No chance of failure:
why product testing is vital for D2C brands
Marketing textbooks are replete with examples of products or services that failed when they entered the market. Let's think about how to avoid joining their ranks.
According to research, around 30,000 new products are launched every year, and of those 95% end up failing.

Too often, in an effort to generate first revenue or beat the competition, brands rush to launch new products without testing whether they will resonate with consumers or whether the product will be what people really need. But even the most experienced decision makers have a hard time making the right conclusions without the involvement of the target audience.

Such problems do not spare even the world's top brands. Many of us know about the famous failure of the New Coke in 1985. The Coca-Cola Company took arguably the biggest risk in consumer goods history, announcing that it was changing the formula for the world's most popular soft drink, and spawning consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen. The product was abandoned after only a few weeks, with Cola-Cola reverting back to its old formula.

Fortunately, there is a way to avoid these kinds of failures. By testing the product, companies can develop their ideas in a safe and controlled space with the target audience before and after launch.

In this article, we raise the question of why it is so important for D2C brands to test their product at different stages of its launch.
Why are we talking specifically about D2C brands?
D2C is an abbreviation of direct-to-consumer.

A company produces a given product in its own facility, as well as distributes it within its own channels. These channels may be an e-commerce platform, social media and a retail store.

The D2C model means controlling all steps of your distribution and production. D2C sales are becoming a popular market for both business owners and consumers because it cuts out the middleman and allows for direct communication and transactions.

For us, this business model is of particular interest because it opens up limitless possibilities for testing. The brand has the ability to test the product at any stage of its development, and most importantly, it has the power to implement the insights gained during the tests in any of the steps of product realization.

For example, imagine that a D2C cosmetics brand decided to do a full test of their new line of creams. During the testing, they find out that their target audience is unsatisfied with the formula of the cream and would like to change the texture. Also, users reported that product delivery is inconvenient and the description of the cream on the online site carries a very unclear message.

In this case, the brand has the ability to conduct a quality analysis of the test results, and most importantly, if necessary, initiate changes in all processes noted by consumers.

Also, with a customizable range and access to rich data, the direct-to-consumer model allows to test new products more regularly.
When should testing be done?
Let's look at the natural life cycle of product development to understand at which stages testing can contribute to the emergence and successful operation of a product.

1.Ideation — nurturing an idea worth pursuing. Research helps identify unmet consumer needs, value chain opportunities, potential applications for innovation and new markets.

2.Screening — a rigorous approach to deciding which ideas are worth pursuing, again based on research and feasibility studies as well as an assessment of potential audiences.

3.Concept testing — testing how embodied ideas can work in the marketplace, leading to additional screening of less viable concepts.

4.Prototyping — designing products to test mass production capability, form factors and feature sets.

5.Early product testing — which assesses consumer attitudes toward the product itself, either in a controlled environment, in the field, or in an everyday context; usually unbranded or with highly simplified packaging.

6.Late product testing — which may include feedback from previous tests to refine the messaging, packaging and final form factor.

7.Testing iterations of the product to predict the impact (on sales and usage) of changes in features, formulation, targeting and marketing - often in response to changes in sales patterns or negative customer feedback.

As we can see that that testing is appropriate at almost any stage of product realization and carries its own special values depending on the stage.
Thus, product testing can be applied to:

  • Find out how a near-final version of a new product might work.
  • Configure this product to optimize its performance at launch.
  • To test how the new product works after launch.
  • Test the effect of changes in the product's design or presentation.
  • Evaluate or study how the product is marketed.
  • Test how well consumers in the new market will accept the existing product.
  • Conduct a "penalty analysis" to find out what qualities, if changed, change consumers' opinions of the product.

Now let's take a closer look at the reasons why testing is important for a brand.

Early concept testing can help you filter ideas

In the earliest stages of creating a product, when it is still at the stage of an idea, there is a risk to break away from reality and imagine that this product will surely be in favor of consumers, and may have any hard-to-realize qualities.

Concept testing helps you go beyond daydreaming to determine which of your ideas actually have a chance of being a hit. With concept testing, you can learn directly from the consumer what is likely to be favored and what is not.

Using a range of qualitative and quantitative methods, you can understand how consumers feel about different concepts and find out if the products or services you want to develop will find a response. Using a range of testing tools allows you to identify the product concepts with the most appeal and understand how they can be refined.

It's not an exaggeration to say that using a well-designed concept testing survey or a skillfully moderated online community can pave the way to success. But any survey template or discussion guide should be designed to provide evaluation and feedback on both the overall package and individual features or attributes.

This should happen early in the decision-making process.

Testing can help you understand what consumers want
Even if you feel right away that your product ideas are likely to please consumers, there are many more things to consider with test methods - such as your positioning, the kind of packaging or branding that would be considered appealing, and - perhaps the most important factor in producing any product or service - the most appropriate price.

In addition to testing your assumptions and getting answers about specific questions you have, you can generate new ideas from potential customers with product testing. Conducting post-use surveys or focus groups can generate ideas for new features, reveal benefits your product has you didn’t realize or tell you to change your packaging, price or other marketing tactic.

For example, a food manufacturer might think its product’s main benefit is its fresh ingredients, but consumers might tell the company they are attracted to its lower calories. The company would then sell the product as a diet food, rather than as one made from scratch.

Thus, testing is a way to optimize your innovation, dramatically reduce the risk of project failure, and limit excessive costs. Testing is crucial for brans to determine an innovation's chances of success. It can shed light on blind spots, inefficiencies, misinterpretations, or problems that could lead to failure.

Using testing methods such as surveys, as well as qualitative research through focus groups, in-depth interviews, or online communities, can all help find out the wants and needs of the target audience.
If you're interested in getting feedback from real customers, we can help. We offer In-Home Usage testing of your product followed by writing reviews on e-commerce platforms as a service. We handle everything from organizing the testing to posting the reviews. Check out our Good Goods page for more information.

Testing allows you to fix problems before launching

The cost of developing or redeveloping products can be tremendous. Oftentimes, features are added that customers don’t really value, or tweaks are made that make little difference to the bottom line.

Huge amounts of money can be saved on branding, production, and marketing if the product fails the test. Flaws found during the test run can be corrected by the brand. Changes can be made based on feedback and data from the test.

If a product is found to have a defect or problem, it can be recalled from testing immediately. Recalling a product from a test audience is much better than launching the product to the entire market and then recalling it or understanding what's wrong with it. It also preserves brand reputation, along with saving money.

The earlier product testing is done, the more opportunity there is to optimize the initial idea to develop a product that customers really want.

People invest time into your brand

Money is more valuable than time. But, from a marketing perspective, time spent with test products and the brand message is more valuable than an influx of cash.

People naturally build a relationship with a brand when they use the products and invest time in the company. The relationship creates loyalty. Loyalty keeps customers coming back for more great products.

That way, many people can become users of your product even before the actual launch, and continue to buy it afterwards, as well as recommend it to friends. The situation will also play to your advantage if customers have expressed their wishes about changes to the product during testing and those changes have been implemented.

People will feel that they were involved in the creation of the product, and that's the surest way to get yourself not only customers, but real brand advocates.

Testing is necessary if you want to grow and be a global brand

Many D2C brands sooner or later dream of entering the global market. But it is important to understand how vital product testing is to the ecosystem of global brands.

Let's take, for example, world-famous Unilever. It is a British company, one of the world leaders in the food and household products market.
According to our data, before launching any product, they need to do 8 runs of 200 tests each. In total, it takes at least 6 months. (Just the testing phase!) As we can see, it's not only a big investment of money, but also time.

When you are a global brand and launch products in many markets, you just can't ignore product testing and listening to consumers. It helps reduce risk many times over and create a product that's truly valuable to consumers around the world.

By collecting data frequently through agile market research, your business can make informed decisions and respond faster to changes in your market, and your brand can grow and reach new levels.


Ultimately, testing a product at different stages of its development closes a lot of brand needs.

Primarily, you get a better understanding of how consumers react to your ideas. Next, it allows you to find out what need your solution satisfies, how consumers perceive the product, how it compares to other similar solutions, and what you can do to maximize adoption and market impact. Among other things, you are engaging real consumers in the development of your product, who can become advocates of your brand.

So it should come as no surprise that this type of market research can have a huge impact on your D2C business, allowing you to understand where to focus your product development efforts by finding out what your target market thinks.

Product development should never be a risk, and creating successful products should never be wandering in the dark. If you would like our support in testing products with your target audience, please contact us or request a proposal.

Good Goods is the best-proven solution for your problem. Contact us through our website and join our community of happy customers with strong, scalable results.

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