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:
- Continue to invest in the product and move it to the next phase if they still believe it will succeed
- Kill the product and cut their losses if they believe it will fail
- 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?
- You got a free product for the activity you love
- You provided feedback that actually had an impact on the development of that product
- You were recognized for you skill within your activity and/or your ability to figure out potential issues
- 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:
- The brand creates a new Wear Test Brief that describes all of the parameters, rules, etc. for a given wear test.
- Once that wear test becomes active, any wear tester can pre-register for that wear test.
- 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.
- Those wear testers selected by the brand will receive a notification asking them to register if they have not done so already.
- The brand will then send the product being tested to all the selected wear testers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!