By Heidi Dietzsch
Introducing new products without comprehensive testing is highly risky. No matter how good it is in theory, actual consumer response may be very different. Testing can prevent costly mistakes and help develop more successful products.
Concept and product testing are some of the most valuable market research methods that businesses can use. While concept testing looks at the virtues of ideas or prototypes, ensuring that businesses avoid expensive losses and awkward branding errors, product testing aims to improve the actual product.
Product testing allows businesses to measure consumers’ responses and opinions, to gauge whether product improvements were noticed, to realise what strengths and weaknesses a product has and to compare a product with similar ones offered by competitors.
When a manufacturer of ready-made meals, for example, wants to test a new product, respondents will be invited to a location that is convenient for this type of testing. Respondents will view and taste the new product and questions that typically need to be answered are: What is your overall opinion of the product? What is your opinion of the product’s packaging? Would you choose this product over similar products? What do you think of the product’s appearance? What do you think of the product’s taste? How can the product be improved?
Blind or branded product testing can be conducted. Blind testing is when respondents don’t know which brand they are testing and this is useful when businesses want to test pure product performance. When respondents do know which brand they are testing, businesses want to find out what consumers think of the product offering as a whole. Branded testing is often used when businesses want to test consumers’ loyalty to their brand.
When considering financial services products, testing is more complex since it is not a physical object. Banking and financial applications, for instance, require an end-to-end testing methodology that involves multiple software techniques to ensure that all banking workflows and business requirements are covered.
The functionality, security, data integrity and concurrency of the application need to be tested. It is also important to guarantee that the user experience is satisfactory and that the application performs as it should.Thorough testing is imperative since consumers will never entrust their sensitive data to an application with questionable security and poor performance.
It is of course even more difficult to test the dependability of investment advice offered by financial institutions. However, the German financial magazine, Finanztest, took on this challenging task. Specifically trained freelancers often act as customers and then test the investment advice of banks and statutory health insurance providers.
These mystery shopping exercises have had a profound effect on financial service providers. For example, consumer unfriendly financial services, such as some private health insurance tariffs, have been taken off the market. Also, more customer friendly terms and conditions have been introduced by providers offering occupational disability insurance.