Survey Market Research: A Case Study

Late last year, a Silicon Valley startup came to use with a request.

They’d spent the past 18 months building their product and conducting interviews with target market consumers. Their product was complete and being manufactured overseas, but they had yet to decide on the name and brand for their product.

They wanted help surveying their target audience to test possible names and messaging for their product. Further, they wanted to learn how these brand concepts were perceived—what associations consumers made among the possible brands, and which one best prepared them for long-term success in a very crowded market.

Tech Product vs. Sleep System

This company had invented a mattress that was heavily integrated with an app. It was designed to optimize sleeping conditions in real-time, adjusting firmness and temperature based on data the mattress pushed to the app.

Their engineering team had two halves—sleep engineers from a traditional mattress company, and a tech team from all over Silicon Valley. Each had their own ideas about how to pitch the product.

The sleep scientists considered the product a comprehensive “sleep system” that optimized many variables related to sleep, above and beyond just the app integration. The mattress itself was high quality, regardless of its integration with real-time motion and temperature monitors.

The tech engineers, on the other hand, considered the product a “tech product,” first and foremost, the revolutionizes the way people think about sleep. The product was about the tech—otherwise, they thought, it was just another mattress in the hyper-crowded “sleep market.”

Which was the right approach?

There was only one way to find out: Ask 600 consumers about these two approaches, and see which they like best.

The Survey

Our client sent us a survey draft to kick things off. It included a brief presentation of their product, and a series of questions asking consumers about their subsequent feelings and thoughts.

We edited the survey to include A/B logic that routed 50% of respondents to a description of their product as a “comprehensive sleep system”—the sleep science team’s branding of choice. The other 50% saw a description of the product as a “tech-first product,” in line with how the company’s tech engineers viewed the product.

Then we asked the same sets of questions to groups A and B. The goal was to learn how the two groups of consumers differed in their thoughts on price, quality, and willingness to pay after seeing different descriptions of the same product.

The survey included a host of demographic questions to help us ensure both groups of consumers were similar, and to be sure they fit the client’s target market (high-income US adults).

Fielding to Consumers

The client had specified a target market of US adults with a household income over $120,000 per year. We targeted this audience, and added a “census template” to be sure the sample was balanced on age, gender, region and ethnicity—all relative to the last US census.

We gathered 640 consumer responses in just three business days. We reviewed and cleaned this dataset of the 22 lowest-quality responses, leaving a final dataset of 618 consumers. Our client was charged only for these completed, cleaned responses. Exactly 50% saw the first product description, and 50% saw the second product description.

What We Learned

This survey resulted in a host of findings for our client, including some they hadn’t anticipated.

First, their product was popular! The vast majority of consumers reported some dissatisfaction with their sleep, and one-in-three wanted to learn more about this particular product. Willingness to pay as higher than our client expected—a welcome relief, given the high price tag required to make their product profitable.

Second, their target market was broader than they anticipated. While we targeted the survey only to high-income adults, there seemed to be little difference in willingness to pay between those earning $120,000 and those earning over $200,000.

Finally, the “tech-first” product description resonated better with this audience. It was more popular and yielded a slightly higher willingness-to-pay than the “sleep system” concept. There were slight differences, however, between younger consumers and senior citizens in which concept they preferred. Seniors like the “sleep system” and were willing to pay more for that than for the “tech-first” concept, and vice versa for consumers under age 55.

Final Takeaways

Our client launched their product in late 2018, incorporating lessons learned from this survey into their branding and messaging. Tech-first is key, but targeted ads to older consumers incorporated more traditional “sleep system” language to maximize engagement with that audience.

To inquire about a survey like this for your startup or product, fill the form below.