New product development requires flexible decision-making and quick pivoting. To meet these challenges, product teams have to constantly innovate on the way they think about and approach research.
When Nestlé’s product team began brainstorming new prepared meal ideas, they identified an area to focus on: getting consumers more involved in the cooking process.
Nestlé needed to approach the research phase in a way that:
- Captured consumer insights around various meal ideas early on in the product development process.
- Allowed for fast pivots away from bad ideas so they could spend time and resources on stronger opportunities.
Traditionally Nestlé’s Innovation team follows a stage-gate process where research is infrequent and completed with fully developed stimuli. But for this initiative, the team decided to use agile research to get a quick quantitative read first on some simple ideas, and then do a qualitative deep-dive on the winning ideas before validation with fully developed concepts.
The GutCheck and Nestlé teams conducted four phases of research together to identify the best meal concept(s) and the accompanying creative strategy.
Phase 1: The research team paired quantitative and qualitative research, starting with an online quantitative Concept Prioritizer™ for 30+ meal ideas and identified the best performing based on key metrics including appeal, uniqueness, fit with brand, and value for the price. With the winning subset of five ideas, the team used an online qualitative Concept Rener™ to understand consumers’ likes and dislikes, appeal, personal relevance, and purchase intent.
Phase 2: The GutCheck team conducted an online ethnography via an Exploratory Research Group™ to help the Nestlé team understand why the one-pot concepts weren’t connecting with consumers in phase 1. They wanted to understand consumers’ likes and dislikes about current one-pot meal products in the market, identifying pain points to address and selling points in the category. This led to a pivot away from one-pot meals to slow cooking.
Phase 3: Using a Concept Enhancer™, the teams gained a better understanding around consumer language by listening to consumers describe the conveniences and challenges of slow cooking to help Nestlé know how to enhance the functional and emotional benefits.
Phase 4: Nestlé worked with another vendor for phase four, where they used a quantitative methodology for concept validation.
Phase 5: A quantitative survey was conducted via GutCheck’s Creative Prioritizer™ before product launch to compare four storyboards based on key metrics like purchase intent, enjoyment, engagement, and clarity, as well as open-end analytics. The team identified two storyboards to refine prior to validation testing.
Nestlé’s product team launched Slow Cooker Meal Starters following a wealth of consumer insights and pivoting away from weaker ideas during development. Here’s what they learned:
- Incorporating consumer feedback early and often guaranteed purposeful iterations and gave the Nestlé team greater confidence going into validation.
- Getting feedback in the consumer’s language was critical for connecting with the consumer.
- The team found they didn’t need to rely on large research studies/sample sizes to reach and learn from their consumers.
- Having a strategic partner who could stay flexible, adaptive, and responsive during all phases of new product development was invaluable.
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