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Case Studies

New Product Concept Testing via Online Bulletin Board

Situation/Objectives: A major manufacturer of products used to support joints - knees, ankles, etc.- wants to update their product line and has several new product concepts they want to get consumer feedback on.

Action: PMI conducts an online bulletin board. Participants are asked to upload a photo of the current product they use. Several new product concepts are presented (simple illustrations in pdf form). We also ship to each participant samples of fabric and materials and color swatches, so they can ‘build their own’ ideal product.

Results: As a result of the three approaches - photo of current product; reaction to concepts; and build your own with samples - the client comes away with clear direction on what products, features, and benefits to pursue in new product development.

B2B: Identifying Market Re-entry Strategies

Situation/Objectives: A global manufacturer of capital intensive, highly engineered industrial equipment was seeking to re-enter the Canadian market and to better understand its customers needs, what is required to win in the marketplace, and how its products and services are currently perceived in the marketplace.

Action: PMI conducted one-on-one interviews via phone with current customers, potential customers, and regional partners and distributors.

Results: The criteria needed for a vendor to win an order in this market were identified, defined, and prioritized. This ‘ideal state’ was laid out, and then recommendations were offered centered around the people, places, and processes required to win in this competitive market. Other findings included generating feedback on the company’s reputation and how potential customers perceive the company as a brand. Competitive intelligence was also collected, and several companies that serve the same market – but are not direct competitors – were identified as having best-in-class products and service, which the client will use as benchmarks going forward.

Defining Grocery Customer Needs

Situation/Objectives: A major grocery chain sought to understand its customers’ expectations for one of its core departments (e.g., deli, bakery, pharmacy, etc.). Though the company leads in its markets, it now competes with resurgent traditional grocery chains as well as up-and-coming non-traditional grocers such as Trader Joe’s, The Fresh Market, and Whole Foods.

Action: PMI conducted focus groups among grocery shoppers in multiple cities.

PMI enhanced the clients’ discussion guide by developing a simple exercise to identify consumers’ perceptions of price and value. PMI builds insights from the ground up – organizing verbatims into meaningful insight clusters and core attributes that make clear not only what customers expect in terms of product and service, but how the client delivers on those attributes.

Results: Client utilizes findings to enhance future product, service, environment, and merchandising strategies, to keep one step ahead of the competition.

IT Software/Hardware Pricing Research

Situation/Objectives: An IT software vendor has grown quickly and competes in a highly competitive market. Their product line and pricing structures are complex – licenses, maintenance, services – and have expanded in recent years. Cloud computing, or SaaS (Software as a Service) is changing the nature of the marketplace. The company wants an objective evaluation of their pricing and value proposition, and recommendations to improve it.

Action: PMI conducts a benchmark review of all competitors’ pricing structures. PMI then conducts over 40 one-on-one interviews among all audiences involved with, or affected by, pricing. This includes internal departments – Sales, Sales Engineering, and Finance – as well as Current, Lost or Former, and Prospective Customers.

Results: PMI identifies many opportunities to rationalize the product line, improve the positioning and pricing between line items, and to re-capture revenue ‘left on the table.’ Several recommendations are immediately put into test, and other price-related combinations will be tested via conjoint pricing analysis.

Foodservice/QSR Supplier B2B Ideation and Brainstorming

Situation/Objectives: A leading food service supplier is in a bind: their moderator informs them - the day before - that he/she is snowed-in and will not be able to lead a scheduled ideation session with one of their top customers. The objective is to brainstorm new products to help both the client and the customer gain new business in one of the largest quick service restaurant chains in the world.

Action: Bruce learns about this on a Sunday afternoon; gets briefed that evening, pulls together a quick discussion guide, and is ready to go with R&D, Sales, and Marketing – from both the client and a customer - at 7:30 AM the next morning. He suggests beginning the session talking not about R&D or products but brands, and uses a simple positioning ladder as a discussion guide. The discussion generates insights about the supplier’s and customer’s brands; identifies common brand equities and how they complement each other; specific product opportunities; and a stronger selling story.

Results: The ideation session generates many innovative product ideas, which are then culled down to fit three retail price points, and graded on ‘reality’: development time and production capacity. Several winners emerge for presentation to the customer and execution at retail in a three-to-twelve month time frame.

Evaluating Pharma Web Site User Experience

Situation/Objectives: A blockbuster pharmaceutical brand hires a leading video-game based developer to develop an innovative videogame-like patient tutorial. The tutorial is designed to help new patients – many of them children - understand their treatment and make the transition to self-treatment. The objective of the research is to assess the tutorial/web site on the user experience: navigability, usability, and content.

Action: PMI conducts ten one-on-one interactive interviews. Participants are seated at a PC and asked to navigate the site, while the moderator sits adjacent to them, observing them navigate on a separate screen. The approach combines unaided and directed navigation, to ensure feedback on all elements of the site.

Results: The site scores high on content and is well-received for its innovative approach. However, the user testing uncovers a variety of areas for improvement, and PMI’s recommendations lead to many improvements in technical areas (e.g., the size of the mouse ‘grab areas’), organization, flow, and layout of content, and consistency of approach from one menu to the next. Nearly all of the changes are quickly incorporated into the site, which went live shortly thereafter.

Restaurant Chain Seeks Feedback on Quality

Situation/Objectives: A national restaurant chain positioned between QSR (quick service restaurants, or ‘fast food’) and fast casual, seeks to better understand consumer perceptions on quality, consumer cross-over purchasing behavior, and to gain feedback on some new product concepts.

Action: PMI conducts a three-day online bulletin board addressing the relevant issues. During the discussions, several elements of the chain’s product offerings are revealed that provide them a competitive edge, but have low awareness. Additionally, the many new product concepts are sorted into those worthy of further development.

Results: One of those key product/service elements becomes a prominent component of the chain’s next advertising campaign.

Retail Chain Seeks to Narrow Brands

Situation/Objective: A national retail chain has a variety of private label and/or house brands, but many have evolved ‘ad hoc’ over the years. The chain seeks clarity on establishing clearly differentiated brands along the lines of good, better, and best.

Action: 27 brands are presented via focus groups. To ensure getting through a large number of brands in a short time, participants are asked to choose their three favorite and three least favorite brands. Directed discussions reveal insights about the names and positive and negative thoughts, perceptions, and images and associated with them.

Results: The chain moves forward, with the reduced list of brand names, to conduct quantitative research to further refine the list of brands.

Community College Seeks to Better Understand Many Stakeholders

Situation/Objective: A community college (enrollment 13,000) has experienced strong growth but has reached a crossroads: courses of study that have been its strength are at capacity; it is not sure what its ‘customers’ think of its long-running advertising campaign; and the formula for its funding from the state is changing. In addition, it needs help developing a strategy for its online programs.

Action: PMI develops methodologies appropriate for each of its many audiences:

- Focus groups to talk to prospective students, current students, graduates, and high school counselors (who, like doctors, influence students school choice decision)
- Online bulletin boards for online students
- One-on-one interviews for students who have dropped out
- An online quantitative survey after the qualitative has been completed

Results: The school has clear feedback on its advertising campaign, which is changed to reach specific audiences with new messages that resonate. New programs with academic strength, capacity, and profit potential are now emphasized, including online. Awareness is increased of the many resources available to students to help them succeed (to address retention). The school develops a new marketing plan, supported by a new budget and execution timetable, with buy-in from internal stakeholders.

Identifying Consumers’ Reasons for Using Products, and Reactions to New Products

Situation/Objectives: A company has launched a new brand and product - as have a half-dozen competitors - into a new category segment - that has the potential to transform the category and an industry. They want to more fully understand consumers’ (product users) reasons for product usage, which transcends emotional, physical, and practical needs. They want to show the new products and prototypes to non-users, too, to determine their reasons for non-trial, and their level of purchase interest.

Action: PMI conducted six focus groups across two cities among users and non-users, by gender. Participants were asked to create collages to show their thoughts and feelings when using both traditional and new, innovative products.

Results: The collage exercise generated a myriad of insights around consumers’ emotional attachment to certain types of products. The new prototypes were well-received and compared well to the competition, but several suggestions were put forward that will be implemented into future products. Consumers also provided feedback on the brand’s advertising, which will be incorporated into future ads.