PLH 83 | Best Consumer Market Research Tools

When you’re selling a product or service, you need to be able to know people’s feedback in order to improve. But how? Through research, of course. Tracy, together with Laura Hazzard, brings Rick West of Field Agent to talk about the best consumer market research tools.. With years of credible experience, Rick shares his work of promoting real time, location-based mobile research for companies who would like to get more user feedback. Offering both quantitative and qualitative data, they work great for those who are still figuring things out. Going down into mobile technology and more, Rick shows the true importance of market research for the future of your product and over-all business development.

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We’re excited to bring you a company, a brand, a tool and a great group of people to work with that we think is going to change the way you mine for data. The way you probe customers, the way you ask questions and the way that you get the right people to evaluate the right products. We’re always talking about right market product fit here at Product Launch Hazzards because it is the biggest risk factor in a lack of success on your path to product launching. We are bringing in Field Agent. Field Agent is a company and I’m going to let them explain how they came about. I’ve worked with them in little bits and pieces before they had this tool that they call Field Agent. They’ve been in this market information or this market data gathering for big brands and for mass market retailers for quite some time.

I’m so excited to have you here talking about research. Why don’t you kick us off? I want to hear, in your own words, who you are. Give us the background and tell us all about you.

We started out during the pre-selfie era. That’s way back when you had a smartphone but it didn’t have a camera on the front and that’s around 2009. At that time, we’re a boutique research agency in the classic qual-quan type of work. We want to use technology to enable us to create different solutions for our clients as opposed to becoming a tech company. If you think back to that time 2009 to 2010, we launched this app called Field Agent to allow us to be mobile specific research. What we started to realize in its very basic form is that we became the location-based Survey Monkey. It’s great when someone wants to do a passive survey and just tell me what you think.

What if I told you that we could serve people who could touch your product, could use your product, could purchase it, could receive it, could engage it, could capture videos and play with it and give you near real-time feedback to your product? That was the thing that launched us, is to go from eliminating passive recall to jumping right in to do near real-time to understand what goes almost in someone’s products and we haven’t looked back for years. That’s definitely the future. I’ve seen more and more of this online research both from a qualitative and a quantitative and you offer both. We’re seeing more and more of the quality coming online. I love that you can learn both quality and quantity. I know you have lots of teachers and different things.

It dawned on me, as I was thinking about what I said, that I failed to say that our guest is request. We forgot to say your name and then you didn’t say it and that is so terrible on us. We just jumped right into your company and your cool tools. Rick, welcome to Product Launch Hazzards.

For those who don’t know, because some of our audience is new to market research, they know they have to do it. They know focus groups and surveys. When you say mobile research, can you talk to me on a very basic level what that looks like?

We tell people, especially those that are entrepreneurs trying to figure things out, that the worst people to talk to is your brother, sister, spouse, aunt or uncle. The second worst people you talk to is the survey that goes out into this nowhere land. It could be in a warehouse full of people that are providing you with feedback and you don’t know who they are. We come in from a mobile perspective and offer a couple of things. The first thing is that the mobile phone in front of you does become an identifier. Almost like each phone has its own version of a social security number. The first thing it does is it allows us to ensure that you don’t have five different accounts on the phone so I can validate who you are. I know who Laura is or what she’s thinking about and when I start to qualify things from a screening standpoint, that mobile phone allows me to capture things in a different way to screen you.

For example, I’m looking for organic food purchaser. I’m an organic food purchaser because I buy spinach in the plastic container that says organic. We would come alongside from a pure screener standpoint and say, “Why don’t you go through your home and capture every item that’s organic?” When I pull that data back in and I realized the twenty items you’ve selected, you have the ten core ones that I’m looking for, that screener that qualified you as an organic person is much richer than you saying, “I’m an organic person.” The mobile phone, which is so important, validated it through the picture, the video, the GPS or the time-date stamp that brings that richness because you can’t scam it and you can’t fake it. It’s that near real-time engagement we’re talking about.

I want to qualify that because this is powerful. This is why Field Agent has been my number one recommended tool to use in this process is because of that specifically. When we look at the product market fit or when we look at the two things together, we want to know that people are going to buy. Not that they like your stuff, but they will buy. Kids in their home of the right age buy products from them all the time. Then we can clearly know that they’re the right audience for you because it is possible for them to shift their dollars to your brand. That’s what we want to know, “Will they do that?”

Having your phone gives you the mobility to engage. Share on X

This is so essential in the process. A lot of the tools that Rick was referring to that are out on the market, and he’s being nice about it, these are registered people who make their money by responding to these. Not that there’s anything wrong with compensating people for participating in focus groups and everything, but when it’s their profession and then they’re not a match, they’re giving you information back so that they can get their money, their points, their discount, or whatever it is that they’re doing. They’re not providing you with valuable information that you should be basing potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of future product development and inventory on. That’s why it’s so critical that we listen to what Rick is saying here because this is what makes Field Agent very different.

You touched on something interesting, Rick. The screener, which I’ve talked to some of my clients about, is so critical but most of the time when we’re doing a quan survey, they self-report it. Like your example, “I buy organic food. I do but I don’t actually,” which doesn’t help you when your products are on the shelf. We don’t have to clean out respondents. I’ve talked to my clients about how when we look at your quantity data, we got to clean some of them out because it’s not real responses. With your program and your panel, you’re getting actual real responses that are direct to the product. How big is your panel? Talk to me about who’s on your panel and what pool do we have to choose from?

In the United States of about 1.2 million people, we probably have a couple hundred thousand that are truly active. What we don’t do from a panel perspective, we’re not paying people to keep them active. We’re not cranking through that and the second thing is we get about 4,000 or 5,000 organic downloads a week. These are individuals that have heard about our app and what we do. We were constantly getting freshness coming in. We’re also in eight other countries and a couple of other languages. Think about North America, Canada, Mexico and the US. We tell people that we’ll never be a representative sample because not everyone has smartphones but because of the size we had.

If you look at our demographics, we would argue that we do scale nationally a great national representation. For many people that are looking for everyday individuals that are engaging, you may or may not be surprised how many mothers that we have. We have Hispanic people that are visiting bodegas every single day that are engaging in. When you look at 20,000 people that are Hispanic, you look at the hundreds of thousands of moms that we have and you go through this, you realize it is a good national sample.

I’ve talked on some of my other videos about defining who your market is and going direct and learning exactly who. A lot of the people who are creating their products with us are working to define those. We have the sense and we can go directly to you and go, “This is exactly who we want to talk to, who was listening and who will be learning about,” which is great because we focus in. Sometimes representation is not necessarily what we need. We need to learn about moms with two-year-olds, living in warmer climates or whatever it is. You have a vast panel and it’s with the phone so anyone can download this app.

We do not dip below eighteen for a multitude of reasons. For data to engage with kids, we have moms or parents that engage their children for some pieces, but we do try to stay at eighteen.

We’re eighteen and up but we could potentially get some kid between research through moms and dads. We have a big group and they need a cell phone. Is it just on the cell phone or is there another way to access?

Any type of smart device. They can use the iPad. We choose not to go down to the computer out for a multitude of reasons. For us, it is that mobility of having your phone so that I can engage. If you try this product out in your garage and you don’t have a computer, you can’t do it.

You’ve touched on that methodology. It sounds like an in-home use test. I refer to it in some of my other videos. That’s one of the methodologies you can handle. That’s just over you to correct me or redirect on how you handle it, but we tell people to buy the product or maybe when they already have, they bring it home. What can they do with your app while they’re experiencing it at home?

We would tell your client right now that it is important to have them, as they’re progressing along that path, do some pre-shop. When we capture whether they’re looking online looking at something or when they go to the store, what does it look like on the shelf? Why do they choose certain things? Give us some perspective. We’re limiting and recall as they go. Then they bring the product back home. They’re trying it, they’re engaging it and a couple of things happen with that. There are many people that will purchase a product and try it, but how do I know they didn’t return it? How do I know that they used it?

PLH 83 | Best Consumer Market Research Tools

Best Consumer Market Research Tools: It takes a lot of time and energy to go in and see what’s on the shelf. So Field Agent can be helpful in your knowledge.

When you bring up the video aspect of things, I see them consuming. I can see them using or trying to break it. I can see them putting it in a certain place inside of their home. Not only can I confirm by a receipt that they purchased something, but I do know that they used it and engaged it because I have a time-date stamp. We talked about people straight lining on a survey. I now know that over the course of two days, they engaged your product five to six times at three or four minutes per time. You begin to understand that that person did use it as opposed to they just answered a survey quick because they have the product and the other person.

Those are the types of things you begin to engage but there are some products that you’re saying, “I don’t want you to bring it home. I want you to go out and go consume.” I want you to go out and go use, whether it’s something that happens at an event or it’s something inside of a quick serve restaurant, of a local restaurant or a coffee shop. Now we can take that same methodology inside of a coffee shop where they’re engaging on something. That’s another aspect of mobile research that allows you to take it a step further.

This is magic to researcher’s ears. You have quantity data. It sounds like we’re going to pull in and understand the counts and the test scores and also so much quality, so much richness, especially if you’re going to buyers or investors. You can show them photos and videos of people engaging with your product, getting excited about it or perhaps it sounds like, and I want to hear more from you about this, going in store and maybe a product is missing. Talk to me about some of the methodologies about going into the store and just some of your observational research.

We have three primary pillars that we engage them. We’ve been spending time talking about the research pillar. The other pillar is around audits, just basic observation. Is the product in stock? Or better yet, I’m looking at the product on the shelf, tell me about pricing. What did you think about the cosmetics? What did you think about the kids’ toys and the various products that are there? How is it priced? What did it look like? Was it in stock? Was it display up?

Then the third pillar that we engage in is mystery shopping, which is important. I’m talking to an associate and I said, “Tell me about this product,” and the next thing you know, I realize that I’ve talked to ten stores and everyone’s selling against me and I had no idea and I have to plan for that. Those are the other two pieces that happen in the store all the time. Observation and mystery shopping are the experience piece that we can offer.

The observation piece is that secondary research and getting the lay of the land. It takes a ton of time and energy to go in and see what’s on the shelf, what it costs, what’s missing and help you understand packaging and placement. A lot of that, when you’re launching a product, can be helpful just in your knowledge. Tracy, I know you’ve done audits like this as well and it’s very time-consuming.

That’s good to touch on because there are some things here, especially when we do products that are assembled by the stores, which can happen when we do larger items like setups that have a point of purchase. POP, we talked about that if you are at that level, but when you do it sometimes they don’t get set up right. We used to have silly things like bar stools that had happened to have armrests on them in Costco and the armrests would be upside down. They would be assembled backwards. You couldn’t get yourself up onto this giant barstool or they forget to put the little ring in the front for you to step up. You can’t even hop up onto the chair because they assembled the sample wrong.

That’s what’s showing, so there’s no wonder that the store isn’t turning and the items aren’t selling because that’s wrong. Doing audits on that is very important but I also think we have assembly issues with many products or setup use issues sometimes, especially with electronics with kids’ toys and you’ve got some of these setup things that need to happen. It seems clear to us as designers or as inventors of these products that it works. Following instructions is not a core competency of any consumer that I’ve ever met.

I’ve been doing this for 26 years. They don’t read the instruction sheet until something goes wrong and they’re like, “I don’t know what to do and it’s not working or it’s taken too long.” Intuitive understanding of how they’re going about it can help you write the instructions properly. Maybe put a warning at the beginning to get them to realize before they make that mistake or get them frustrated and decide to return your product because it’s broken or it doesn’t work.

Our experience with a product is really important. Share on X

In that sense, getting the ability to take it home with them, do a video, watch them do it and go, “I thought this was clear, but it’s not.” I’m seeing it again and again and some people get it, but then that’s not acceptable. Our use experience, a product is important and that’s why going from the in-store audit all the way through the home, it’s like a broad expanse for growing a big brand with full service here.

The other thing that I want to touch on is I’m going to do a little Facebook Live to demo it because I don’t have the items between me. I did this as an example to show them how bad data happens. I’m working on a book called the Product Launch Code and it’s about launching our process for it and the big section of market proof is at the beginning. I decided to do a cover because I kept seeing people in my network posting their books up and saying, “What do people think about their cover?” I’m like, “This is a horrible market research. Stop asking your friends and family.”

I did a black cover and a white cover and I put them up side by side on Facebook and I said, “I’m launching a book, what do you think?” I didn’t ask a question, I did it all the wrong way to do it on purpose. Because of the way Facebook truncates it, you don’t even see the whole book cover. You see two thumbnails side by side, it’s not even the whole cover. Most people started typing in the comments. They didn’t even open up the image to look at the whole cover. They said, “I like black, I like white, I like this or I like that,” and they were giving all this opinion and what they thought of. I had a barcode on the cover. What did they think of that? Once one person would come and they’d all start going off on it.

Only one person in all the comments made a contextual comment and it was so important. He says to me, “You didn’t tell me whether or not you’re going to sell this book on Amazon or on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. If you’re going to do Barnes & Noble, you don’t want a black cover because when it’s on the shelf, it disappears. Black disappears and it looks like a hole.” I was like, “That’s the answer I was waiting for somebody to say.” Somebody with insight, and that’s what you want is if you’re going to have your book on a shelf at Barnes & Noble, somebody walks in the store and they can’t even point it because the color of the cover disappears.

They take a picture of the shelf going, “I looked for it for five minutes and I couldn’t find it.” That is useful information. That helps you make decisions. I bet everyone that commented doesn’t go to Barnes & Noble. Keep in mind that you’re looking at the cover blown up on your phone like it’s a full size of your phone if you look at the image, but that isn’t how you shop on Amazon either. It’s a tiny little thumbnail with the title next to it. The title is extremely apparent even if it wasn’t totally as big as it should be on the cover, which I agree, it graphically wasn’t big enough. Even if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered in that shopping context.

This is where we get that contextual information that Rick is providing and Field Agent does for you. It’s critically important to making choices in the design, in the packaging, in the features, in the instructions, in the POP and all of those aspects of it. The earlier we can get information about our competitors if ours isn’t on the shelf yet, how we can compete against it once we get to the shelf like that whole process and help us develop a better product that sells better? At the end of the day, that’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to sell more.

I want to talk a little bit about how do we get all of our inventors and entrepreneurs downloading your app and engaging. We’ve obviously established how rich this information is going to be. Which stores are available on your platform and are there limitations?

If the store is operating in the United States, the answer is yes. There are ZIP codes that we couldn’t reach today that you were looking for some information from the store.

Mom and pop store down the street that’s selling my handbag, we can do that.

Literally, someone could log onto our website today. They could go in and say, “Here’s an address of a mom and pop store in San Diego and a mom and pop store in Boise, Idaho. Here are the three things I’m looking for.” If you could take a picture of this, swipe your credit card, $10 later sometime this afternoon, tomorrow morning you get a photo back with your questions answered and you’re done. It is that quick and that efficient. If you have an address, we can go find it.

That is great to know and very helpful because not everyone can get into Target right away. Sometimes we’re starting small in the ground regional areas. How long does it take? I’ve decided now in all my stores, I wanted to know what’s out there and maybe I’m doing some of that competitive analysis. What’s the process from start to finish?

Let’s say that you’re a large manufacturer, large enough that you’re in some of the Big Box retailer or even a Walgreens and you say, “I’m in a thousand stores.” If I just needed to check 50 or 100, I could probably have that back to you in a matter of a couple to three hours. What’s more difficult for us is when you said, “I need this rural mom and pop store in North Dakota.” Because we do crowdsourcing, it might take us a couple of days or a weekend until someone’s shopping near that store. It might take us a few days to go do that but for the most part, for your audience, they literally could log on today and by the time they get up tomorrow morning, they’ll have data on their dashboard for as few as one to as many as thousands of locations, if they want to go capture that data.

PLH 83 | Best Consumer Market Research Tools

Best Consumer Market Research Tools: At the end of the day, we develop products better to sell more.

I want to step in and interject something here because we have a lot of people who aren’t even at the store level yet. You were competing against that and you are trying to get into that. It is critically important for you to do this for your competitors. I find too often that our entrepreneurs and our inventors and our startups here, they come online and online is not an indicator of what made it to store. If your goal is to be a brand on the shelf, you better know what colors are on the shelf. You better know how they look on the shelf.

You cannot make your packaging decisions and your decisions about color choices and features and everything from online data because online data has actually more data. It’s not reflective of what actually people are seeing. They see the side of a box and not the front of a box, “My side of my box better be bigger, bolder, better make it clearer what it is.” These are choices that you have to make in the development process. Just because you’re not on the shelf doesn’t mean you’re not ready to utilize what Rick is offering here.

What I would tell your audience is that if they were being prepared to go sell an item to a specific retailer, I would determine who that retailer is. I would use our application to go basically take a quick synopsis across the United States of the various shelf sets that they have to understand that coming in. I will also go talk to their core shopper. If I was in Florida and I was trying to sell them to Publix, I would go talk to Publix shoppers, so when I walked in and talked to that buyer, I would say, “Here’s what’s going on in your shelf across Florida. I’ve talked to a hundred Publix shoppers and they said they would love to see a product like mine in this section.” That’s crazy data as opposed to saying, “Nationally, here’s what I’m trying to do and nationally, I’ve talked to people.” It’s not going to work.

That is a good point, Rick, because someone who says, “I’m already in a handful of Whole Foods. I could be at Publix,” and they don’t believe their shoppers are the same profile until you have some data that shows them otherwise, they won’t agree with you. They don’t like to take a lot of risks on that with their shelf space, so you show them that it will work.

If you think about being an inventor and you’re always trying to figure out new ways to do things. We had a supplier that had bunk beds and they’re trying to figure out what’s the best way for us to come up with a new way to put a bunk bed in retail. We suggested why don’t you go out and find people that have customize or suit up their own version of a bunk bed inside of their home because we all know when you get a bunk bed inside of your house, this thing that you go create the next best bunk bed because you compete neighbor versus neighbor. We found a couple of hundred people that have tricked out their bunk beds. As you can imagine, they had drilled holes and added things from Xbox hangers to USB things to lighting to drapes.

All of the information came back in and then they brought that information back in and they sit down as a team and started looking at the common themes across the bunk beds to understand what we could do. More importantly, what was consistent when you started seeing things like there need to be a lighting option or with all the different devices you have, there needs to have USB ports. You have to go make that happen. Then you started to realize, “I can’t ship all those areas, but maybe as a bunk bed manufacturer, I now can create accessories and if I pre-drill the holes, maybe I had eight, ten different accessories that you could purchase that would simply fit into the bunk bed.” It’s a completely different conversation as opposed to you sitting in a room and you’re trying to figure out a way to put the bunk bed together. This gave them tremendous insights to be able to help them create something new at retail.

Just you saying that it’s like, “How did they not know this?” That’s the reality. When you’re laser-focused on creating products, it is hard to understand what’s missing or how to come up with something to beat the competition. Something we talk about a lot is staying ahead.

This is something that we do internally for Hazz Design, for product design and development, is that our job is to find those insights and do that. Sometimes we cannot do it on our own. We require this outside input because we need to validate what we see or what we think. We believe everybody needs power. If they’re going to drill stuff to add the power, it’s not only that they need it, it should have been done yesterday and that should be a feature that is in the product. Getting that information helps justify your design features, your value-add features. That’s so critically important in the development process.

The power of mobile reason, this is so important, is that we could have done this twenty years ago, but we would have been on flights flying all over the country that would have taken us tens of thousands of dollars just in travel to get in someone’s home. What if I can do the same thing for you in a matter of days and bring that video to life inside of your organization? You take that $10,000 to $20,000, put it in product design as opposed to airline miles. That didn’t happen twenty years ago.

If your goal is to be a brand on the shelf, then you better know what colors are on the shelf. Share on X

Let’s segue to budget on that because that’s good. Laura and I were talking that we’d love to get some budgets in mind for people because we think they should plan properly and that’s one of our keys. That’s the third step in our seven-key product development processes, is we prove it and we price it. Price matching is also something that your service can help to benchmark and understand the competitors and then plan it. If we don’t plan our budget in right, we don’t get to do what we need to do. Can you tell us ranging-wise what we should be directing people to save and budget for?

If I’m a do-it-yourself person and I’m trying to figure out how to create product A, I’m doing my own version of infomercial but I want real research over here. You can come into a project like this and probably get anywhere from 100 to 200 completes, which will be a significant number for a small startup to go do that. We think you can knock that out for $6 to $8 per complete. If you’re in that $1,200 to $2,000, you can get a significant number of completes that just understanding what people think about your product. For some folks, “I can’t even afford that. I simply want to go to Google and ask them questions for $1 apiece and talk to 200 people.” That would be with you if you want to go do that because you don’t know who you’re talking to and what you’re going to get.

Go knock that out. The second part of that, you think about a couple thousand dollars to make that work. You don’t have to blow that all at once. Start out with ten, fifteen completes. Get ten, fifteen random people across the United States and the ten southern or ten northern states you’re going to engage in and get some initial feedback. Start working through your product again and let this weave itself into what you’re doing. Then when you’re ready to go, you could take photos of what you’re doing. You can take different facets of it, you can take those photos, push it back out and ask people what they think and ultimately get to the point where you’ve got some robust information coming in.

At best you have a non-friend and family group of people that you are talking to rather than having those ten or fifteen people be the people who love you, let’s have ten or fifteen people who might actually buy your product at the end of the day. That’s a much better feedback loop.

I definitely talk about as we plan out our research plan on starting small. That would be qualitative for those who’ve been following along what I’ve been talking about. That’s a small group. It’s like a little focus group. It’s not a significant amount to validate or prove a point, but it helps you tweak your questions, tweak your product slightly, maybe redirect even to a different store before you go spend a couple thousand dollars. Even a couple thousand dollars is nothing compared to what you pay for getting it wrong. Compared to the big firms it’s very small. You definitely have a lot of qualitative features, I know you provide the data too and finding significant validation points. Talk to me in a very tangible way how people will receive the results. How does the data come in and how can they present it ultimately to their investor or buyer?

If you were talking to an investor, not everyone has an opinion. They’re going to walk into their opinion, but now you’re walking with some data points. More importantly, with the data points, you actually have some photos or things that can bring things to life and that’s so important. The last thing I want to ask you to do is to go get 200 videos. That’s way too much to go edit through that but if I was trying to go raise money, I needed to have seed money, angel money to come in, or I’ve been having my project locally. Now I’m talking to a buyer of a national location. I’m going to get real data coming in at quantity data, couple hundred people.

You can argue with the product, but you can’t argue with the consumer. Share on X

I’ve got some photos that will visualize it and then I’m going to ask you to get maybe two or three videos, just a few, and you put that presentation together. It brings it to life because you can argue with me, but you cannot argue with my core shopper because shoppers are always right. When you see the passion from those photos, all it takes is one or two videos where someone is saying, “I love this product.” It would be amazing if I went to Whole Foods or all this. That’s the smile on your face. That’s what you need.

Especially because you’re not talking about like it’s not reel but it’s real of someone using it in their home, standing in with their kids, jumping all over it or whatever it might be. That has way more power than just a testimonial or any kind of these flashy videos that you might spend tens of thousands of dollars. I’ve seen it done in addition. Doing something like this is much more valuable because it’s valuable all throughout the process of giving you the right information and understanding your core shopper and then getting that data out to investors and or buyers. You’re going to multi-use this information.

Is it just a download of data? Are you creating reports or providing any consulting on interpreting the data? Do you provide any of that insight and consulting to help people interpret it?

We come alongside people to do hands-off, which means you can log into our dashboard and you can look through the photos. We have simple bar charts and graphics to show you how things look. You can also download a CSV file and you may be the person that’s never met a pivot table you didn’t like. You can download it and pivot table all day long. You can download SPSS file, that one will drive you crazy.

That’s very helpful. If you are working with myself or another expert, we can help you interpret the data and everything he’s saying. It’s very easy. We need Excel, we need the data, photos, and we can get through everything. One question on the front end though. Do you provide a template of questions or any type of resources? Let’s say we’re doing handbags, do you have research already in handbags that you provide or could receive some context?

We do some coaching on the front and back end and so there are some people out there that said, “I’ve got it. I don’t need your help.” I want you to be a data collection. We are serving money but location specific. As a matter of fact, they will be insulted if you critiqued my questions. There are other people that are out there, “I’m just getting started. I need consulting on methodology on the front and I want you to spoon feed me on the backend and just tell me what the data is saying.” We can provide those services. From our DIY standpoint, we’ve got a staff on hand that can help coach you through methodology, but if you want us to truly design it on the front and back end, we provide those services as well.

That’s great to know. I’m trying to get a full picture of where you can step in and help everyone out and bring this to fruition and make it real. I love your bunk bed story. I’d love to hear maybe one more story of a product launch, just to put it in context and to maybe leave our audience with to get them excited. Maybe something in food and beauty because that’s a very subjective area and we do have quite a few of our members in those categories.

We had a client that wanted to use some chefs to come up with unique items. They had chefs in a room going through the audience, so they wanted some feedback. What we did is we had a two-day ideation session. The very first day, the chefs came in and they had these cool items. We took photos of every item. We’ve pushed that out at night. We had twenty concepts. We came in the next day and we have all of those items rated and ranked with real feedback from listeners so that you didn’t tell a chef that their baby was ugly.

A chef is like a designer. It’s like an artist. What we said was, “These shoppers thought these five ideas were the best and these fifteen maybe not so much.” It’s difficult when you have professionals try to tell you what’s right and wrong. We then took those five. We took the other fifteen that weren’t so good. We edited them and put out again. By the time they flew out the next morning, they went from 50 items to twenty, talked about the data, brought five heroes, took the other fifteen, launched again, and they left with ten hero items the next day. That was all near real-time because sometimes your general manager, your partner, they don’t want to hear you say the baby’s ugly. When a shopper says that, how can you say they’re wrong? That’s important when it comes to food and artistic beauty type audits because we’re so passionate about it.

That’s important, too, because we have many people in our group that cares so much about their product. They’re passionate about their product and we get that. The experts are like, “Let’s pause for a moment and see what people think.” The company that started Field Agent was a different name. How long have you been doing this?

We’ve been doing shopper specific research since 2001.

PLH 83 | Best Consumer Market Research Tools

Best Consumer Market Research Tools: When you’re laser-focused on creating your products, it becomes hard to understand what you are missing.

It’s changed over time. It’s changed since 2001 because our websites were different in 2001. I can tell you that because I built one myself and so it’s very different. What we see in those shifts over time is that we start using this online data, but the online data is funneled, it’s channeled and its algorithm to people and so it is manipulative in and of itself. It doesn’t give a true shopper experience where a shopper walks into a store, you’re not being manipulated by all the things being pointed in your face and the stuff that served up to you. It’s a self-service proposition because we don’t even have salespeople in most stores anymore. If you are not seeing what that was intended for you to see, then that’s a perception problem we have to fix. The only way to know that is to have them walk in there and take a look at it and they’re like, “I don’t even find the product. I can’t even see it on the shelf here,” and that happens.

I’m sure you see that all the time. Is there anything else that we haven’t touched on that we should know about you that you want to make sure our mentors have heard from you?

The important thing here is this is not complicated and it’s not expensive but it’s necessary. We tell people, whether I’m meeting with a Fortune 500 company or I’m talking to an inventor that came into our office and said, “I need help,” I say, “You have to begin with that shopper. You have to start it.” Nine times out of ten he will say, “Yes, but I don’t have $20,000, $30,000 to spend.” I said, “Back up a little bit. I’ll take your $30,000. Let’s start out with some basic data, some basic information, and there should be no one here that’s not willing to invest $500, $1,000, $2,000 because if you’re not willing to invest that you ought to go home because you have to start at an expensive hobby that no one’s going to follow.” The best advice we received when we were starting our business is that you’re only as good as your invoice. If not for that, it’s an expensive hobby.

I tell people if you want to do research to find out if someone will buy your product and if they won’t, why? That you’re not creating an expensive hobby that’s simply fun on the shelf and it’s not going to be a long-term proposition. The research will give you that and there’s no reason why you can’t start out tomorrow using our application to go do that. It’s so simple and so straightforward. We’d love to help them. I’m going to offer you something for all the users that are there. If they send an email to, we’ll give them a $200 credit to get started. All they have to do is mention the podcast that they heard this on and we’ll give them a credit to get started.

You mention Product Launch Hazzards. That’s it, that simple.

I was going to hope they would know what they needed to do. What that means is if you want to do an in-home use engagement, that $200 is going to get you 30 to 40 or so responses. It’s that first little touch that you’re looking for and we love to offer it for free to your audience.

Thank you so much for making that offer. Laura and I are here for you too. I could think of about ten different touch points that we could be utilizing Field Agent along the way in the process to validating our choices that we’re making. From the moment we start with our product idea to validate whether there’s value in some of the concepts that we’re working on to, “Will people buy this?” to “Do we have the right package design? Do we have the right instructions?”

There are so many touch points along the way. If you want a strategy session, Laura and I are here for you to help you plan this through. Think of Laura as your general contractor for market research because she’s going to help you formulate great questions, but she’s also going to say you need Rick, you need to do this size, or you need to do that size. She can guide you along that way. That’s why she’s here for you. Please utilize your connection to her as well in that process because she is going to be the conduit to help you understand how best to utilize Rick West and Field Agent in your process.

That’s why we’re here for you because we want you to make it to market successfully. We want you to preserve your capital along the way and utilize the capital you are spending to make the best decisions possible for product market success, for sales receipts, as Rick put it, and for how you’re invoicing. Please utilize us in that process. Thank you. This has been Tracy, Laura and Rick on Product Launch Hazzards.

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About Rick West

PLH 83 | Best Consumer Market Research ToolsRick West is the husband of one, father of 3, Grandaddy to one and a friend to many. He is an experienced CEO and co-founder of multiple start-ups with emphasis in technology, innovation and CPG. As a leader in the Retail Industry for seventeen years in the United States, Hong Kong and Thailand he has been an Entrepreneur for over sixteen years in the U.S. and currently serves as a speaker and mentor within the business community and research industry. Life Quote: “Don’t live in the world of maybe, let your yes be yes and your no be no”

Field Agent crowdsources the smartphones of over one million shoppers in the United States, and over two million around the globe, to collect in-store information and shopper insights—anywhere, anytime. From retail audits to mystery shops, shopper surveys to in-home use tests, Field Agent offers companies of all kinds a fast, affordable, and reliable means for understanding retail conditions and shopper experiences.

Our company was conceived in 2009 by a team of retail veterans and researchers seeking to solve a common business problem: real-time access to in-store conditions and shopper insights. We applied crowdsourcing and mobile technology to conventional data-collection methods, creating a markedly more efficient way to learn what’s happening in stores and among shoppers. And our industry-leading digital and manual QC standards ensure accurate and reliable answers to our clients’ pressing business questions.

Today, across eight countries, thousands of leading brands, retailers, and agencies rely on Field Agent for “instant in-store visibility” and “in-the-moment” shopper insights. Field Agent is committed to the mission of “changing the way the world collects business information and insights.”

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