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  • TrialPanel: When 300 000 consumer-testers vote for their preferred product innovations...

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    Below is a transcript of the interview with Patricia Florès conducted by Thierry Semblat (Market Research News) whom we thank for showcasing Repères innovation!


    15th May 2014




     Several weeks ago, a number of innovation-products were awarded the label “preferred by consumers”, which is of significant importance if one takes into account the fact that 300,000 consumers participated with approximately 1 200 products tested and more than 950,000 evaluations. However, this prize is only the more publicised part of a particularly ambitious ecosystem called TrialPanel which establishes links between brands, consumers, and a retailer (Carrefour). The research is orchestrated in France by the Repères research institute.


    Patricia Florès , Consumer & Shopper Insights Director France, in charge of this activity at Repères , answers the questions of MRnews to help us better understand how the TrialPanel  platform works.

    Market Research News: How would you define what TrialPanel in just a few words?

    Patricia Florès: TrialPanel is a tool, a platform between three parties, the brands, the retailers and the consumers. This tool was launched by an Argentinean company, Brand Value, and was then deployed in France in April 2013, with one retailer as an exclusive partner, Carrefour, and one research partner: Repères.


    What is the general principle behind this platform?

    Basically, it consists of delivering value to the different stakeholders by means of three major components. At the heart of the system is a massive marketing data collecting process, which totally complies with the Esomar code of ethics. There is, of course, an analytical component, to help manufacturing brands in their innovation process. But an important element is communication - amplification even - with a showcasing of the products and brands with the general consumer via the site monavislerendgratuit.com (my opinionmakesitfree), where hundreds of evaluations by consumers are posted on the products. The crowning event in this “amplification” process is the recognition of the products and brands preferred by these consumers via a dedicated site (prefereparlesconsommateurs.com) and a prize.


    How does it actually work? I’m a consumer: how do I become a part of this process?

    The consumers who join the scheme are clients of the retailer who is the exclusive partner of the platform, Carrefour in the case of France. Carrefour customers are therefore exposed to advertising conveying the following message: “Give your evaluation and benefit from hundreds of free products”. They are invited to go to the internet site monavislerendgratuit.com. When they go online, their usual supermarket must be validated as being part of the list of 105 points of sale participating in the operation (approximately half the Carrefour supermarkets). They are asked to give their loyalty card number or, if need be, they are issued a card. They then provide their profile and purchasing habits. From the moment they are registered they receive e-mails inviting them to test new products. They receive an average of two e-mails per week, with in most cases in each e-mail a proposal to test 3 products. One year after the launch of the operation, 300,000 consumers are currently registered, the operation having been the object of a major recruitment effort on the part of Carrefour. The operation has also benefited from word of mouth.


    The consumers therefore test the products free of charge? Isn’t there the risk that you may be dealing with an atypical clientele, particularly attracted by the possibility of consuming products for free?

    The programme was defined so as to avoid that risk of only recruiting people who are specially fond of promotions, this is something which needs to be taken into account of course. When a consumer signs up, he or she is given a credit of 450 points to spend. Each product being tested has a value. To give you an idea, a tomato sauce is worth 100 points, the number of points being determined in proportion of the face value of the product. The consumers will therefore have to make choices, according to their emotional or “functional” interest in the products. When they receive e-mail invitations, they discover the different products proposed for testing, with the number of points associated with each one, a visual, a presentation “pitch”, and possibly an ad.

    And once they have chosen the product they want to test?

    For them the first stage consists of answering (on the site monavislerendgratuit.com) a pre-use questionnaire, which enables us to identify their behaviours and attitudes associated with the product category and the brand (which purchases, which behaviours in relation to competing brands, and at what price they expect to find the product, what they imagine it is like, what image they have of the brand, etc.). They receive a coupon with a bar-code of the product. They then go to the point of sale which they have already informed us of as being their usual supermarket, and they do their shopping normally; this is something we insist on. On their path they encounter special signage next to the products, markers which have been put up to help them identify the products, bearing in mind the fact that we don’t modify the placing of the products on the shelves. At the till, they pay for their purchases normally, except for the products in question which they pay for with the coupons. Here again to ensure the shopping was done normally, the global amount of the purchases has to be at least 30 euros. In fact, the average ticket is 98 euros, which is perfectly consistent with the usual averages observed in supermarkets.


    They therefore take the products which they consume at home...

    Exactly. The consumers use the products in real situations, and after each use, they go back online to monavislerendgratuit.com to answer a post-use questionnaire, with verifications which make it possible to check the consistency and veracity of the responses. The consumers are naturally encouraged to give their opinions, simply by allocating new points enabling them to continue testing new products.


    What about the brands, the manufacturers, who do they have access to?

    The manufacturers who have negotiated to take part in the programme with Carrefour have access to two major categories of information and analysis.

    The post-use questionnaire we use is very complete, it includes information on satisfaction and the degree of preference for the product, as well as organoleptic, packaging and value-for-money analyses, and other open questions. And of course the purchasing intention is measured by the spontaneous reaction first of all, then measured again after a reminder of the price so as to get an idea of the price-elasticity of the tested product compared with competing products. We have included another important indicator, the ease with which the product is located in the shop (benchmarked using criteria in our database), which is often an important issue between manufacturers and retailers.

    As a consequence, the standard deliverable for the manufacturers is a summary of the performances of their products under the form of KPIs compared with the scores of products of the same category.

    Then, in addition to these standard indicators, the manufacturers can also receive a complete analysis of their mix via the detailed results from the questionnaire, and can even include specific questions about their product (organoleptic questions for instance). They turn to us to give themselves every chance of understanding the reasons for the success or failure of the product, whether these reasons relate to the product itself, its perceived price level, the shoppers’ profiles, or the packaging.

    How would you define the most significant advantages this system provides manufacturers compared to more conventional types of studies?

    With such as system, we are dealing with huge volumes. In one year we have tested 1 700 different products (100 to 120 products per month), out of 300 categories and for 400 brands. We are processing more than a million post-use questionnaires, with sample sizes of around 1,500 people per product whereas for a more conventional use test, the sample bases are close to 150 or 200 people. The fact of working with such volumes presents major advantages. This makes it possible to conduct very detailed analyses of sub-segments of customers. Much more than is usually the case with a concept-use-test whilst applying a superior reality principle. But we have to take into account the fact that a concept-use test is by definition a pre-test, whereas in this instance we are in post-test conditions.

    And in comparison with panel data?

    I was coming to that. The other advantage associated with the size of the sample, is the speed with which we get feedback, especially compared with feedback provided by consumer panels. Very quickly, as soon as a hundred interviews have been conducted, the manufacturer knows generally speaking what the performance of his product is compared with competing products through the KPAs. And contrary to panels again, they have precious insight concerning the consumers’ reasons, explaining why the product performed or under-performed. Above all, the manufacturers know whether there is a tactical problem such as the visibility of the product on the shelf (in which case they can turn to the retailer) or whether the problem is the perceived price. Or whether there is a fundamental problem in terms of the validity of the product-concept itself. This rapidity in receiving feedback is of course an extremely important component in the context of the mass retail sector where the de-listing of products can occur very quickly, especially in the very “crowded” sections such as the fresh produce section.

    I suppose the tool has its limits. Isn’t the need to limit the testing within the scope of Carrefour an obstacle to responding to certain needs?

    At first sight, this could appear to be limiting. But technically, we have never perceived this as being the case, since in France, shoppers frequent 5 different retail chains on average in the year. Our consumers probably don’t shop only at Carrefour.

    And in terms of targets, with 300,000 people, we really have the likelihood of finding all customer categories within our sample, even if out panel tends to include fewer seniors on average. Especially since by encouraging consumers to choose which products they are really interested in testing, the samples reflect the potential buyers of the product, which is the most important thing.

    As far as limits are concerned, I would tend to evoke the more intrinsic components of the product itself: even if the tool is extremely reactive, we are using a post-test approach, not a pre-test approach. One can also mention the fact that for certain manufacturers, the decisions are taken at a global level, an international level, whereas this tool is more local in the way it is implemented.

    It is local in the way it works, while being deployed in several countries...

    Absolutely. Initially it was launched in Argentina with Walmart. It has now been deployed in France for a year, and has also been launched in Belgium, also with Carrefour.

    Concerning the cost for the manufacturers, what sort of prices are we talking about?

    The cost of being included in the platform is negotiated between Carrefour and the manufacturers, we don’t know what the conditions are. But for the part that concerns us, for the complete analysis of the performances of a mix we’re talking about 6 to 12 K€, which is extremely competitive in terms of added value compared to price.


    Contact: Patricia Florès p.flores@reperes.net

  • How to Succeed Marketing to Seniors? The Point of View of Repères

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    seniors,silver economyThe latest subject addressed by Market Research News concerns the target group of the Seniors, about which the Repères teams have developed substantial expertise.

    Below is a transcription of the interview with Yaël Bensoussan (Repères Health) and Ariane Lacas (Repères Quali) conducted by Thierry Semblat 

    Market Research News - The notion of the "Silver Economy" and of consumer growth being driven more and more by seniors is increasingly being evoked.Do you have any figures that substantiate this?

    Yaël Bensoussan:There are a lot of statistics available on the question, but there is one essential determining factor.The fact that we live longer and longer, on average 78 years for men and 85 for women.Even if there are regional differences, the French are gaining an extra three months of life expectancy every year.Since the period of life as a senior is extending, this group is becoming more prevalent.Even if one sticks to a restrictive view of seniors by only taking into account the 65 plus, they represent 17.1% of the population and more than half of them are aged over 75.This prevalence has grown by more than one point in only ten years.In France it is estimated that as from next year the prevalence of the 60 plus will be greater than that of the under 20s!


    Two of the big questions concern the definition of what is a senior and the best way of breaking up this population.What's your take on these points?

    YB:It's true that the notion varies a great deal depending on the perspective.A top sportsman or sportswoman is a senior from the age of 35 or 40!Taking the health perspective provides a good insight.Apart from specific pathologies (metabolic, oncological, infectious, etc.), people experience a first life stage of good health.During this stage they have illnesses of course but they recover from them and these illnesses only have a small impact on lifestyle and consumption.Then there comes the life stage requiring permanent health care.At this stage people are obliged to take medication for the rest of their lives, care must be delivered on a permanent basis with the need for regular medical analyses.And eventually comes the stage during which other health issues emerge and unavoidably lead to death.


    The major break is there, when the issue is "extending" life?

    YB:Absolutely.We switch to a relationship which suggests an end through death.This greatly contaminates the use of and the imaginary dimension associated with medicines, which also concern consumer products.  The scope of possibilities is reduced, and the relation to time is changed considerably.


    From this perspective which segmentation do you feel is most relevant?

    YB:Generally we identify three main physiological ages:that of the "young seniors", which could also be referred to as "seniors in transition"; then come the seniors "in their prime"; and lastly, the "ultra-seniors".


    Let's start with the young seniors.Who are they and what characterises them?

    YB:They are aged between 50 and 60, are still working, and may live with children.They don't live as if they were "old", especially since our society focuses on youthfulness and performance.But there is a tension due to the fact that the body starts to fail (pre-menopause, andropause, etc.), but which is denied in order to postpone implementing the prevention strategies of the healthcare life stage we evoked earlier.This tension provokes the so-called "change of life", the middle-age crisis which manifests itself through a certain number of events.Often there is the need to be seductive again, with a sexual potency that is no longer the same, but which can now be enhanced simply with a medical prescription.


    Among this age group there is a sort of denial, which can provide considerable marketing opportunities... Is it this denial that disappears when people reach their "prime"?

    YB:Absolutely.This second group of seniors in their prime are aged between 60 and 70/75, typically they are recently retired.The children have left home, and grandchildren are now coming into their lives.This group represents a large proportion of the population because they are the children of the so-called post-war baby-boomers.They are sometimes referred to as the "Happy Boomers", or even "Bohemian Boomers".They often have a high purchasing power having benefitted from a long period of full employment.They are very different from the grandparents of the past:They use the Internet and mobile phones, travel, and have acquired a certain moral freedom.And they refuse to break with social life!


    Even when retired, they continue to play an important role in society?

    YB:Indeed.They are particularly active in voluntary associations and quite naturally play a pivotal role, either in terms of major social changes or simply within the family by helping their children and their parents at the same time.


    In spite of their age, do they still project themselves into the future?

    YB:Yes, absolutely.Some of them postpone integrating the healthcare stage mentioned earlier, but the majority of them receive good health care.They are the object of major preventive health plans (flu, cancer, Alzheimer, DMLA...).They are well informed about their health care needs and usually have a rather consumerist approach to health care and health insurance.  Their prevalent attitude is to continue as before as long as possible, and to get the most out of life.


    At what age does this blissful period end?

    YB:On average people shift into the ultra-senior stage after 75, when they become isolated or care is provided by the family or institutions.These ultra-seniors represent 9% of the French population today, and this proportion will continue to grow.This age group can be subjected to degenerative diseases occurring at advanced ages (Alzheimer's) and which naturally raise major public health issues (who will pay and what is the cost for society?).They are very well cared for (in hospital or at home thanks to high quality care) and the prevailing approach in France is to preserve life at all cost whereas other European countries have more restrictive approaches.


    The question is relatively vast, but how would you define the main challenges when seeking to successfully target these age groups?

    YB:When working with this target you need to think and rethink the product mix as a whole.You must work with the actual product, but also with the packaging, the ergonomics, as well as communication and distribution channels.You also have to ask questions such as whether seniors, depending on the segmentation we mentioned earlier, are going to be able to open packaging easily, or be able to carry the products.There is a need to picture being "in their shoes".If one considers health problems, it's obvious that there is a lot that needs do be done in terms of communication.

    Ariane Lacas:In relation to a certain number of physiological disorders, the idea is to see how the taboo might be lifted, which requires having good insights that need to be sublimated so the target can hear the message, and identify with it without any sense of embarrassment.


    And in the area of consumer goods?

    AL: In these universes, as with that of cosmetics, the question is to know how, given the age factor and the new physiological constraints, a certain number of aspirations to consume and derive enjoyment from consuming may be experienced.There's a great quote from Confucius that sums it up perfectly:"We all have two lives, and the second one starts when we realise we only have one life".This means that when we become aware of our limits and of our mortality we start to live our true life, without the possibilities we used to have but with the need to experience enjoyment and pleasure.This is when a new relationship between aspirations, needs, and possibilities must be decoded for the different categories of products and services.Paradoxically, the stronger the need, the more difficult it is to experience the desire and consume the product.The problem needs to be addressed in terms of a new way of consuming, of proposing new uses in relation with a new imaginary dimension, which takes into account declining physical and sensory faculties.The intention is to continue to offer these people useful products for their enjoyment, especially since they are people who in most cases have a life expectancy of thirty to forty years.It is in the interests of brands to deploy a genuine customer loyalty strategy by creating new areas of trust.


    What does this mean for the different segments you mentioned?

    AL:  The young seniors are a rather new phenomenon in the history of humanity.Many things need to be rethought, especially when it comes to communicating to them.There is a prevalent "anti-age" discourse which this group relates to but which they also tend to ignore.They will be receptive to a new discourse which breaks away from stigmatising or being "anti" but privileges a "positive" and a "together" approach.For the seniors in their prime, we undoubtedly need to redefine a discourse including individuation because they are very individualistic and vitality because of the fear of aging.And there is a need to enhance the pivotal status of this generation which is often a generation of reference.As for the ultra-seniors, they have fewer demands or needs.But they are automatically subject to a form of impotence which generates new needs, especially when dealing with the action of consuming itself, because of declining faculties.The challenge consists of helping them to maintain or recover physical enjoyment, namely by working on the sensory aspects.Working on the sensory aspects of products compensates for physical deficiencies reintroducing enjoyment and the feeling of being alive. 


    Concerning market research on these senior target groups, what are the principle rules that need to be taken into account?

    YB:First it's essential to take into account the stakeholders.Concretely when studying general consumer issues this implies getting the seniors to participate, but it also means implicating the people directly in contact with them day to day (the family, friends, doctors, beauticians or hairdressers, health staff...) as well as the experts and specialists concerned:such as sociologists, psychoanalysts, geriatricians, ergonomists... For health issues it's also a good idea to involve health staff and carers along with the seniors.


    And what about the methods for gathering the information?

    YB:There are no specific constraints regarding the young seniors, the imperative being to avoid making them feel designated as "seniors".There are also few constraints for those we have defined as seniors in their "prime", on condition they aren't afflicted with incapacitating illnesses.As a group they are outspoken and appreciate being able to express their opinion.Concerning the "ultra-seniors", the constraints are often related to their level of capacity and dependence, bearing in mind that the most dependent are rarely interviewed.There is also the geographical dimension to take into account, with a large proportion of this group living by the sea.Online and telephone interviews are to be discouraged.  Interviews at home can work very well, except for institutions which pose a problem because of the need to obtain authorisations.

    Contacts :  Yaël Bensoussan, Ariane Lacas


  • The Lab in the Bag: A Revolutionary Sensory Booth Design by Repères

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    logo.jpgA grand premiere for Repères: our first patent!

    This is the fruit of the work conducted in the field of test environments by our Director of Research & Innovation, Franck Saunier.

    The aim was to guarantee high quality conditions for gathering evaluation data on products by offering a standardised controlled environment easy to duplicate at all test facilities.

    This led to the invention of "The Lab in the Bag" concept, a foldable and easily transportable isolation booth. 

    The Lab in the Bag value proposition is "my sensory lab where and when I want it in less than 2 hours".

    Below is a demonstration of the assembly of 4 booths by one person (the inventor Franck Saunier).

    Repères is now commercialising booths for manufacturers and research laboratories, as well as for sensory research institutes operating outside France.

    This product, which is a real disruptive innovation in the sensory field, was enthusiastically welcomed at the Pangborn World Congress in Rio this summer.

    Since then initial requests have come in from all around the world, with two principle uses envisaged:

    . sensory tests when renovating a laboratory or when setting up a laboratory in unequipped sites,

    . quality control in plants, with the possibility of creating a very affordable laboratory as close as possible to the production site.

    For details:

    Website The lab in the Bag

    Sales information for The Lab in the Bag: Nadège Drouillet

  • System 1 / System 2 and Market Research

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    The need to look beyond what the consumer says has now been identified as one of the fundamental issues in marketing studies: a consensus has been established concerning the key role of emotions and unconscious reactions in decision-making.

    The seminal work conducted by Antonio R. Damasio on this subject ("Descartes' error” – 1995) has been confirmed and complemented by recent developments in behavioural economics. Authors such as Dan Arriely (“Predictably Irrational” – 2010) and Daniel Kahneman (“Thinking, Fast and Slow” – 2010) have proved the lack of realism in the paradigm of the "homo economicus" in which it is assumed that as rational human beings we make choices with the sole aim of ensuring maximum individual utility while being fully aware of the offers available and remaining uninfluenced by the behaviour of our peers.  

    The “system 1 / system 2” metaphor used by Daniel Kahneman provides a very effective description of the way our brain functions when faced with making a decision:

    .System 1 is a function that is systematically and unconsciously deployed without requiring any particular effort (automatic pilot), and which enables us to answer a question such as "2+2= ?". This concerns the emotional register, that of the somatic markers which Damasio describes as being fashioned by instinct and experience.

    .However, if we are asked to answer the question “235 + 4 195 = ?”, we need to activate system 2; this involves conscious thought which is slower and more costly in cognitive energy, hence our reluctance to deploy it. Daniel Kahneman evokes “our lazy system 2” (how many of you have made the effort of calculating 235+4195 ?) which nevertheless plays an essential role in validating or invalidating the choices made within system 1.

    To better understand the consumer we need to understand these two systems. System 2, which is of the realm of rationalisation, may be approached via questioning, however, more generally the subject is unaware of the reactions involved in system 1 and will therefore not be able to accurately explain this process.

    Qualitative studies, through their prospective nature, have always made it possible to look at what lies behind rational discourse. However, this represents a real challenge for quantitative studies, more limited to a traditional line of inquiry.   

    At Repères we have positioned ourselves for several years within this field of investigation which attempts to gain access to the unconscious emotional side of the consumer and to quantify it, which has led us:

    . to develop the method of Emotional Monitoring which, by using prospective tests administered to a large number of respondents, aims to determine the rich diversity of ties between a brand and a consumer.

    . to conduct research on non-verbal communication (VideoEtude) applied to testing ideas or products, which enables us to explore another dimension of consumer reaction such as: what happens before the consumer expresses an opinion? Access to this new dimension provides an original source of information for discovering and testing the potential of products and services.

    . and more recently, to complete our tool box by collaborating with Gaël Allain from the company Mémoire&Marketing, to include implicit tests within our service offering. The aim in this case is to measure the impact of a stimulus. What are the representations that are activated, consciously or unconsciously, following the perception of a stimulus? The principle of the implicit test is not to question the consumer but to measure the response time for performing a task such as recognising the word “desire” when seeing the logo of the BMW brand as compared with the response time for recognising the same word when seeing the logo of the Audi brand.   

    Our first use of implicit tests was conducted by Pierrick Rivière at Danone Research on packaging tests, and was presented at the Printemps des Etudes in April 2012. You will find a version minus the Danone Research results and completed with results from a pilot study conducted by Repères on the relation between different competing brands and basic emotions (desire, joy, sadness, shame, mistrust…). In the two protocols the contribution provided by implicit information proved very rich and complementary to that obtained by explicit questioning.

    Please contact us if you require a more detailed presentation of these different tools and results.

  • Reperes obtains funding for research in non-verbal communication

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    logo ANR.gifThe French National Agency for Research (Agence Nationale de la Recherche - ANR) has selected and financed 7 projects within the framework of the 2011 ALID programme (Systèmes Alimentaires Durables – Sustainable Food Systems).

    Among these, the DIACODD programme (Distribution Alimentaire, Consommateurs et Développement Durable – Food Distribution, Consumers and Sustainable Development) is aimed at analysing the distributors/consumers interrelation and at conceptualising and measuring its influence on the growth of demand in sustainable food (Cf. the programme on the ANR site).

    DIACODD is a collaborative four-year project involving the following schools and universities:The University of Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC), Rennes University (Université Rennes 1), the Lyon School of Management (ESDES - Ecole de Management de Lyon) and AgroParisTech (Institut des sciences et industries du vivant et de l’environnement – Institute of Technology for Life, Food and Environmental Studies).

    One of the questions this project seeks to answer concerns the capacity of current measurement tools to capture consumer responses to propositions relating to sustainable development.The fear is that in this area social desirability may generate a considerable bias in responses.

    A partnership between AgroParisTech and Repères has therefore been added to this programme:the aim will be to develop and if possible patent a non-verbal tool for measuring perceptions of conceptual stimuli.

    The ANR funding will enable us to conduct different experiments and to employ a PhD student for this programme.

    This research perfectly complements the research already conducted by Repères in the field of sniff-tests and taste tests. 

    To be continued…



    For AgroParisTech : Patricia Gurviez

    For Repères:François Abiven and Franck Saunier