Objectives: A global office furniture company partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to gather feedback on final design concepts relative to competitive task chairs and internal options, and to validate the design direction, feature set and product positioning for new seating. In addition to the main objective, the market research also covered topical areas such as the decision-making process for desk or task chairs, image and brand equity of companies, and sources of awareness, in addition to other secondary objectives.
Approach: RMS utilized a two component market research study in response to the objectives at-hand and the separate targeted audiences for the global office furniture client. Component one involved a series of six focus groups in three separate regional locations in the country (New York, Chicago and Los Angeles). RMS selected suitable facilities in the desired markets with FocusVision capabilities to enable international remote viewing of all focus group sessions. The focus groups focused on task chair decision-makers from medium to large size companies and from a cross-selection of industries such as government agencies, higher education institutions, etc.
For component two, RMS conducted nine on-site in-depth interviews (IDIs) among architects and designers in the three designated markets. RMS recommended that the architects and designers audience be a separate component of market research and not be intermingled with other decision-makers from small and large businesses (end-users) in the focus groups. It was likely this audience would have a different decision-making process and distinct influences. Over the course of six weeks, RMS consulted with the client to create recruitment screeners for all sessions, guides for both the focus groups and IDIs, top-line findings immediately following each market and a full qualitative market research report.
For the focus groups, eight individuals were separated into two mini-groups in which one of the groups would test the five prototype task chairs for different features of comfort using a clipboard. The other mini-group had a discussion with the moderator on awareness of task chair manufacturers, decision-making process and ergonomics. Then the two-mini groups will flip-flop roles and do the same. The group of eight then reconvened to test five new chair prototypes for design. Group discussions with the moderator were completed after both the comfort and design portions of the group finished. A similar process took place for the design and architect IDIs with a heavier emphasis on design. The market research aimed at understanding usability and choice of task chairs, what comfort means, how its determined, impact of style, etc.
Results: A total of 58 people participated in the usability testing over the course of a week and a half of fieldwork. Here are just a few of the key takeaways from the task chair research:
- Comfort and design preferences for task chairs were unique and subjective to the individual or individuals being researched.
- Many end-users struggled with finding and using the basic functionality and adjustment features on the tested task chairs from the research.
- A competitive chair was the clear leader in both comfort and design among focus group business decision-makers. It was also ranked high among architects and designers.
- Key tendencies of decision-makers in both the focus groups and interviews emerged with regards to comfort preferences between the client’s two prototypes. Aspects were identified for each chair that should be combined to make a single most-comfortable chair.
- From a design perspective, both client prototypes were well-received among focus group decision-makers and the architect and designer audiences. Design scores would presume to be even higher if participants had the ability to swap surface materials, arm materials and aluminum finishes and re-rate each of the models.
- The client had moderate awareness top-of-mind in each market. Associations with the client were mostly positive but the company seemed to lack a unique selling proposition (USP) or brand image with participants.
Are you interested in using product testing research or prototype testing to help provide your business with key decision-making data to determine your next steps. Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) has the capability and experience to assist you in this venture. Contact our Business Development Director Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling (315) 635-9802.