Design Research Announces Product Manual Testing Service

What is your product return rate?

Do your retail partners ship products back to you or do they just discard them and charge you for returns?  What portion of those returns result from product shortcomings and what portion of those returns result from consumer shortcomings?  Meaning how often are consumers simply disappointed versus how often are the products not performing?

Chances are your products are performing as they were designed to and returns are the result of consumer dissatisfaction.  That dissatisfaction can result from a lack of knowledge or ability on the consumers’ part which can stem from an unwillingness to read the directions.  Or, your directions may be confusing or not easily understood.  Your product may even be difficult to operate.  Dissatisfaction can also result from a mismatch between consumer expectations and real product capabilities.  Either way, this is a costly problem.   Not only costly in product returns but in de-valuing your brand, diminishing your brand equity.

We offer two easily attainable solutions. 

1)  First, consumer expectations should be properly set via careful, accurate communications on the packaging as to what the product does.

2) Second, consumer understanding of how to use the product should be promoted by clear, carefully written instruction manuals.  
Design Research can help you with both of these challenges.  
Consumer expectations can and should be set by clear, informative communications on the product or on the packaging (depending on what is actually seen on the shelf) that informs as to what the product does.  This might seem like a statement of the obvious, but it is not always so.   The fact that you know what your product does or the fact that it does the same thing as every other product on the shelf, doesn’t give you permission to skip mentioning key features on the packaging.  Clearly communicating what the product does (and sometimes what it doesn’t do) is key in setting accurate buyer expectations.

The bigger problem is consumer misunderstanding of how to use a product.  We’ve been called on to conduct post-mortems on failed products only to find that consumers did not understand how to properly use the product.  This is not product failure, it is communications failure.  
Design Research can help you save money by reducing returns and assuring positive brand sentiments through our product manual testing service.

We offer two levels of this service.  With our Product Manual Evaluation Service, you simply send us a product.  We treat it as if we are consumers.  First, we try to operate it without following the directions and we give you an assessment of how intuitive it is.  Then we follow the directions and we document all areas that are unclear or misleading and should be improved.  We provide improved, clear text to eliminate any problems.  

The second level of our service is our In-Home Product Review Service.  At this level you provide us with 15-20 products (with all support materials) and we put them in consumers’ homes and have the consumers use the products for a period of time (time varies depending on frequency of use of the product category).  In this service consumers will complete several surveys as well as keep a product usage diary.  The usage diary is completed with each use.  If the product is a cooking product, they are asked to record what they have cooked, to forward photos of what they cooked and to record details of the results in their diaries each time they cook.  Satisfaction levels, likes, dislikes, and any and all problems encountered along the way are recorded.  Initially they are instructed to test the product - and are left to do so in whatever manner they normally would (some may read and use the instructions, some may not).  After a period of time (and at least one survey) they are specifically asked to review and record assessments of the product Manual.   There is a lot more to these assessments, but you get the idea.

Call or email us today to learn more about how we can enhance your sales by evaluating all aspects of your product communications from packaging messaging to manual testing.