still be experimenting with different options during the test market, for example different prices and different displays (Hisrich and Peters, 1991). The interactions of the variables in the marketing mix can be determined.

Ethical product testing is an area that is increasingly important today. This is relating the product and the marketing to the ethics of the society. Ethical testing is related to a particular society; but basically, in most societies, people want to be able to trust the company not to harm them or use fraud and deceit against them (Earle and Earle, 2000). In the food industry, this is even more important than in other industries because people consume all the products and their health depends on them. For a mutually satisfactory future, all the product testing must be truthful and encompassing so that the company earns a good reputation in launching new products.

During product commercialisation, not only has there to be testing of the product to build up the knowledge about its benefits and defects, but plans developed for both short- and long-term consumer testing after the launch.

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