According to the Harvard Business Review, more than 30,000 new consumer products launch per year and 80% of them fail. A huge part of ensuring that a new product succeeds is putting it through vigorous market research processes and making sure that what the product claims to do is what it actually does, or ‘substantiating’ it. The heavy regulation involved in the advertising industry makes substantiation a necessity and as such, gives it the potential to be incredibly time-consuming and expensive.
Ayton Global Research Ltd (AGR) launched the first online platform to fully manage the process of putting their clients’ products through the process of substantiation. 20+ years later, their product is thriving, and clients include top manufacturers such as Tesco and The Body Shop.
We were briefed with building three platforms for AGR - a volunteer site, an administrative platform and a client site – to develop, conduct and review consumer goods research. The volunteer site needed to be clear and easy to use. The Administrative platform needed to allow administrators to manage complex processes without technical intervention and the client site needed to give clients access to set up studies and receive results. More recently, we were briefed to rebuild the volunteer site, with the aim to refresh and modernise it.
This project had a number of challenges to consider. The first and most important challenge was to build a platform which complied with the stringent rules set by the Advertising Standards Agency. Secondly, the platform had to allow Administrators to perform a number of potentially complex tasks in a simple, flexible way; surveys needed to be built in any format they wanted to suit their client and panels of respondents needed to be built using complex data queries. All of this needed to be done by administrators without having to navigate a complicated interface. The next challenge to consider was the complexity of statistical analysis – the platform needed to be able to recognise what information was relevant and what it needs to analyse. The final challenge was globalisation, deciding what needed to be done to make sure that the platform would work across global cultures so it could be delivered worldwide.
The solution we created for AGR simplified what is undoubtedly a complicated process.
In order to comply with advertising standards, products need to be heavily tested by unbiased subjects and robust evidence needs to be collected to back up the assertions which are being made about the products. AGR do this by ensuring that all products sent out are sent in blank packaging and volunteers are never at any point told the specific product which they have been testing. The system takes this lack of branding into account throughout the process. There are also processes in-built to manage AGR’s compliance with ISO90001; the platform has easy-to-export reports for management and to allow SLA-tracking.
The biggest challenge was to build a platform for AGR administrators and client administrators which allows them to set up and manage complex processes from an easy-to-use interface. The platform accommodates managing the entire process; volunteer selection, label processing for sending out products and feedback collection. To set up a survey, administrators have flexibility in the style and layout of survey and are able to use more complicated survey structures and include very client-specific and timed questions.
The selection of the panels of volunteers and product allocation is managed automatically. The system will select a demographically weighted panel using the demographic weighting of the UK to make sure that the sample is representative of the population. Once the panel has been selected, qualification questions are sent which allow the participants of the study to be automatically selected based on their qualifying questions and follow up answers they give. Shipping details for the product(s) are added onto labels through the platform, with regime instructions (in the case of product-based studies) and receipt of products are recorded in the system so that administrators can keep track.
We recently modernised the volunteer site, giving it a clean new look and made some usability updates, including introducing a progress bar instead of question numbering, adding strong and clear validation and routed surveys with data piping. We also made it fully responsive. From a volunteer perspective, they are able to build their profile up in sections, with clear progress marking so they know how much more they have to fill in. The granularity allows them to be matched up with relevant studies more effectively. There are incentives to contribute and to respond quickly. Volunteers are rewarded for responsiveness and higher levels of contribution, such as completing more of their profile and answering quickly to survey offers. High levels of contribution raise their quality score and for product reviews, those who respond quickly are more likely to be included in the survey and receive products. For studies which are not about a product, volunteers can earn Click Points, which can be redeemed for cash value.
AGR collaborated with the University of the West of England to develop the statistical analysis for the platform and we set up integrations with several advanced statistical libraries. This allows the platform to automatically recognise what information is relevant and what it should use for the statistical analysis. For example, the client is able to see the difference between their products and competitors; where a volunteer receives two competing products, this can be useful in showing the client how they compare to competition.
The final challenge, globalising the platform so that it could be used effectively around the world, was approached by making the volunteer site multi-lingual and geo-located, from the publicly-accessible areas to the entire respondent study. For example, there is no standard address format for volunteers, to accommodate the variety of global address formats which may need to be used. This has allowed the volunteer site to become a global franchise, with companies from other territories able to use the software.