Stage 4: Testing and Validation
Coming out of Development, the next Gate is Testing. This is an opportunity for the team to pause and ensure the product meets the brand’s definition of “in-bounds” developed in the Idea Stage. Similarly, the product is evaluated to ensure it meets the quality and safety requirements and any other agreed-to parameters from the Business Case Stage. Assuming it meets the brand and production requirements laid out in the previous stages, the product moves to the Testing and Validation phase.
Testing and Validation is an opportunity for external feedback from consumers and retailers. During the Development phase, the market appetite that informed the initial approach may have changed. Market pressures shift. Or, perhaps, the concept migrated farther than expected based on initial understandings.
There are many reasons why additional testing and research at this stage is valuable. Advanced research at this stage can help answer quantitative questions, such as price sensitivity, purchase interest, and competitive analysis; and qualitative questions, such as brand positioning, features and benefits, and marketing support. In-home and online testing are effective techniques to evaluate product and packaging features. Nielsen data, discrete choice modeling, and market/category research can evaluate the more quantitative questions.
Market Validation is the last check-point before launch and allows a Licensee one more opportunity to tweak the product. In-store tests allow for “real-world” experience on a focused basis. Trade promotions, in addition to the brand, can assist with getting the product into stores. Once in stores, the experience is evaluated in order to shed light on key questions such as:
- Can the licensed and core product reside together on the shelf?
- Is this an opportunity to “reinvent” where the brand can reside in the store?
- Is the price point correct?
- What are the consumers saying about the product?
- Is the product’s sales performance meeting category manager’s or buyer’s needs?
Stopping to evaluate now isn’t a diversion, it’s a strategic evaluation of whether it’s time to “Go Big or Go Home” on the idea. Once the organization decides it is ready to Go Big, the full force of distribution and marketing are unleashed. Those are expensive, precious resources that should be employed for products that have been thoroughly vetted, and redeveloped, if necessary.
Next time – Step 6: Ready for launch….and relaunch!