Sampling for Concept Testing and Innovation
Many assume that rigorous market research always works with random samples or probability samples. This assumption is not true. There are many studies that require purposive sampling instead. Purposive sampling involves finding people with specific characteristics or qualities, even if they do not fully represent the whole population, because these specific people can provide unique insights or data that are difficult to get otherwise.
An article in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Marketing Research offers research to this point. The authors identify a unique profile of consumers who are measurably better at developing, testing, and reacting to new product ideas. The personal qualities these consumers possess include (quoting from the article):
- Openness to new experiences and ideas
- An intellective self-focus, or “reflection”
- The ability to apply both experiential and rational processing styles
- The ability to process information both verbally and visually
- High levels of creativity
The authors developed and validated an eight-question scale to measure these qualities, and showed that consumers who score high on the scale are able to give better ideas and feedback compared to those who score low. The authors provide experimental data showing that products developed with input from this unique group of consumers are more likely to succeed in the marketplace.
So, you could ask a random sample of consumers to participate in your focus groups and surveys as you test and refine new concepts. But if there is a non-random subset of them who can give you data that is more predictive of your new product’s success, why would you? Forget about methodological purity, probability samples, and randomness. You need a purposive sample focused on just this subset of consumers.
As always, good research requires thoughtful attention to strategies, outcomes, and how the research will be used. Adhering to rigid protocols does not necessarily mean rigorous research. Thinking about samples in smart and strategic ways is a great example of that. If you are engaged in new product and innovation research, give Versta Research a call and we would be happy to think with you about the best approach. We would also be delighted to share with you (and execute for you) the eight-item scale used to identify the best consumers to test your ideas.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.