5 ways to deliver effective sensory research (without blowing the budget)

by: PLAY

Technical sensory research has a bit of a bad rap.

It's often dismissed by business bosses as expensive and time-consuming and is all too often lumped into the 'too-hard' basket. 

But sensory research has a critical role to play in product development and concept testing. It's the missing piece that can turn a 'trialist' into a long-term consumer and advocate. 

While Big Data and data-driven insights can provide helpful analysis of shopper behaviour, where sensory really shines is giving genuine insight into consumer behaviour; how the end user will react to a product.

After all, it’s important to remember the shopper is often not the end user.

This is where sensory research can bring the consumer story to life. 

Sensory testing with children

Using sensory to defend your position.

When brought in at an early stage in the development process, sensory research can provide invaluable insight to help create a #winning product. For example, only real-life testing in homes can demonstrate how a product works (or doesn't) for a household. 

These early insights driven by technical sensory research can help defend businesses, brands and product.

Smart market research agencies are finding cost-efficient methods and pragmatic approaches to sensory that make sense for businesses that baulk at budgets. 

sensory testing washing powder

Delivering effective sensory research on your budget.

Here are five red-hot ways to make sensory more efficient and cost-effective for your next research project.


1. Be a picky pepper.

Not every piece of research needs to involve consumer testing of 200 people. It’s important to think about the scale of research needed to make a business decision. Ask: "How robust do we need to be versus the value of the category?". Be selective. Consider the size of the sample needed to make an informed recommendation to the business and agree early internally on your end goal.


2. Consider bundling.

Are there are other products in the category that could be bundled into a test? A good market research agency can advise how to structure research into a single streamlined test by bundling complimentary products or even categories within a portfolio.


3. Be selective with your methodology (and your research partners).

Is it more important to have the control and technical specificity of a sensory test or will the business case benefit from testing a product in a real-life consumer home or product clinic? PLAY works with clients to identify the best solution and, with the largest sensory testing facility in Australia, can provide fast turnarounds with greater cost efficiencies. 


4. Leverage innovation sprints.

Adopting an agile research approach can accelerate your product development cycle by allowing rapid qualitative iteration around pack, product, function and form. Bringing in cross-functional teams to review concept, refine the product, and create packs on the fly might seem like an intensive exercise but it can prove a cost efficient way to fast track product development


5. Involve stakeholders early on.

Establish viability before embarking on research. We often work with partners on innovative concepts that test brilliantly, but then reality strikes. Businesses realise they can't afford to produce the new concept and the idea disappears faster than the first beer on a Friday.  

sensory testing hand wash

Risk and reward.

PLAY MR sensory expert Andrew Turner explains: “There’s always an element of risk and reward when it comes to testing new or reformulated propositions. By weighing up the importance of the product, the demands of the business and the timelines available, we can arrive at a testing solution which best fits the needs.

"Solutions then emerge which look at how we test, where the test is conducted (for example, controlled CLT vs. In-Home), how many people we test, how many we test at a single point in time and whether we want descriptive and experiential data, or hard-coded firm numbers. 

"None of these have to be drawn-out, costly exercises. PLAY has invested in building the largest sensory testing facility in Australia. We can now test up to 30 respondents at any one time, meaning we can test more products with more people with greater efficiency." 

And, most importantly, it needn’t blow the budget.


Over to you.

PLAY MR has range of sensory solutions that can be tailored to accommodate individual briefs.

With custom-built, state of the art facilities including a sensory testing lab that can accommodate 30 participants and two on-site focus group rooms, we are one of Australia's premier research venues.

Get in touch using the orange enquiry button to the right to see how PLAY MR can help create powerful stories that support your product experience.

read it, love it, share it.

about the author


As the experts in consumer-led innovation in FMCG, we partner with manufacturers and retailers to lift the productivity and effectiveness of their NPD. It’s all in how we blend innovation advisory with tailored consumer insight using an agile, consumer-first approach. Think of us like the connective tissue within your innovation process. We guide you at every step of the journey, helping you align, focus and develop ideas and products that sell.

ask the author

related posts