Wear Test Training

 

After launching our wear testing program in April, I realized that needed to eat my own dog food and practice being a wear tester on the MESH01 platform. I decided to enter myself into as many of the wear tests we run as I could. I wanted to make sure that the system I built was working well and all parties involved (i.e. MESH01, wear testers and brands) are getting value out of the process.

MINT Denim Color Bleeding Test

Going into this test, I had never thought about the need for a spray to prevent blue jeans from bleeding when you put them in the wash. As soon as I started following the instructions to try out the spray, however, I was totally into it. It was cool to think that my evaluation of this product would have a direct and immediate impact.

I ended up spending quite a bit of time really thinking through what works and what doesn’t work for the product. I oddly felt a small bit of pressure to come up with some insightful idea that would help spread the use of the product. When the test was over I felt a true sense of accomplishment. It seemed like I was able to come up with feedback that would truly help MINT.

Olympia Cycling Glove Test

I was really psyched going into this wear test because it was a great excuse for me to dust off my bike and do some riding. I only have a mountain bike, but I brought it to our local bike shop, Papa Wheelies (love that name), a week before the test to get new a tune up and new road tires. The MESH01 CEO, Brian Bednarek, decided to join in on the fun and we spent the first couple week of the wear test exploring Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I have to say that after 6 months of coding for 8 – 12 hours a day it was really awesome to spend an hour in the middle of the day biking through a beautiful area of the country. We are still in the middle of this wear test, but my favorite memory so far was one day last week when it was about 95 degrees outside and I decided to see how the gloves perform in really hot weather. As you would imagine, it was not too much fun at first. It felt like a sauna and I almost turned around after 10 minutes. Thank goodness I didn’t. A couple of miles later I crested the final hill before the Rye Beach. A cool, refreshing ocean breeze gently washed over me. My tension and discomfort immediately went away and for the next 30 minutes or so I explored the gorgeous Portsmouth coastline enjoying what had suddenly become the perfect day.

Footwear Wear Test

We started the Footwear Wear Test as a means of getting more people familiar with the MESH01 wear test platform. Wear testers could choose any footwear they own and simply use MESH01 to record feedback for the performance of the chosen shoes over the course of a month. I decided to buy a new pair of ASICS GEL-Nimbus® 13 Size 10 D from Zappos and use them for the Footwear Wear Test. Things were going great for first couple runs until I started getting some ankle pain.

To be fair to Asics, I have extreme flat feet and my issues likely started before I got the shoes. In fact, my ankle pain was likely more due to the fact that I went from sitting behind my desk pounding away at the keyboard all day to suddenly becoming much more active with all the various wear tests.

The cool thing I realized, though, is that I could use the MESH01 activity logs to help me figure out in the future where injuries like this may come from. If I had actually been recording all my activity for the past 6 months, the system would have likely been able to show how the spike in my activity coincided with the appearance of ankle pain. The system needs a couple tweaks in order to allow people to use it in this way, but I added the idea to as a high priority item on our backlog.

Learning Lessons

I think I am pretty good at taking a set of business requirements and translating them to technical specifications regardless of my background in the business. In general, however, the quality of a software product goes up dramatically when a developer of a system can also act as a business owner. Not only has it been great to test my own system these past couple months, but I feel like I have a much better understanding of wear testing in general and I do think more now from the perspective of the wear tester and the brand instead of simply looking at things from a technical point of view. My only problem now is that I am finding it hard to sleep at night because I can’t stop thinking about ways to make wear testing a more awesome experience for tester and more valuable for brands.


Join the MESH01 Wear Test Community

There are a number of great wear tests are coming up shortly on MESH01 starting with a couple for Timberland (a Lightweight Waterproof Hiker and a Minalmist Multi Sport Shoe). If you are interested in learning more about MESH01 wear testing, you should register on MESH01 and then sign up for the Footwear Wear Test. You can Live Chat with us during normal business hours if you have any questions.

Wear Testing: Ready for Launch

How do you know something works unless you try it out? You can guess and conjecture all you want. You can do field studies, polls and focus groups, but the reality is that most of the major decisions we make are fraught with risk. For example, the Red Sox thought it would be a great idea last year to bring in John Lackey for some veteran leadership. It turns out that the only leadership Lackey provided was leading his teammates to beer and buckets of fried chicken.

This is a fundamental problem that exists in life. No, I am not talking about drinking beer and eating fried chicken.  I am talking about the challenge of figuring out whether something will succeed or fail BEFORE it actually succeeds or fails. About 6 months ago I decided to get a new job and I had to make a big decision about where I would go and what I would do. I did a lot of research online, but the thing that ultimately helped me make my decision to join MESH01 was talking to other peers and experts who provided insights I would have never picked up on my own. Conceptually speaking, I was able to validate my hypothesis (i.e. I would enjoy working at MESH01) through a form of empirical evidence (i.e. people that were like me who have tried to do the same type of job and indicated they liked it). Of course, I was still taking a risk, but that risk was greatly diminished.

Why do brands test products?

Now, let’s apply that same concept to the development of a new product. The lifecycle of a product from initial inception to consumer sale includes a series of phases. As each phase is completed, the brand faces one of three choices:

  1. Continue to invest in the product and move it to the next phase if they still believe it will succeed
  2. Kill the product and cut their losses if they believe it will fail
  3. Alter or change the product in some way if they believe they will still succeed with some adjustments

One of the most critical inflection points occurs just after a brand gets the initial prototypes from the factory. At that point, they have certainly invested quite a bit, but they still have some wiggle room to make adjustments. So, it is vital to try and get as much quality feedback as possible with those prototypes. That means finding a small sample set of people that represent the target consumers who can try out the product and provide quality feedback. This may sound easy, but there are a number of challenges including:

  • Each product is targeted for different groups of people. It is not simply a matter of getting a bunch of pro athletes. The target audience for a product may be moms in their 40s or perhaps teenage boys or maybe recreational golfers past the retirement age who have problems with their meniscus knee ligaments. Finding the right type of person at the right time is extremely difficult.
  • Even if a brand finds the right type of people based on their characteristics in relation to the target audience, there is no guarantee that those people will provide any useful feedback. For example, I played soccer at Boston College and on a semi-pro team after college. I may be an example of the target audience for a new soccer cleat, but if I were an extreme recluse that didn’t like to talk to other people, I may not tell the brand that their cleat makes my ankle hurt.
  • Even if a brand finds the right types of people that do provide good feedback, there is no guarantee that that they will do so in a timely manner.  Brands are often on a tight schedule as time is money and they are looking for experts that provide good feedback at the specific times they need it so that they will have the opportunity to make changes to the product before it is too late.

So, what’s in it for the tester?

As I described, brands have the need to find quality wear testers. Let’s say they pick you to test out a product involved in your favorite activity. They give you free product and you subsequently provide crucial feedback to them. Part of that feedback includes the identification of issues that would adversely affected sales when the product goes on the general market. The brand is able to fix those issues and the product then turns out to be a success. The brand is ecstatic with your contribution so they give you high praise and keep you in mind the next time they have the need to test a product for a similar audience in the future.

Now, what just happened there?

  1. You got a free product for the activity you love
  2. You provided feedback that actually had an impact on the development of that product
  3. You were recognized for you skill within your activity and/or your ability to figure out potential issues
  4. The brand knows who you are and will likely ask you to participate in a future wear test

Where do we come in?

For over a year now, we have been focused on building out the best wear testing program platform available on the open market. The value of this platform can be seen from both sides of the equation.

From the brand’s point of view MESH01 will have a large community of quality wear testers that have been vetted over time. The software enables brands to define their wear test brief, quickly and easily find the right types of wear testers, run the wear test, collect all the feedback and view aggregated data over time. The program can be easily customized by brands both in terms of the information that is part of a wear test as well as how that information is visually presented to the wear testers.

From the perspective of a wear tester, this is the opportunity to let your voice be heard by brands and a community of like-minded enthusiasts. Wear testers will have the opportunity to participate in many different wear tests with many different brands over time.

How will it work?

The first step is to register and complete your profile. In about a month, brands will have the opportunity to create a new wear test and get the party started. The process will be different for each wear test, but the general set of steps will go like this:

  1. The brand creates a new Wear Test Brief that describes all of the parameters, rules, etc. for a given wear test.
  2. Once that wear test becomes active, any wear tester can pre-register for that wear test.
  3. The brand will use their administrative dashboard to search through the profiles of all wear testers on the site to find the ones that mean their criteria. In most cases the initial search will be based off quantitative data (i.e. the fields in your profile questionnaires that contains numerical values or a defined set of values like ‘How many years experience do you have?’). After narrowing their search, brands will likely utilize the free form data in wear tester profile (i.e. Bio, favorite memory, etc.) to make some final decisions.
  4. Those wear testers selected by the brand will receive a notification asking them to register if they have not done so already.
  5. The brand will then send the product being tested to all the selected wear testers.
  6. Once the wear test starts, wear testers will receive emails on a semi-regular basis asking them to complete different surveys that the brands set up in order to get feedback on the product that is being tested.
  7. At the end of the wear test, the brand will review the aggregated feedback data and make decisions on how to move forward with that product.
  8. Wear testers get the free product and are scored on the quality of the feedback they were able to provide. The highest scorers over time can receive additional prizes and are more likely to be selected for additional wear tests in the future.

OK, that is all great. So, when do we get started?

Right now! If you haven’t already, register and complete your profile. After running our own internal beta test in a couple weeks we will start to try out a real wear tests next month. Looking forward beyond that, there is a lot of great stuff in the works.

We are all so excited to get this kicked off. If you are an enthusiast, you are going to love it!