How to run a successful product test with customers

representation of successful product research test: Dart board bullseye

A new product or service will sell better if you have tested it first. It may take time and money but it will give you a higher return on your investment.

But not all prototype or beta-tests are equal. There are good ones and bad ones. A product test done badly will just waste your money. So, what makes a good product test? Put simply, it is a test that leads to improvements in the product. This can be achieved by following 4 rules that, we at the Product Lab, refer to as the 4 ‘Rs’ of testing:

Realistic: Make the test natural and lifelike

This is the most important to get right. You need to make the test as realistic as possible – no point asking someone to tell you in a focus group if they might use a product. A focus group is often chosen because it's the cheapest and fastest way to run a test; but it is a false economy. It’s such an artificial setting and doesn’t test any real behaviour at all. The best tests are those that allow consumers to use a product, service or website ‘in the wild’, in the natural setting of their lives. At the Product Lab we get the product in the home of the consumer; see how they use it with their family and friends; see how it engages them.

Representative: Use testers from your target market

Run the test with the consumers it is was designed for. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people ask for feedback from just anybody. We use our Lab Panel, who are profiled in many ways, to select a sample of customers that are a good representation of your target consumer segment. People may tell you that the sample size is important, but I don’t think it is. Picking the right sample and running a quality trial is more important than volume of research.

Reciprocal: Encourage open feedback

Don’t just ask questions. And when you do, make sure you ask open ones, not just closed ones. So many people just ask what they want to know: did you like it (yes/no)? What did you use it for? (tick box). This type of research is a straightjacket to innovation and improvement. It leads to a ‘pat on the back’ if it went well. The point of any trial or test is to make improvements so that your product or service sells more. This comes by asking your target consumer to tell you ‘how they used it’, ‘why they didn’t use it’ or inviting them to make improvement suggestions.

Reasonable: Be objective throughout

Always step back from your product or service. See it with objectivity and you hear what consumers are saying. You will be more likely to act and therefore will sell more when you launch. Don’t just look for confirmation that you were right. Look for the bits in between the positive feedback; and scrutinise to identify the negatives as well. It’s in these bits that the gold dust lies.

All in all, never forget that a good prototype or beta-test will lead to a higher return on your investment and will reduce your risk of failure. So slow down, think it through and structure it well.

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About the Author

  • Paul Hudson

    Paul Hudson - CEO

    The Product Lab is Paul's brainchild. In a long standing career working alongside some of the leading brands in the UK today, his business foresight is legendary. Paul is passionate about the partnership between market research and innovation at every stage of business process having witnessed the compound benefits first hand.

    Telephone: 01539 565452


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