How to Conduct Shelf Testing Market Research | CPG Research Firm

As consumers’ preferences and purchasing behaviors continue to rapidly evolve, the need for consumer packaged goods (CPG) market research has never been more relevant. A great methodology to consider is in-person or in-store shelf testing. 

Our CPG research firm recently completed a qualitative recruitment project for a client involving in-person shelf-research at their facility. We had to navigate several unique obstacles that came with onsite research in the midst of COVID-19.

Below are the project overview, list of participant criteria, and the recruitment process for the study.

If your brand is interested in conducting in-person or in-store shelf testing, please contact our team via email (info@driveresearch.com) or on our website.

How to Conduct In-Person Shelf Testing | CPG Research Firm


Recruiting for In-Person Market Research During COVID-19

In-person market research in the era of coronavirus, or COVID-19, presents businesses with new challenges. The research must abide by government regulations and guidelines for the safety of all stakeholders. 

Plus, participants have to be comfortable with and informed of the process in order to commit. Back-up plans and higher incentives become more critical as some participants may fear risking their health.

At the end of the day, it is still possible to execute in-person qualitative research safely and successfully during these times. The key is to plan comprehensively, communicate frequently, and adapt swiftly.

Be sure to take the extra safety and planning measures when moving forward with in-person research during the pandemic.

Steps for Increased Safety and Sanitization 

For example, for this project Drive Research executed many additional steps to keep our clients and participants safe.

To ensure the safety and peace-of-mind of all participants and the client, we put sanitization protocols in place at the research facility. 

These sanitization practices included: 

  • 60-minute time gaps between interviews
  • All surfaces (shopping cart, etc.) and countertops within the conference room were sanitized between interviews 
  • Face masks and hand sanitizer was provided, gloves were available if requested
  • 24-hour air purification within the facility
  • All conversations maintained 6’ social distance
  • A limited number of people, including the participant, were on-premise for the interviews with a majority share in a nearby conference room watching via webcam
  • The test product was sanitized between each interview

Looking to understand these shifts in consumer behavior as a result of COVID-19? Here’s a post on how to measure these changes.


Shelf Testing Project Overview

A local product and packaging design company partnered with Drive Research, a national consumer packaged goods research company, for a recruitment study in the Central New York region. 

Our client wanted to understand consumer behaviors and purchasing behaviors as it relates to drinking coffee.

A total of 16 participants were required to complete an in-person shelf-research interview at the client's local facility.

💡 Pro Tip: Always Over Recruit!

Drive Research recruited and qualified 19 participants to ensure 16 of those recruited would participate. Our qualitative recruitment firm recommends recruiting more participants than necessary to compensate for last-minute cancellations. 

Be sure to have a plan B for participants who back out late because of coronavirus concerns, such as offering a virtual way to participate, if needed.

💡 Pro Tip: Provide an Incentive.

Qualified participants of the project received a $125 stipend upon completion of the in-person interview. The high stipend helped with earning full participation. 

People are more likely to participate in research if they are rewarded for their time and feedback. A more substantial incentive can also outweigh minor concerns about participating in in-person during the pandemic.

Here are three quick overall tips concerning market research recruiting.


Criteria for the Shelf Testing Interviews

The qualitative recruitment focused on the following criteria for the in-person shelf testing project:

  • Adults aged 22 to 65 who live in Central New York
  • Must have a household income of at least $30k
  • Must not work in a conflicting industry like food and beverage
  • Must have drunk coffee that was made at home in the past month
  • Must share some responsibility in shopping for packaged coffee
  • Must have purchased packaged coffee from a grocery store or mass merchandiser in the past 6 months
  • Must plan to do most grocery shopping in-store
  • Must be willing to participate in-person and cooperate with COVID-19 screening upon arrival (taking temperature, brief health survey, etc.) 

Recruitment Process for the Shelf Testing Research

After the local product and packaging design company agreed to the proposal sent by Drive Research, our CPG research firm held a quick project kickoff meeting with the client.

After the kickoff meeting, Drive Research programmed a client survey screener that addressed the criteria referenced above. If needed, a market research firm should also help the designing phase of the recruitment screener.

The Process of Recruiting Coffee Drinkers.

The process of recruiting coffee drinkers to participate in the qualitative study was two-fold.

1️⃣ Drive Research used paid randomized social media ads to those who lived in the target market and met the screening criteria.

2️⃣ Our market research firm has also built an in-house panel, which allows us to send email invites to those who matched the target criteria.

Both the paid social media advertisements and the email invitations sent recipients to the screener survey.

Screening for Recruitment Quotas. 

The online survey removes any respondent who does not meet the criteria standards set by the product and packaging design company.

Those who qualify from the pre-screen survey are screened again by phone to verify they meet the correct credentials. Once confirmed, the facility details, including sanitization protocols, were shared with each participant.

All qualified respondents were sent a confirmation email, follow-up reminder phone calls, and a text message the day of their in-person interview at the client's facility.


Contact Our CPG Research Firm

Interested in conducting in-person or in-store shelf testing for a CPG product? Drive Research, a national market research company, is ready to help! Our team has worked with brands from across the country.

Drive Research provides unique insights to drive data-driven decision making and product design. 

To learn more about our services, contact us through your preferred channel!

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

tim gell - about the author

Tim Gell

As a Research Analyst, Tim is involved in every stage of a market research project for our clients. He first developed an interest in market research while studying at Binghamton University based on its marriage of business, statistics, and psychology. 

Learn more about Tim, here.


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