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DP3: Fortune 500 Project

Method

 

We will target Fortune 500 companies, the largest and most influential sector of corporate America, to achieve the maximum impact on manufacturers of all sizes. The Fortune 500 project will accomplish the following three objectives: (1) over the course of the grant, we will partner with three major (Fortune 500) corporations for the express purpose of providing well-articulated consumer information on needed design and functional features for a product they will introduce into the marketplace; (2) in a joint venture with these corporations on the three products chosen, the T2RERC and the Western New York Living Project (WNYILP) will run twelve alpha or initial concept definition consumer focus groups (three products, four groups per product) and six beta or product refinement consumer focus groups (three products, two groups per product). We will report our findings to these corporations and (3) this work will result in three mainstream consumer products designed to be more useful and accessible being introduced into the marketplace.

A series of four steps will be followed to achieve the above objectives:

1. Recruit Companies - The T2RERC will identify and contact Fortune 500 companies that are currently in the process of developing new consumer products, for the mainstream marketplace. We will offer these companies free access to consumers through focus groups and surveys. The manufacturer's marketing and development teams will be introduced to our purpose, process, and likely outcomes. The manufacturer must be willing to commit to an 18-36 month development and commercialization window for any new product.

2. Recruit Consumers - For this project, to ensure our market research addresses the needs of mass market consumers for new consumer products, we will recruit people comprising a representative sample of the US population via mass media advertising. As part of our sample, we will include the correct percentage of elderly and people with disabilities in these groups. We will rely on the WNYILP's database of consumers, prescribers, and caregivers to recruit the device appropriate participants with disabilities. The needs of people with disabilities and the elderly will be presented to companies alongside the needs of the general population, as input to design and functional feature considerations. Our goal is to help companies create more accessible mainstream consumer products.
The T2RERC utilizes purposive sampling in recruiting participants for our focus groups. Purposive sampling seeks to represent the relevant segments in the target population as closely as possible by intentionally seeking individuals that fit those characteristics. This is non-probability sampling that allows the "selector" bias in order to maximize the inclusion of all relevant groups on which we need information. The researcher essentially hand picks people on the basis of specific criteria desired, like special human factors or demographics.[5]

3. Procedure: Alpha Focus Groups - Report to Company - Focus groups are used in research to generate hypotheses, gather information, or to compliment more quantitative analyses. Alpha Focus Groups are the first groups conducted. These groups involve consumers in defining product requirements and setting priorities for product design. Four or five alpha focus groups, each consisting of twelve to fifteen participants, are necessary to identify product requirements. At least fifty participants are used and four groups are usually conducted, combined with mixed samples to satisfy minimum industry standards for reliability and validity requirements.
Manufacturers will be supplied with primary market research as an outcome of the groups. A professional experienced moderator from the WNYILP will engage the participants in an open forum discussion. The three primary topic areas of discussion include: (1) the current status of the technology area from the consumer perspective; (2) the description of the ideal product from the consumer perspective. Participants in the focus groups will be asked to provide the attributes of what they perceived to be the ideal device to perform the function; and (3) a comprehensive evaluation of prototype concept designs when available.

The participants will evaluate product concept models that were prepared in advance for the group after a brief description of each design model has been presented to the group and thoroughly discussed. The last element of the group includes purchase intent and price point questions concerning the Conceptualized Ideal Product and for the concept models shown. At the conclusion of the groups, the data will be analyzed and a report will be drafted for the manufacturer. The report includes all of the information gathered from the focus groups, as well as a listing of specific design and functional features identified by the participants as being important. The manufacturer will then incorporate these features into their Beta prototype, which is then given to us for further refinement.

4. Procedure: Beta Focus Groups Report to Company - Beta focus groups allow for the refinement of a product's appearance through a critique of key design features of a prototype and provide an opportunity to rank a product's function and design features that were defined in previous Alpha focus groups. Beta focus groups are a representative sample of the Alpha focus group participants. Two Beta groups of twelve participants are usually appropriate. Beta groups provide the ability to obtain quantitative data on the previously collected qualitative information and allows that data to be applied to the prototype being evaluated. Basically they answer the question as to whether or not a prototype addresses the top function and design features a product must have to be deemed desirable by the consumer. Beta groups provide us with the ability to score how well a prototype meets consumer expectations and gauge consumer interest in the product along with their desire or intent to purchase the product. Our Beta group participants will: rank in order of importance, the previously identified function and design features of the product concept; provide an evaluation of how the viewed prototype met those required function and design features; provide a ranking of consumer preference on any additional product models shown; provide a ranking of consumer preference on specific design features, and provide comments regarding their usage of the beta prototype.

In effect, Beta focus groups choose the final overall design and functionality of the device. The Beta group activity will be captured, analyzed, and relayed to the manufacturing company.

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