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How Online Product Testing Works

Online product testing? Unless it’s a website you’re testing, how is that even possible? Face-to-face product testing ensures that you can capture the participants’ five-senses reactions to the product in real time. It’s easy to control and critical for security when testing prototypes. But despite its strengths, there are limitations: For starters, renting facilities can be costly and certain demographics can be hard to access for face-to-face studies. Plus, your participants can only experience the product they’re testing as long as they’re at the testing facility–oftentimes many products require longer interactions or experience in the real world to weigh all major attributes appropriately.

Enter online product testing. Done correctly and with the right tools, online product testing can provide the same benefits of face-to-face product testing–and address its limitations. Here’s how it works:

Ship it: With traditional product testing, participants come to the products, usually in a focus group facility. But with online product testing, the products go to them. Ship products to be tested to the participants’ homes, offices or wherever the products will be used. Before shipping the products, make sure participants have signed and returned non-disclosure agreements if they’re needed.

Test products can be part of the incentive, but if you need the products back, enclose a return-shipping label in the original package to facilitate the return process. Also, consider requiring the products be returned before distributing the incentives.

Use it: One of the main advantages of online product testing is the participants’ ability to integrate the product being tested in their everyday lives. Using a test product in a focus group facility will yield off-the-shelf responses, but being able to use it at home or at the office will result in deeper insights from participants. With online product testing, you still have the ability to conduct blind tests, formulation comparisons, comparative tests, as well as monadic, proto-monadic or sequential tests.

Interact online: With the use of online research software, participants can log their feedback about the product, from first impressions to ongoing use and final thoughts. Depending on the software you use, online product testing allows you to collect a variety of data points, including pictures, video and discussions about the product.

A typical online product testing project lasts one to three weeks, but could be longer or shorter depending on your methodology. As for user feedback, how often you collect it depends on the length of the project. If it’s a one-week project, you might collect user feedback daily. If it’s a few weeks, every 2-3 days might make more sense.