Why Trial Should Be Spelled “TRIAAAL”

Why Trial Should Be Spelled “T-R-I-A-A-A-L”

As we’ve said before, trial is the most important component of a volume forecast.  What we didn’t talk about, is what drives trial.  Since trial is so important, I want to dedicate this post to understanding the three components that determine trial.  I like to call them “The Three A’s”:

  • Appeal:  Does anyone even want to buy this product?
  • Awareness:  Even if they want to buy this product, do they know it exists?
  • Accessibility:  If they want it and know it exists, can they actually get it?

Whether or not you are personally responsible for new product forecasting, you should have a strong understanding of the components of trial as a market researcher.  If you don’t, this article will give you the basics you’ll need to be conversational.

The First “A” of Trial:  Appeal

If you work in consumer insights, support Marketing, or a marketing agency, this is where you’ll spend most of your time.  Marketers and their agency partners work into the wee hours of the morning to make concepts appealing.  All of your focus groups, all of your qualitative concept tests are designed to help them create the most appealing way to frame the product to the consumer.

If you succeed, you’ll at least have a small pool of consumers who are interested in buying the product.  In volume forecasting, this is measured by the concept purchase intent question.  This is why there is so much political swirl around concept testing — it provides a quantitative measure of the appeal of an idea.

If no one wants to buy your product, it has 0 appeal.  It will not get trial.  If everyone wants to buy your product, it will have 100% appeal.  Everyone will try it.  Most of the time, companies are thrilled with a few percentage points of trial.  Out of the 100MM+ households in the US, a few percentage points of trial is still a huge base of people.  But even if these people like your product, that’s not enough to drive trial, you also need . . .

The Second “A” of Trial:  Awareness

Again, this is the job of Marketing and the agency.  If you simply put your appealing product in a plain white box on the shelf in a store, few people will buy it.  Consumers need to know it exists.  There are many appealing concepts that have turned into products, and then been “launched and left.”  That is, brought to market and given no demand-creation support.  What a waste!

In the “old world” where I grew-up volume forecasting, TV copy was the cure-all for awareness.  In the “new world” of digital media, it’s not that easy today.  As media fragments and consumers look to new media outlets, it’s harder to get a compelling, sticky message in-front of them.  Nonetheless, if consumers don’t know your product exists, they’ll never look for it.  This is especially complicated in the world of e-commerce.  If consumers don’t know your product exists, they may not even search for it.  Therefore, if your product is lagging in market, lack of awareness is the first thing to assess.  If that isn’t the issue, consider . . .

The Third “A” of Trial:  Accessibility

I would also accept “ACV,” but technically, that’s %ACV.  More commonly, this measure has been called “Distribution.”  Distribution doesn’t fit with my “Three A’s” alliteration.  Also, it’s starting to be a little dated in the world of E-commerce.  That’s why I like “accessibility.”

If your new product is struggling for trial even if you have high appeal and high awareness, it’s possible that not all of your consumer base has access to it.  Perhaps the item is only carried in regional, brick & mortar specialist retailers.  That limits accessibility.  Maybe your product is buried at the bottom of the Amazon.com search algorithm.  That limits accessibility.  Perhaps the item is available in-stores and not online.  That limits accessibility.  Perhaps every retailer wants to carry your item, but you can’t manufacture it.  Or won’t ship it.  Or have limited the allocation of the product.  That limits accessibility.  *cough* NES Classic *cough*.  Whatever the reason, in any of those scenarios your consumers don’t have ready-access to buying it.

If marketing owns the appeal and awareness of the product, then sales and product supply own accessibility.  Retailers must carry your product, or its trial goes down to 0.  However, even if every retailer carries your product, and you can’t make it, and it goes out-of-stock, trial goes down to 0.  Therefore, if you have great consumer feedback and high TRP’s, it might be time to look at your retail presence.


If people want your product, and they know it exists, and they have access to purchasing it, you have winner.  If your new product launch is lagging, and you don’t know why, dissect its performance by the “Three A’s.”  Chances are, one of them is lagging, and you can be the hero-consultant who finds the solution.  Good luck!



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