Recognizing successful research and testing can be a subjective task but it doesn’t have to be. With careful planning and buy-in from stakeholders during the planning phase, success can be clearly and easily identified. Creating action standards that detail what success looks like means a team can quickly move beyond the research to the next stage. Let’s work through the necessary components of building effective action standards.

Identify the goal. The goal of success is not always a win. Sometimes, superiority is the goal but other times parity is success. For instance, because people usually prefer the things they are familiar with, a new product or feature that is seen as equally attractive as the existing product or feature might actually be vastly better once people become more familiar with it.

Identify relevant measures. Hundreds and thousands of potential metrics are available as action standards for brands. Where transactional data is available, purchase frequency or repurchase data could be effective metrics. In other cases, attribute opinions and perceptions, findability, ad breakthrough, brand link, or ad messaging could be the most appropriate metric. In all cases, ensure that multiple relevant metrics are selected in order to gain a full picture of what has taken place.

Identify the appropriate comparison. Once a metric has been selected, select an appropriate comparison benchmark. Industry norms, brand norms, in-market data, or competitive data could be appropriate. Or, comparisons could be made via research designs employing pre/post, test/control, or seasonal/fiscal time periods.

Identify who you must win with. Identify whether some groups must achieve superiority whereas other groups can achieve parity. Similarly, which target groups would be nice to win versus which groups are necessary to win with.

Identify next steps. Lastly, plans must be made for what will happen when the action standards are or are not met. If the action standards are met, will you go ahead with the plan immediately? Or will you assess it in a second market or with a second target group to gather reliability metrics? On the other hand, what if the action standards aren’t met. Will you cancel the project, optimize the underperforming features and test again, optimize the underperforming features and launch, or will you launch regardless. It is important to have a plan for any eventual outcome to ensure everyone understands the full implications of what they will be expected to do, and how they will need to compensate for the results once the results are gathered.

What does an effective action standard look like? Here are some samples of what you might plan for.

  • If the 3 month purchase rate among single person households is at least 30% higher than the same 3 month period last year and at least 10% higher across the entire population, we will launch the product as is.
  • If the rate is 10% to 29% higher, we will assess it with another 3 month period in a second market.
  • If the rate is less than 10% higher, we will tweak the product and reassess it in the same market for another 3 month period.


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