Marshaling the Army: CPG Product Testing with the Shopper Army

Imagine being able to test new consumer packaged good (CPG) products and gain invaluable, rapid, and actionable shopper and consumer feedback before and as the products go to market by engaging thousands of eager shoppers from your target audience. That’s the promise of the new Shopper Army from mCordis client BrandSpark: trial, response, react – so marketers can be sure that the new product is launching with the optimum product and marketing mix. What’s more, you will have customer testimonials at launch and, if your product meets the high standards of the Army, the product will also carry the Shopper Army Top Ranked badge of honor.

The Shopper Army is a rapidly growing community of consumers in Canada, USA – now expanding into China, Turkey and Mexico – that undertake bespoke “missions” to try out new consumer packed goods (CPG) in their own homes. The Army have tested all sorts of CPG products including coffee, food and healthcare products.

The days of testing out your new products on a focus group of a dozen random people in the artificial environment of your agency’s breakout room are over. Shopper Army puts your product into the hands of a thousand pre-vetted consumers. It’s a fast, efficient and economical way to reach a vast and meaningful sample. Nor is there any need for those old-school market research techniques of telephone and face-to-face interviews, or to harass your website visitors with intrusive, pop-up surveys.

The members report back their reactions via computers, tablet and smartphones, using intuitive surveys at the time or shortly after completing their assigned mission. The big benefit of smartphones is that the Army can capture their reactions as they use the product using photos or video. This not only gives brands unique insights into how the product is used, but also who is using it and where they live. Smartphones also mean that the Army can take their missions on the road, recording their reactions as they do their weekly shop in a supermarket or buy a take-away coffee – just think of all the exciting possibilities.

All this means brands can test effectiveness of all elements of the product and marketing mix on the people who really matter: shoppers and consumers. Missions are tailored to suit the brand, focusing on the purchase experience – if the product is already on the shelves – reaction to packaging, ease of use, and the results e.g. how good it tastes, how fresh clothes seemed after washing or teeth seemed after brushing.

As the Army is recruited from the hundreds of thousands of participants in BrandSpark’s Best New Products Awards, which has been running for over a decade, you can be assured that they are among the most engaged of consumers. Brands have been astonished at the dedication of the members. The time and effort they spend preparing and photographing the products, delivering feedback and testimonials and discussing the products with peers in the forum or in their blog posts is totally incommensurate with the free products and/or small remuneration they receive.

The motivation for the members is the knowledge that brands value and react to their feedback. So, for example, in a recent mission for Dr. Oetker, the home baking specialist, tried out three variants of its Pie Crust Mix amid concerns that the product’s formulation might need to be altered, which would have been very costly. But the Army reported back that the brands’ present formula was the tastiest and provided insight and feedback on the product experience which immediately bolstered the team’s ability to effectively market the Pie Crust Mix. (Read the Dr. Oetker case study). Other brands have changed product packaging and the way products are positioned in the market based real-time feedback gather from Shopper Army members. But trialing products is only half the story. New products also benefit through amplification. Not only does the Army feedback on the products, they also rate them and provide reviews and endorsements that can be used at launch. Exceptional products will also receive the Shopper Army Top Ranked seal of approval for use on the product packaging and in launch marketing. This badge is highly and uniquely credible because it is based both on BrandSpark’s exclusive new product benchmark database (collected from over a decade of consumer feedback through the Best New Products Awards) as well as being vetted by the highly engaged, independent consumers who make up the Shopper Army.

Watch this video to learn more about what the members think about the Shopper Army and the value of Shopper Army Top Ranked badge in their own words:

In a world where experts (See Journal of Product Innovation & Management, 2013 claim that 45 percent of newly launched consumer goods fail, it is essential that companies steal a march by soliciting consumer behavior before launching into battle.

Find out more about BrandSpark’s innovative Shopper Army.