The purpose of conducting this pilot research is to determine consumer reactions and acceptance rates of a new shampoo that the company is considering to launch by the end of the year. Prior to conducting a nationwide consumer-based research survey, a pilot study has been planned, with a very limited target audience. Product research and development is already underway, and the company has to choose between launching an anti-dandruff shampoo, or a variant that specifically targets teenagers, who have severe hair fall problems .
Therefore, a questionnaire will be developed comprising questions that will attempt to understand which of the two possible launches is likely to be more successful in the market.
Following are the areas that will be covered in the pilot survey:
Do more people suffer from dandruff, as compared to hair fall from amongst the general audience?
The acceptable pricing levels for the people
The stock-keeping units (SKUs) that the intended target audience will prefer (sachets, 150 ml bottles, 250 ml bottles or a family size pack)
The current brand usage trends in the shampoo category
The extent of purchasing power of the target audience (income bracket)
The sources of information the target audience is using currently to determine which brands/products are delivering results
The media on which potential consumers are spending the maximum amount of time during a day
The basic factors that influence the purchase of a shampoo brand (excluding the price angle)
The level of competition the new brand will have to contend with in order to grab market share
The level of brand awareness and loyalty prevalent in the sector, and the factors that are most likely to trigger a brand switch
Findings of Existing Industry Research
There is a considerable volume of consumer research that exists for the haircare industry, and specifically for shampoos. As expected, most of it has been done by the two largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Companies in the world, Unilever and P&G, who also happen to be the two most dominant brands in this product category: P&G controls the anti-dandruff market with Head & Shoulders, while Unilever has Clear; similarly, Unilever has anti-hair fall solutions in its Sunsilk brand, while P&G has Pert Plus .
The initial research has revealed that consumers, particularly women, are extremely particular about their choice of shampoo brands, because having beautiful, strong hair is considered an integral part of their personality. Therefore, average price increments, so far, have not resulted in switching behavior. Equally important is the finding that non-availability of brands also does not result in decreased brand loyalty; people tend to spend considerable time and effort to locate the shampoo they use .
This indicates a strong sense of brand awareness and loyalty in this category, implying that any new entrant will have to come up with a unique formulation that offers a distinct brand advantage that resonates with consumers.
Survey Development Methods
In order to improve the quality of the survey design, it is important to pre-test a questionnaire. While a pilot study in itself is a scaled down version of the actual scope of a research, pre-testing involving using 5-10 people, and asking them to fill out/respond to the questions mentioned in the questionnaire . This strategy helps in identifying possible gaps (questions that might not have been originally included), the difficulties that respondents faced in understanding and/or answering the questions, as well as improvements in layouts and terminology used.
Another potential strategy to use is conducting focus groups to get the input of a selected few, considered to have expert knowledge of the market or the consumers’ mind. This is a more contained exercise when compared to pre-testing mentioned above, however in the present research scenario, this might prove to be a difficult task, due to the nature of the product being launched. It will be very difficult for a handful of style, grooming or beauty experts to categorize the consumers’ potential purchase behavior, therefore, pre-testing is a far more efficient method to develop, enhance and perfect the questionnaire .
Pilot Research Sample
In this case, since the primary target audience that has been defined for the shampoo brands comprises females aged between 13 and 35, the pilot sample will also constitute people from this demographic, while a small proportion of men within the same age bracket will also be chosen, to provide some balance.
Ethical Concerns and Associated Expenses
Since a very limited budget has been assigned to this pilot study, therefore, the maximum portion of monetary resources will be allocated to designing, developing, printing and distributing the questionnaire. Volunteers will need to be hired in order to distribute the questionnaires to the relevant target audience since it will be impossible for the company to use its own staff for this exercise effectively .
Since a shampoo sampling will be conducted as a second part of the pilot study, the company will have to make sure that the new product does not contain any harmful substances, while also ensuring that usage does result in some form of improvement in hair texture and alleviation of problems.
Expected Survey Results
In view of the ten pointers that have been included in the research study (mentioned previously), the pilot will help the company reach the extremely important decision of which shampoo formulation to opt for: an anti-dandruff, or anti-hair fall? In my view, given previous industry researches on the theme, dandruff clearing shampoos almost always result in greater success in the market. This is mainly because it is a far more recognized and accepted medical condition, and also, because most consumers associate dandruff with excessive hair fall .
The other important highlight I believe the research will point towards is that, at the end of the day, it will have to be the product quality itself that will determine the market response. Price, availability, and even packaging, seem to have a very small impact on the final consumer decision and choice about which brand to opt for Consumers look to minimize risks when it comes to their haircare routine.
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Sanuri, S. (2011). Determinants of customer behavioural responses: A pilot study. Journal of International Business Research, 34-42.