Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

3 Cost-Effective Ways to
Validate Your Product for Retail

Joanna Tran is the Content Marketing Manager at Social Nature. She tells the stories of emerging brands who use Social Nature’s platform to drive targeted trial at retail. Social Nature is the exclusive sampling partner of Startup CPG.

Nielsen estimates that 80-85% of CPG product launches fail. This sounds harsh, but there are steps you can take to validate your product with consumers to prepare for a successful and sustainable product launch.

The Startup CPG community is made up of passionate change-makers. Many of the products we see from fellow members are born from unique perspectives where makers see market gaps that need to be filled. It takes guts to launch a CPG product. But trusting our guts is only one part of the equation. We must also align our instincts with consumers’ needs and the price points they’re willing to pay.

We all share the vision of seeing more better-for-you brands both online and offline at retail. Thus, our journey begins with product validation. In this blog, you’ll learn how to craft a framework to capture consumer feedback to validate your products for a retail launch.

Create your product validation framework with three pillars

Each founder has a unique reason for creating their products. For example, Cool Beans’ mission is to make healthy, accessible plant-based foods, and they’re starting that mission in the frozen aisle with frozen burritos. Then you have brands like Haven’s Kitchen with its cooking school roots. They want to make products that make cooking even easier. So to align your gut with consumers’ desires, use the following pillars to draft questions that will give you the answers you need to validate your product.

1. The product’s category usage

Let’s think like retail buyers here. Retail buyers are generally risk-averse because retail margins are thin and they have category or sales targets to hit. They want to stock products that meet their shoppers’ needs and follow trends related to their shoppers’ changing behaviors.

Does your product align with a health or lifestyle problem their shoppers need help solving? For example, plant-based products continue to rise in popularity year-over-year as more people look to eat more plants and less meat for health and sustainability reasons.

Another angle to consider is related to increasing sales at your retailer. Does your product add new shoppers or purchases to the retailer? You can ask questions about how often consumers shop in your category, as well as any competitor brands they purchase. By bringing new shoppers or additional purchases to your retailer, you’re helping the buyer meet their sales targets. For example, consider a sparkling beverage brand with a twist. If you can get sparkling water drinkers to buy their usual products and your product, you’re adding incremental sales to the retailer.

2. The product’s big idea or mission

There are so many products to choose from in this market. How does yours stand out? Many consumers are looking to buy brands that have a shared value or cause. What’s your big idea or mission and will consumers care? If your product is functional, is there a way for you to expand your brand story and genuinely attach it to a larger purpose?

3. The consumers’ feedback on taste and format

In food and beverage, it’s all about taste and texture! Even if your product’s mission aligns with your consumers’ values, they could stop repurchasing if the taste does not meet their expectations.

To continue to grow your product, you’ll need to expand beyond your initial target audience, so taste will be key to capturing new consumers. Be sure to ask questions related to your product’s taste and format. For example, if you’re selling specialty instant oatmeal, do consumers prefer it in a cup or pouch? If it’s in sustainable packaging, does that matter?

Once you’ve drafted some questions to help validate your product, it’s time to get consumer feedback!

Three cost-effective ways to capture consumer feedback for product validation

There are retail buyers who will only meet with brands that have had success at other stores. But if you can provide the right data and show that you’ve done the work to validate your product and drum up demand, you have a chance! If you’re just starting out, here are three cost-effective ways to get consumer feedback for your product.

1. Online surveys

There are many free and low-priced survey tools you can use for initial concept testing like Typeform, Google Forms, and Surveymonkey. You can tap your local network or find shoppers in Facebook groups to fill out your survey. In this case, you can get feedback on their category usage, your product’s mission, and packaging and format.

To get feedback on taste, some founders will host a local tasting and provide a survey for tasters to fill out on the spot. Startup CPG occasionally hosts these events, so you could take advantage of those while getting feedback from other Founders and CPG experts.

2. Local farmers markets

Any Startup CPG members start their brand at the farmers market? Raise your hand if that’s you! It’s a fun, easy, and low-cost way to assess a regional market. In this case, you can sample your products to consumers and ask them validating questions. If it gets busy, you can use a QR code at your booth or provide it on a business card to ask users to go to your link to capture additional feedback or reviews. You can incentivize consumers with a chance to win a prize or gift card to provide their feedback.

3. E-commerce sales data

Many brands start as D2C on their own websites or launch at online retailers like Amazon or Thrive Market. Selling online can give you the data you need to expand at retail. You can get metrics on top-performing products, repeat purchase rates, and even your top customers. If you do D2C, you’ll have access to your customers’ emails. You can email your survey to collect feedback. In some cases, you can even pick up the phone and call power shoppers for their thoughts. Again, you can include an incentive such as a free product or discount code to get customers to give their feedback.

And there you have it! In this blog, we only walked through how you can validate your product in preparation for buyer meetings. If you’d like to learn more about what to do next to successfully pitch your product and get it into stores, check out our retail pitch guide.

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