Consumer Science and Solutions for Retail Brands, stylized as S4RB, have partnered to launch a new store brand product benchmarking strategy called the “Consumer Experience Score,” a novel, holistic metric that incorporates attributes such as design, packaging, sustainability and healthfulness, as well as traditional sensory and performance measures.
Previously, retailers only compared a store brand product against a national brand, looking at sales or taste tests, but this new framework looks at a product against other store brand competitors, against multiple categories and more. The companies said in a post-pandemic marketplace, store brands will need to improve how they benchmark.
“Consumers will be more interested in private brands going forward, so this is an ideal time for retailers to boost benchmarking and fine-tune their brand value proposition,” said Chandi Gmuer, vice president of consumer research and product testing at Consumer Science, Fort Worth, Texas. “New kinds of benchmarking are needed to make sure strategies are on target for consumers in this environment, as the discounters Aldi and Lidl did so well back in the financial crisis of 2008.”
SB: What were you out to solve?
JB: Prompted by conversations with a specific retailer last year, we challenged ourselves on how to review differently and worked together on how this could be achieved. Essentially, with the goal to solve two problems: First, the strategy to increase private brands typically means increasing shelf space for private brands, which would likely happen at the expense of national or regional brands. Therefore, it is no longer sufficient to test against a NBE, but rather it needs to be an informed view against competitive private brands.
Secondly, to move from 10% to 20% private brand penetration to 30%-plus requires more than just "me too" products. It requires a retailer to determine an appropriate value proposition for its brand (brand being the operative word) and benchmark its products against these objectives. This will ensure private brand products deliver not just on price but also against brand values.
SB: Describe the Consumer Experience Score. How does it work?
JB: We worked with Chandi Gmuer and his team at Consumer Science to establish Consumer Experience Score, which relates to category specific metrics that go beyond the traditional measures of taste, texture, aroma and appearance. For example, for pre-packaged salads this could be crunchiness or freshness. It goes beyond product to also consider healthiness, product claims and packaging quality, all of these important attributes when the consumer first engages with a product.
It is not always about being the best. It is about delivering on the brand proposition, consistently. And across categories and a range.
SB: How does this strategy improve upon previous or older thinking in the private brand space?
JB: First, as I’ve described, this takes the thinking and comparison beyond national brand equivalency. But importantly, it allows the comparisons to be made across products or across category. In the past, benchmark tests were very much considered in isolation, such as, “Is this specific product a ‘pass’ or a ‘fail’?” But to act more as brands, which private brand retailers must do in order to be successful, there needs to be a category and range perspective.
This new approach allows a consistent assessment methodology by Consumer Science, which also leverages [Gmuer’s] team to bring its experience to bear in choosing the appropriate product-specific metrics. Moreover, these results can be visualized within S4RB’s Affinity platform, to look across a category, or across a range like “Italian.” This ensures items consistently deliver on brand value and strike the right balance between competitive prices and quality proposition.
SB: What did you learn when you weighed this new strategy against key retailers today?
JB: It cemented our view that too often it appears product comparisons are considered as just that — product comparisons (and often we’d assume against the NBE). Whereas, there is the need to consider the benchmark as a brand.