Thinking Outside The (Big) Box
By Julie Toscano Sequeira
Experimentation is an important element of emergent strategy that offers innovators the opportunity to test key assumptions early and get the information needed to move forward more efficiently and effectively.
In the world of consumer products, key assumptions that need to be tested often fall in the domain of the consumer. Will this concept resonate with target consumers? Can we convince them to shift well-established behavior patterns? What can we expect for trial and repeat? What price is appropriate?
The big box is key to volume and therefore is the ultimate goal for most new CPG products; the big box is often not the most conducive venue for testing such assumptions. From a channel perspective, shelf space is scarce and expensive, marketing costs are high, lead times are long, the environment is demanding, and product assortments are rarely dictated at the individual store level. From an internal perspective, getting the attention of the existing sales force amidst a more proven assortment can be difficult. And, from a competitive standpoint, an experimental offering in the traditional channel could tip a hat earlier than might be desired.
So experimentation in CPG often requires thinking "outside the (big) box" in order to be most successful. The results of tests run in alternative channels can offer evidence to support (or refute) a traditional launch and can help refine the concept in advance of such a launch. Further, in many cases, these channels can represent not only a venue for experimentation but also an early or alternate form of distribution.
The bottom line? Don't focus on volume when running experiments. Rather, focus intently on speed, affordability, connecting directly with consumers and concept refinement. Here are six different possibilities for structuring early experiments in CPG.