Be Part of Product Testing for Kids’ Sports Shoes and Other Footwear

For all the footwear options available to adults, there is less diversification in the children’s footwear industry, including among kids’ sports shoes. Parents looking to buy their kids the same shoe brand they use may hit a roadblock, finding the brand doesn’t make a kids version or the style they'd prefer. However, footwear brands are rapidly expanding in the children’s footwear market, and this post explores one of the critical aspects of designing any kids’ product – testing.

The Growing Children’s Footwear Market

Until recently, and even still, there are fewer options for kids’ sports shoes that account for the movements kids make during activities, and the impact that physical growth and development  in general can have on the body.

A recent study found that there is a need for further progress in children’s footwear science and our understanding of the interaction between a child’s foot and their shoe. It goes on to state that children’s footwear is critical for protecting children’s feet as they advance their movements and behaviors, and grow and develop, which impacts foot shape and size.

More generic or standardized children’s shoe designs may not sufficiently address these concerns.

However, we are seeing changes in the industry. Modern Retail reports that certain adult performance footwear brands are exploring new children’s footwear lines with the goals of enhancing the way kids engage in their favorite activities and to support their growth spurts. The same is happening beyond kids' sports shoes, too.

These are important strides in the children’s footwear industry, and a firm understanding of that relationship between foot and shoe discussed in the above study will be integral to brands’ success in this market. Beyond testing in the footwear lab, getting prototypes and samples on children’s feet is a critical way to collect essential product experience data.

How Parents Can Help Brands Build Better Footwear for Kids

Parent participation is critical for getting children involved in the footwear product testing process. 

The best way to make it happen? Parents can join the MESH01 parent tester community to take part in product tests that fit with the interests and lifestyles of parent and child. 

  • Participate in product tests relevant to a child’s age, sizing, interests, and lifestyle.
  • Provide feedback about the product experience.
  • Provide honest feedback that is on time to ensure brands can follow their product development timelines.
  • Stick with the product test requirements through to the end. 
  • Enjoy an opportunity to keep tested products.

Parent and child testing feedback on children’s footwear and other products not only helps specific brands, it enhances the children’s footwear market overall.

How Brands Can Integrate Parent Product Testing Into Their Children’s Footwear Line

Brands can leverage valuable voice of the customer feedback from parent product testers and their children to accomplish several important footwear product development goals:

  • Gain a clear understanding of how the children’s shoe performs in the environments for which it was designed.
  • Improve an existing children’s footwear product to better fit ongoing development and growth.
  • Identify opportunities in the children’s footwear that can serve different movements and body types.

Whether brands have an existing children’s shoe or are looking to expand into the children’s footwear market, product testing provides an ideal opportunity to create a better product for the developing and growing foot. 

Plus, tested products are backed by the most important audiences – the customer and their parents. Pre-launch product testing ensures the product is supported by those individuals who will be making the final purchase decision – plus, it builds brand loyalty, increases product quality, and elevates sales. 

Testing Kids’ Sports Shoes Using the MESH01 Platform

Interested parents can register on the MESH01 Parent Product Tester page. As a parent product tester on MESH01, you'll be eligible to participate in kids' product tests with many of the world's most recognizable brands. 

Brands looking to explore or enhance a children’s footwear line will find the MESH01 platform to be an easy and efficient way to collect valuable voice of the customer data and inform product development, even on the tightest timelines. 

Parent product testing is also a great idea for any product, including apparel and other items. Voice of the customer feedback is always a valuable way to improve products and launch products your customers want and that fit their needs. 

See how our product testing community works. Take a Look

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Ensuring Valuable Product Testing Insights are Infused Into the Product Development Process

When your development team is validating a new product, conducting product testing is a critical part of the process. When companies look to add formalized product testing to their processes or enhance a current process, this is often part of a larger strategy for collecting and applying voice of the customer feedback across the organization. 

Product testers provide critical pre-market insights about products as they use the products in real-world ways. Companies leveraging a enterprise-grade product testing solution like MESH01 are continuously generating product testing feedback that improve product design, development, merchandising, marketing, and the product experience. 

Applying voice of the customer feedback to your product development process ensures you’re launching a product that will deliver a great customer experience. And according to Forbes, 86% of buyers will pay more for that a experience.

Product testing is integral. But how can you make sure your product teams are capturing voice of the customer feedback and applying it to the product development process with effective feedback loops?

What Does an Ideal Voice of Customer Feedback Loop Look Like in Product Development?

There are some key steps that are necessary to implement an effective voice of the customer feedback loop in your organization. Let's take a look:

  1. Generate voice of customer feedback. 

This component is arguably the most important because without it, you have no feedback to apply to your product development process. Using a purpose-built product testing platform like MESH01 gives you access to a vast community of product testers that you can narrow down to be representative of your target market. After all, it's critical that you're listening to the right voices.

You can launch surveys and collect field testing activity logs, images and videos, performance zone heatmaps, and other information through multiple feedback channels. Tester feedback is provided in real time so you can share the findings with product teams right away and execute improvements even on tight deadlines.

  1. Analyze the voice of customer feedback data. 

Depending on the product and size of your testing community, you may have quite a bit of feedback data to sift through. Analyzing the data helps you understand how to apply the feedback in the most impactful way.

Your product testing solution should provide a dashboard from which you can extract all of the tester feedback and parse out call-outs, commonalities and themes (both positive and negative) in how testers were reacting to your product. This process will not only help your teams identify what should be improved, but will also help prioritize decision making based on what's most important to your customers.

  1. Collaborate on executing actionable insights.

Once you have analyzed the voice of the customer feedback generated through product testing, you’ll be able to assign direct action to the most appropriate teams

For example, if the feedback addresses a product quality issue such as inconsistencies with a material, sourcing can collaborate on the solution. However, if the feedback addresses a design issue, such as a trim component that is not meeting expectations, collaboration with design will ensure the product issue is addressed before going to market.

  1. Conduct additional testing as needed. 

After you have applied the changes to the product as indicated by a product test, you can send subsequent prototypes or samples out to your product testers for a additional rounds of product testing as needed to ensure the improvements solve customer concerns. The more validation you have that your product meets the needs of your target customers, the more confident you can be in your product launch. 

Continuous Customer Feedback Loops

Even after product launch, generating and analyzing customer feedback is an important part of establishing valuable continuous feedback loops. Reviews, social media posts, customer service calls, and more often give completely free insight into how your customers are experiencing your product, though often incomplete. To shore up these feedback loops and ensure representative feedback is being generated, the addition of product testing to current products is often employed with significant impact. Following up on customer feedback generated through accurate channels builds customer loyalty, too.

What Have We Learned?

Collecting voice of the customer feedback through product testing is an integral part of product creation. It’s the only way to surely know how your target customers will experience your product once it hits the market, and you don’t want to find out about avoidable issues after launch. 

Creating an effective feedback loop is critical to ensuring your product development teams are informed about what needs to be done to improve or update the product, and keep everyone on the same page during what is usually a tight development timeline. 

Further, voice of the customer feedback loops enable companies to shape their product roadmaps by providing valuable insight into product issues you may not have been aware of, or updates that can propel a product forward. When you’re aware of how to enhance your product in a way that's meaningful to your customers, you can move more quickly to deliver what they want when they want it. 

Lastly, a structured feedback loop helps support your organization’s strategic goals. You would want to know if a product or category is consistently declining. Keep your business and brand strong by addressing these issues at the source, using pre-market customer feedback to deliver new or updated products that resonate and will be successful. 

A final note on collecting voice of the customer feedback: some brands opt to use employees, family, or friends for product testing, which may feel like it will save time in testing process. However, MESH01 customers consistently report not only concerns about feedback quality (bias) with feedback loops dependent on friends, family and coworkers, but also longer turnarounds compared to dedicate, non-biased testers.

To ensure both relevance and reliability, conduct product testing using a solution like MESH01 that features and integrated product tester community and is designed to accommodate even the tightest product development timelines. The more valuable the feedback, the more impactful your product will be after launch. 

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How Product Developers Can Still Perform Pre-Launch Concept and Product Testing on a Tight Product Development Calendar

It’s not unusual for a tight product development calendar to leave product teams feeling pressured to get products out the door quickly. This pressure is also often in opposition to other initiatives like innovation and newness, and of course, quality. Simply put, product teams are trying to accomplish a lot on short timelines, and this crunch can often result in skipped product development steps including concept and product testing.

Without concept and product testing, there is little near-market confirmation that the product will do well post-launch. Further, product testing helps to validate quality and performance as well as identify areas for improvements (which make products more desirable and more aligned with what customers are looking for). 

Tight product development calendars may not feel like they leave a lot of room for what can be perceived to be time-consuming product testing.  It may instead feel easier to hand out some product prototypes to some coworkers, friends and family, or maybe conduct a basic survey or informal focus group.

The risk with those methods is fairly clear, though – if you aren’t getting feedback on your products from unbiased customers in your target market, you can’t be confident your customers will be satisfied with the product you’re launching.

Product developers have historically been in a seasonal struggle choosing between gathering pre-market product testing data that they can be confident in, and less rigorous testing that could be achieved faster. Good or fast - pick one. Fortunately, technologies specific to product development have been advancing.

But before discussing how to work effective testing into a tight product development calendar, we should acknowledge the common reason why these timelines are made shorter in the first place: specifically, brands’ efforts to decrease the risks of advance product development and manufacturing far out from retail buying while fashion trends continue to change so rapidly.

Product development calendars have been compressed in order to mitigate the risks of longer timelines by increasing product relevance closer to market - all while brands are trying to achieve more overall within their product creation process. Next, we’ll look at some of the initiatives now often included in the overall product creation process.

Common Initiatives Within the Product Creation Process

The Freedom to Ideate

One of the most important aspects of early product development is having the space to generate ideas that can eventually become a viable (and testable) product concept. This process is a key driver of newness within product lines which can come from reimagining current styles to developing completely new products. While not always bound to a product season, ideation often accelerates when brands are evaluating trends and strategizing their upcoming season’s products. 

Engaging in Meaningful Innovation

If the product is new, there are many steps involved to ideate, prototype, test, refine, and finalize what is intended to be an exciting new product. Innovation should be considered an ongoing effort but also often gets collapsed down at the innovation/item-level as plans for commercialization fit within a target delivery season.  

Engaging in The Customer

Just as brands work to condense their product development calendars in an effort to deliver on-trend products, the world’s leading brands and retailers are also making significant commitments to enhancing their abilities to connect with their customers within their product development process.

Similar to the risks and challenges associated with long development timelines, often cited data like last year’s sales performance are decreasingly relevant as fashion trends continue to move rapidly. Now, brands are leveraging new and agile ways to include the voice of the customer within their design and development stages, resulting in more actionable pre-market customer feedback.

How to Include  Concept and Product Testing in Your Product Development Calendar

Whether your brand is looking to introduce or enhance its concept and product testing, here are four core considerations that will help streamline your efforts.

Review Your Product Development Calendar

Laying out every step of your product development calendar that spans from product concept to product launch is key to ensuring collaborative processes are designed to move smoothly with everyone aligned. Here is where brands designate specific points within the product development calendar at which concept testing and product testing are to take place (for advanced concepts and innovation, this process is often more fluid).

If the timeline isn’t clear and adopted, it’s easier for steps to lag or fall through the cracks which can lead to delays, then skipped steps. Establishing a calendar meeting cadence to discuss progress and maintain visibility on the process helps to identify any major changes that can impact the product line. 

Anticipate Potential Process Changes

Depending on the size and scale of your organization and product development teams, anticipating and implementing calendar changes can be accomplished through a range of deliberate efforts. These can include simple process-change kickoffs, cultural changes supported by team check-ins or even fully supported process change management led by dedicated roles and staff. In order to be truly prepared and set your new or enhanced product testing program up for success, it’s best to identify these potential changes ahead of time, be proactive and plan on an appropriate level of transition support.

Accept That No Product Development Season is Exactly the Same

Even if nothing goes awry during a seasonal product development timeline, each time you engage in product development is going to look a little different. Certain steps in the process can be more fluid or unpredictable, including the application of feedback obtained during concept and product testing.

When you can collect product tester feedback in real time, disseminate that feedback quickly among teams, and apply it right away to concepts and products within the development cycle, you remove a lot of the drag that can come from the testing phase (MESH01 provides a highly efficient approach to concept and product testing that leverages a targeted community of testers and a robust platform for fast, valuable feedback). These efficiencies are designed to create time for product improvements based on the gathered feedback.

While you can’t predict how every stage of the product development calendar will unfold, you can now accelerate critical stages like product testing and make sure they are a valuable and relied-upon step in your product creation process.

Leverage Purpose-Built Technology

It’s common for companies to use disparate software solutions for different operations. While the best-of-breed approach can be valuable, it's important to confirm the functionality and efficiency of the overall product development technology ecosystem. The key is to avoid both an overwhelming amount of tools as well as tools that weren't designed for your end use, as this is how work can be slowed down, lost, miscommunicated, or inaccessible to different departments. This appears to be especially true in undeveloped product testing processes, where providing a purpose-built platform for all involved creates critical efficiencies that help keep products on target and on time. 

When adding or enhancing concept and product testing, a platform like MESH01 that is designed specifically for product design and development is a proven way to ensure that product teams can leverage valuable tester feedback and insights that will impact the bottom line.

It Pays to Add Concept and Product Testing Into Your Product Development Calendar

Product development schedules are tight. This is exactly why MESH01 has created a testing platform that allows you to conduct testing, and collect and apply actionable feedback from unbiased testers quickly and efficiently. Unlike other testing platforms and methods, MESH01 is designed to fit within even the most demanding timelines. 

You don’t have to slow down – you just need to use tools designed to work efficiently within your product development calendar. And MESH01 can help.

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Excess Inventory Management and the Role Testing Can Play

It’s a hard time to be a demand forecaster or inventory manager – excess inventory piling up at retail stores across the country is creating or compounding challenges for the 2022 holiday season. 

As we continue to move past the pandemic, consumer preferences have been shifting away from items they needed to make it more comfortable to be home all the time; they’re now interested in a broader range of items. 

Adding to 2022 retail challenges are inflation and supply chain shortages, both of which have made consumer behavior even more unpredictable, and left a lot of unsold inventory on shelves and in warehouses and stock rooms. 

Consequently, many brands and retailers are trying to clear out this excess inventory before 2023, using the classic markdowns and other means. Such measures are less than ideal for brands, especially as concerns about consumer confidence continue.

While some of these inventory challenges are caused by factors outside of brands’ and retailers’ control, the excess inventory issue underscores an important step in the product development process that can contribute to an overall reduction in unsold items: product testing with customers before product launch.

Avoid Excess Inventory, Markdowns, and Unsold Items Through Product Testing

A recent CNBC article highlights some of the primary reasons retailers are struggling with excess inventory; among them, placing larger or expedited orders of products to compensate for strong consumer demand and avoid supply chain out-of-stocks. 

Slowing the influx of merchandise then became a problem, as products had been built up and weren’t selling, making it necessary to slash prices and cancel orders. 

In an October 2022 survey conducted by business management software company Coupa, 90% of retailers said they had excess inventory, but 88% said they were already experiencing out-of-stocks on key holiday items.

The excess inventory issue hitting stores this year is largely the product of drastically shifting consumer preferences and retailers struggling to forecast inventory needs in an uncertain environment.

The point still stands, however, that brands can better insulate themselves against these challenges – and fare better on store shelves – by conducting pre-market concept testing and product testing with consumers.

Read More: Decrease Retail Inventory Challenges With Product Testing

Clearly, market conditions remain in flux after 2+ years of sustained disruption, but brands can still take advantage of concept testing and product testing, both of which are proven and trusted paths to growth that can stand up to some uncertainties. 

The Risks of Failing to Conduct Concept or Product Testing Before Launch

Understanding what your target audience is looking to buy – not just for the holiday season, but all the time – allows your brand to prevent some significant sales challenges. 

Failing to put your products or product concepts in front of your audience for pre-launch testing means you’re launching into a market without direct and specific feedback. And relying on the input or feedback of friends, family, or colleagues doesn’t accurately represent your true consumers. This feedback is also often both slower and skewed.

Common pitfalls of skipping past the concept and product testing phases of your product development process include:

  • Sales Losses. When consumers don’t find the product or type of product they want, they’re likely to move on to a different brand, causing your brand to miss out on a sales opportunity. 
  • Customer Loyalty Losses. Every brand should be aware of how quickly consumers will change brand alliances if they have a negative product experience. Excess inventory means consumers have more products to choose from and if yours doesn’t rise to the top, they may move on.
  • Dead Stock. Inventory that remains unsold even after markdowns creates big problems for brands as storing that inventory can cost big money. 

Now, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can avoid these issues by integrating concept and product testing within your product development process. 

Launch Market-Leading Products and Avoid Excess Inventory by Testing First

Testing product concepts, testing a new product in development, or testing an existing product to identify improvements and updates that meet changing consumer demand can all be accomplished using a product testing platform. 

These platforms offer an upstream opportunity to reduces downstream challenges like inventory glut and help your brand more successfully navigate a buying environment that continues to be uncertain.

Conducting concept and product testing before launch enables you to optimize your product development and merchandising while sticking to even the tightest timelines and insulating against inventory and supply chain challenges.

Concept and Product Testing Methods That Mitigate Sales Losses

Product testing platforms offer several capabilities that benefit product development processes:

  • Connecting your brand with a community of qualified product testers you can curate to fit your target market. 
  • Detailed digital surveys capture pre-market consumer sentiment about your product concept or prototype as you develop the product. 
  • Performance zone mapping allows testers to be specific about what’s working  – and not working – about your product as they use it in the way it was intended. 
  • Image and video uploads help your testers tell you the full story of their product experience before your product is launched, from where they use something, to what they use it with to how it is or isn’t holding up. 
  • Activity logs help you understand what your testers did with your product, so you can validate their feedback in the context of their experience. 

Here are 5 ways these tools can help your brand better compete in today’s uncertain retail environment.

  1. Extend the life cycles of current products

Product testing items that are already in the market can help you identify key upgrades or improvements to fit your customers’ changing needs and preferences. You can avoid sales declines on a quality item by making slight adjustments identified by the individuals who will actually be buying and using the product. 

  1. Infuse voice-of-the-customer feedback into your product development process

Brands commonly lack access to reliable, unbiased feedback on their products; however, MESH01 uniquely supplies brands with a community of more than 50,000 qualified testers that you can narrow down to fit your target market. These testers will use your products in the real-world scenarios they are intended for, and provide valuable feedback reflective of your end users. 

  1. Go beyond demographics to get meaningful product experience context

There is a tester out there for every product, and you will be able to leverage them by going beyond basic demographics to select product testers based on hyper-specific bio-attributes, such as type and frequency of activity, activity level, and details about buying habits like preferred stores, brands, and purchase preferences. With such specific identifiers, you can be sure your product is in the right hands for testing generable actionable insights and feedback.

  1. Solidify your concepts and product prototypes

After identifying your ideal community of testers, you can send concept surveys to gauge the viability of your product concept, and give them your product prototypes for testing in real-world scenarios the way your product was designed to be used. Feedback is fast, reliable, and provided by individuals who represent your actual customers.

  1. Gain a competitive advantage

In a buying environment that is anything but predictable, product testing before launch can give your brand a significant advantage – you’ll be launching products you have already validated with your target market, so you’re not just delivering what your actual customers want, but you’re elevating their experience with your product – and brand – as well. 

Don’t Hope for Market Success – Launch Products With Confidence

Excess inventory and unpredictable consumer shopping habits may be disrupting retail, but if you test your concepts and products with qualified testers in your target audience, you can mitigate the risks of launching poorly performing products. 

Making assumptions about consumer preferences, or sacrificing concept or product testing altogether – increases the chances your product will become excess inventory that is unsold or must be subject to major mark-downs.

Concept and product testing is a proven way to insulate your brand against failure in the market – and launching a product that doesn’t sell is far more costly and time-consuming than testing it with target customers before launch.

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Breathe New Life into Existing Products Through Product Testing

Testing products isn’t just critical for new items you’re planning to launch. The testing process can be invaluable for existing products nearing the end of their lifecycle, too.

Testing products already in your inventory allows you to identify areas for improvement and enhancement that will update these products to meet customers’ evolving needs. Through product testing, your brand can take customer favorites and continue to generate sales.

And if your brand is struggling to move through a style (or styles), you can put that overstock to good use by allocating units to product testing for direct and comprehensive customer feedback.

Even Your Best-Selling Products Should Evolve With Your Customers

If your company has a popular product that has always generated strong sales and has been a key attraction for customers, it might already be time to conduct product testing to identify areas for future improvement.

We understand this idea may seem counterintuitive – why fix something that isn’t broken? 

While your product remains unchanged, trends, materials, manufacturing processes, and the buying habits of your customers are all changing, which impacts their demands and expectations and will eventually impact your key item sales. 

Further, eCommerce solutions have made it easier than ever for customers to get in-depth product information, read reviews, and try something new if they’re no longer completely satisfied with your brand’s product. So, staying ahead of customer expectations has never been more important.

There is always value in listening to your customers, and even though your beloved product may still be their preferred purchase, there are more than likely several areas of fit, design, or functionality that could change with the times.

Upgrade Popular Products With Product Testing

Leveraging a product testing platform like MESH01 allows you to accomplish several steps critical to testing products from new prototypes to proven items, all in one place. 

  • Select testers who fit your target audience from a community of more than 50,000 reliable product testers
  • Easily generate survey results from multiple surveys per test
  • View actionable tester feedback fast on a single platform
  • Quickly analyze and apply results to improve products

You can even build an ideal sub-community of testers that closely align with your product’s intended use (target customers or muses). For example, if you’re testing a hiking boot, you can identify testers who not only hike, but hike in the specific conditions and for the distances you need to get relevant feedback on your boot’s performance and durability. 

Once your proven product is in the hands of your curated tester community, the MESH01 platform enables you to receive multi-channel feedback:

  • Detailed digital surveys
  • Performance heat zone mapping
  • Image and video uploads
  • Activity logs and more

Now you can identify key item updates that can help you avoid a sales decline, out-compete competitive products, and elevate customer satisfaction. 

Read More: How We Helped L.L.Bean Reinvent a Multi-Million Dollar Rain Jacket

Testing Products All on One Platform

When you conduct product testing using a single-platform solution, you can streamline the product development process in several ways:

  • Recruit and engage testers all in one place
  • Manage multi-channel feedback within a single dashboard
  • Easily scale to accommodate larger testing programs 
  • Share feedback data across operational teams
  • Enhance visibility into your entire product development process

Don’t lose market share or risk sales declines on legacy, high-performing products. Leverage valuable product feedback right away to enhance the product development process and elevate your market-leading products.

Improve Employee Experience and Retention With Technologies That Support Their Work

Brands and retailers of all sizes share a glaring Achilles heel when it comes to employee satisfaction – in many functional areas, they are using outdated technology that makes enterprise-wide communication more difficult, diminishes overall efficiency and productivity, and causes frustration among workers. Having worked with so many of the world’s most recognized brands, we know this is particularly true in product testing. 

If this sounds like an issue for your teams, consider adopting a product testing platform that can help streamline your product development feedback processes and bring departments together,  improving employee experience and retention.

The Role of Technology in Employee Retention  

Following the pandemic-driven “great resignation” of 2021 (or the “great reshuffle” depending on who you ask), businesses are being forced to reconcile evolved employee expectations with their current tech stacks.

Harvard Business Review reported that employees are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to remain at their job for more than 3 years when they have access to technology that supports their work.

Similarly, a Gallup poll found that businesses with high employee engagement – which can be achieved largely through effective technology – experience 23% more profitability and 43% less turnover.

Ease of communication with colleagues, being able to get help with issues, and providing feedback to colleagues are some of the top expectations employees have for technology in the workplace.

We use the term “workplace” lightly here, because more than ever before, employees are seeking hybrid or fully remote jobs. And without the same in-person setting from the pre-pandemic days, offering technology that empowers employees – wherever they are – is crucial. 

Employee experience using MESH01 product testing

So, what does all this mean for product development teams working on concept testing and product testing? 

Help Employees Work Better With a Single Product Testing Platform

When it comes to digital technology solutions, a single-platform solution is one of the best ways to deliver on the expectations today’s employees have for technology to power their work. And while certain circumstances may be better solved by a best-of-breed approach that connects multiple solutions, the ability to span the stages of product testing with a single platform is proving to be the preferred approach by the world's leading brands and retailers.

General benefits of a single-platform product testing solution:

  • Tester management, recruitment and communication all in one place
  • The ability to manage multiple feedback types within a single dashboard
  • Relevant features that support a range of testing needs from a single experience
  • Operating efficiencies that support scaling to large testing programs
  • Greater visibility and knowledge sharing across teams

Specific to the product development environment, a single-platform product testing solution allows your organization to manage its entire product testing process, from ideation to launch, all in one place. 

MESH01 uniquely provides complete visibility across all involved departments so teams and stakeholders stay informed and engaged with the data and information most relevant to their roles. 

You’re able to share fast, detailed reporting of concept and product tests across your organization, and notify teams immediately about any pre-market product improvement opportunities.

87% of hiring managers and human resource representatives Forbes spoke to this year said while employee retention is a top priority, 20% find it difficult to maintain a focus on this goal. 

Emerging Barriers to Employee Retention

Some of the lost focus on employee retention can be recouped by offering the technology that employees want – and expect – to use when working at a company in their space. Your employees’ experience with your technology begins their very first day, and frustrating, cumbersome, siloed, or disparate solutions do little to set them up for success.

Another threat that has been impacting workplaces since the pandemic is the “quiet quitting” trend, where employees are simply disengaged at work, going through the paces to complete their job as described without putting in any extra effort to collaborate or go above and beyond to meet customer needs.

A recent Gallup survey found that more than half of employees are not at all engaged at work (the quiet quitters), with 4 in 10 employees saying they’re not even certain what’s expected of them at work.

One of the cited reasons for this growing disengagement was a lack of manager engagement with employees, which has only worsened as a result of remote and hybrid work environments. 

Technology can’t solve every workplace issue, but investing in it is a reflection of leadership investment and support, and even the company and brand itself. Putting emphasis on technology demonstrates that company leaders take product creation work seriously and value the talents of their employees. It can also affirm the new-employee expectations new hires bring to their first day, and with brands continuing to invest in product development technologies like product testing solutions, the right tools will make the right first impressions.

After all, your product developers and designers are creating more than just products. They are using their talents to create great product (and brand) experiences for your customers. 

Product Testing Technology Delivers Immediate Results

Greater project visibility, improved employee communication, and streamlined product development processes – even on the tightest timelines – are just some of the benefits of using a single-platform solution for product testing. 

A single-platform product testing solution adds benefits your employees can leverage right away to enhance the product development process and launch market-leading products. 

  • Connect with a vast community of qualified product testers who represent your target market and will use your product the way it’s intended.
  • Receive valuable feedback on product attributes like fit, performance, design, and durability to ensure confidence in product development.
  • Validate product direction or identify new market opportunities with concept surveys
  • Collect feedback data from activity logs, concept and product testing surveys, image and video uploads, and performance zone heat maps – all in one, easily-accessible place. 
  • Quickly and efficiently apply all feedback data to product design, development, merchandising, and marketing, keeping your product creation processes on track.
  • Make more informed decisions about product design, product development, marketing, and inventory planning.

All of these unique benefits add up to one major outcome that also plays a big role in retaining employees: customer satisfaction. Product success in the market reflects well on your employees and creates validation of their work. 

When you empower employees with the right tools and technology, attracting and retaining talent becomes much easier to achieve. Combined with other employee experience and retention efforts, your company will realize greater employee satisfaction with the implementation of a single-platform product testing solution. 

Understanding the Differences Between Online Reviews and Pre-Market Product Testing

In a world where online reviews have profound impacts on purchase decisions and product success from sales volume to how much customers are willing to pay, brands are relying on customers’ voluntary contributions more than ever. Now, brands are hard at work even earlier in the product creation process trying to understand exactly what their customers want. In response to these growing needs, a variety of apps and communities have been developed to try to harness the “voice of the customer” including product sampling and reviews programs, social influencing and more. In this post, we'll explore the differences between common online product reviews vs product testing.

Online Reviews Basics

Whether writing them or reading them, online reviews are part of day-to-day life as consumers. We all mostly trust them, too. Research has found that upwards of 90% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Further, 93% of consumers are influenced by online reviews prior to making a purchase decision.

Online reviews are not only impacting consumers. Ratings and reviews have become almost essential for today’s brands and retailers. Today, businesses are trying to close the gap between launching products and the first product reviews as early reviews can drive faster sales. While this tactic can be at the risk of unexpected product experiences and even negative brand perception, product reviews are often driven to:

  1. Accelerate sales after product launch
  2. Increase overall sales volume and sell-through
  3. Create productive customer relationships

In today’s increasingly competitive digital world spanning from eCommerce to social media, brands and retailers look to generate and promote online reviews to drive demand and build customer trust. The expectation is that these efforts may continue and that more consumers will be encouraged to buy the product (and share then their own review). As reviews continue to accumulate product by product, they are continuously shaping a trusted reference shared among relevant consumers. For consumers, reviews are a trusted resource to help eliminate concerns and increase confidence during the purchasing process.

Incentivized Online Reviews

While most of us trust and rely on them, ratings and reviews on many products can actually steer us toward the wrong purchasing decision. This can be a byproduct of the type of review program and include the impact of incentivizing ratings and reviews.

Interested in how incentives affect what customers write in their reviews, Kaitlin Woolley, Associate Professor of Marketing at SC Johnson Cornell College of Business conducted a series of controlled experiments. Using methods involving natural language processing, Woolley’s experiments isolated the incentive’s effect on the content of reviews and illustrated that offering direct compensation for posting written reviews online results in a greater proportion of positive versus negative emotion across a variety of product and service experiences.

Acknowledging the impact that incentives can have on reviews, it holds that consumers may come across inaccurate ratings and reviews, depending on how the review was collected. This content may drive early sales for the company, but may mislead customers and result in a poor product experience against customer expectations. Further, disappointing product experiences often directly impact a consumer’s perspective and relationship with the company itself.

While there’s potential for difference between the impacts of organic product reviews and incentivized product reviews, brands and retailers have another way of engaging consumers that can close the gap between product launch and initial reviews while ensuring exceptional product experiences and brand relationships: pre-market product testing.

Product Reviews vs Product Testing

Where ratings and reviews programs look to gather the voice of the customer after a product has already been launched, product testing is most commonly done before a product is launched. Here, the goal of the engaged consumer is to help brands make the best products and create the best product experience possible. This approach can generate those early product reviews, but more importantly, result in great products that customers love. Below, we’ll cover some of the biggest differences between being a reviewer and a product tester.

Customer Feedback Before Product Launch

The first major difference between providing product reviews and participating in pre-market product testing is inherent; product testing usually happens before a product is launched. In this stage, brands and product testers are focused on improving a product that is in development or being worked on for a revision or update. While online reviews can vary in focus from customer service to shipping issues and beyond, they are not an effective way to validate products or identify opportunities for improvements before the products actually hit the shelves.

The result of an untested product can leave consumers unsatisfied with new products which are quickly marked down then fixed and updated with a revised version for next year (or done away with completely after a single selling season). Products tested on a pre-market product testing platform give testers an early look at what the brand is planning, and testers are ready to catch any issues with the product or allow the brand to go to market with confidence.

A Genuine Product Feedback Community

Product testers work alongside the world’s leading brands and retailers and are connecting with companies based on their interests, preferences, and activity participation. This means that their product feedback is not only valuable because of their product testing experience itself, but also because of their vast knowledge and dedicated history using related products as a part of their favorite interests and activities.

As a consumer, you are always looking for the next best product to improve your own experience, whether it is to make your run swifter, your bike-ride more refreshing or even your workdays more comfortable. Dedicated product testers work to improve the product experience for themselves but also their friends, family, and other customers overall through commitment to rigorous testing and genuine feedback.

Feedback at the Product Concept Stage

Through product concept testing, brands and retailers can determine whether a new product is worth bringing to market or if the concept needs more research and development. Through concept testing, brands share their product ideas and interests with target customers before investing in the development of a product. This let’s brands and retailers confidently create products knowing that their customers are going to love them. Through work with product testers, brands like Jetboil have seen nothing but success and raving reviews about their new product. One of their stoves has even been rated “the best all-in-one kitchen of 2021” by Backpacker Magazine. This accomplishment was assisted by the MESH01 product tester community.

These are just a few major factors of pre-market product testing that help brands and retailers ensure they will get the right feedback at the right time. It helps them create meaningful products they know their customers will love (and also leave great reviews about).

Product Review or Product Test?

So should you review products or test them before they hit the market? We’d recommend both, but it’s important to understand the type of review program you are engaging in and the potential impact you are making through product reviews vs product testing.

For product testing, pre-market product testing platforms like MESH01 allow brands to develop exceptional products while generating impactful review content. Now more than ever, consumers have a say in brands’ decisions and can help ensure a product will receive nothing but rave reviews.

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