Apr 3, 2012

Try it out !!

An article I had written on "Product trials":

Peter Drucker in his book "The Practice of Management" says "There is only one valid definition of a business purpose - to create a customer". In this era of globalization, many different brands are eying for consumer's attention at the same time. So it becomes essential for the brand to try different strategies for building awareness about its offerings, thereby creating a presence in the mind of the consumer. One such strategy that has been in existence for a while is to give consumers a chance to try out the product. 

The “trial” strategy gives consumers a first-hand experience of the product, which helps the brand to develop certain associations in the minds of the consumers. The recent Nescafe ad starring Vir Das illustrates this aspect where the primary focus is on getting new consumers to try out their “first cup of coffee”. This ad appeals to the target segment – the current youth generation. The protagonist  speaks out his mind without any inhibitions in front of a celebrity (Karan Johar). The messaging clearly emphasizes to the target audience that it's time they get started with their first cup of Nescafe which is just Rs.2.

Brands execute their trial strategies at the point-of-purchase. The trial packs are being offered at leading supermarkets and retail stores. Either a brand representative or a store salesperson locate the interested consumers and offer them a free sample. The sample pack of the new fruit yoghurt brand “Danone” is offered to consumers who visit the dairy section of a leading supermarket. If consumers like the taste, they can pick up the actual packs from the dairy section.

Brands also lure consumers to encourage product trial by offering freebies and lucky draw coupons. During the last ICC Cricket World Cup, Hyundai came up with an offer where people who test drive the latest Hyundai i10 car were eligible to receive two free tickets.

Product trial is one of the predominant customer acquisition strategies in the digital world. Customers can either try the product for a limited period of time or can access limited set of features of the product. Many of the latest SaaS (Software as a Service) products prefer the latter approach so that customers get a hands-on experience with the product's limited set of features and at a later point of time, customers will opt to upgrade their product access to a paid version. The features that are offered free should give a real feel of the product and at the same time, create an anticipation that there is more value to the remaining features which fall under the paid version. Zoho, one of the popular CRM software providers offers a free version of Zoho CRM which the IT decision makers of businesses can use to evaluate the product.

Online brands also try to acquire consumers by offering discounts on purchases for consumers who register with their site. Consumers get to try out the online product and understand the offering when they register. International fashion brand retailer theprivatesales.com ran a campaign where consumers were offered a Rs.200 discount on signing up with their site.

Conversion of trial to actual consumers is the metric to be captured out of these trial strategies. Increased conversion will happen when the experiences from product trial create a positive attitude in the minds of consumers and they are willing to take the next step of buying the actual product. The trial experience should act as a trigger towards actual purchase. It should help the decision making process of the consumers when they compare brands. 

Brands should ensure that there is no variation in the quality of trial packs and actual packs of the product. If the trial pack has created a positive experience but the actual pack didn't cater to the same expectation, it will trigger a negative association towards the brand, which will destroy the brand equity in the long term.

Trial offering creates a promise which the actual offering is expected to deliver. It should demonstrate the value so clearly that consumers are able to make an objective decision when making the actual purchase. Trial-ability is one of the characteristics that helps in the diffusion of innovative products. Marketers need to take advantage of this product characteristic and design a product sampling programme to increase awareness and drive adoption.

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