Defining Sensory Evaluation in China
Sensory evaluation in China is a scientific research methodology in which Daxue Consulting applies the principles of experimental design and statistical analysis to human senses (taste, smell, sight, touch, hearing). It comprises a variety of methodologies and several applications in many different industries and fields.
Sensory Analysis, also called sensory evaluation or sensory research, helps you to uncover consumers’ acceptances, preferences, likes, dislikes, and perceptions of a product’s taste, color, smell, texture, or sound. When it comes to consumer behavior and consumption processes, the five human senses are crucial to addressing as our senses by pass the conscious mind. The human brain receives information through them and compares it to earlier experiences. Finally, purchase decisions are a combination of ratio and emotion, whereby the latter has become more and more important.
Tatiana Kuzmina, Daxue’s sensory research project leader, emphasizes the importance of the methodology: “You need to target your audience through the senses. It is not enough to have the best strategy regarding pricing, distribution channels, promotion, or location, if you do not think about perception, especially in Asia. A lot of firms not considering that fact have already been struggling in China.”
By delivering a product or service where your customers can share experiences, express emotions, and create memories, you will be able to successfully enter the Chinese market with the right product or establish a great penetration strategy, as well as long-term brand awareness, or a sustainable brand image.
Why Daxue Consulting recommends Sensory Analysis in China?
Sensory evaluation in China is an attractive market, not only because it has the biggest population in the world with about 1.4 billion people, but also because of changing demographics and consumer behavior or the rising middle-class and increasing disposable income. However, the engine of global growth holds challenges and obstacles to enter and prosper in the fragmented market. You need to think different. Having a local understanding is essential to manage an excellent product and brand performance. Furthermore, establishing emotional linkages between your brand and the customers is a powerful business strategy. Thus, the knowledge through sensory research about Chinese consumers’ perceptions and preferences is the key to creating individualized and tailor-made products. Those, in turn, will contribute to success in this challenging but promising market.
Product adaptation and development is, particularly in China, of high importance. Brands entering China with a product or concept directly imported from their home markets are rarely successful. The nation’s taste preferences, perceptions, and acceptance of designs or colors are different. Language use and branding are also understood, perceived, and accepted in a variety of ways. Chinese culture is unlike that of any other country, and product localization is crucial. Sensory research is an effective and efficient tool that Daxue Consulting utilizes to aid companies in understanding the preferences of the Chinese consumer and developing the products towards their needs.
Kuzmina highlights the relevance of cultural differences also during the sensory research phases. “You need to be aware of Chinese customs and have comprehensive knowledge of the nation’s culture. Just imagine coding; the numbers 4 or 8, for instance – perceived as unlucky and lucky numbers in China, could easily influence your results.”
When is it useful to apply Sensory Research?
Daxue Consulting can execute the methodology during each product lifecycle stage in every industry. According to Tatiana Kuzmina, sensory analysis can apply to anything. F&B, cosmetics, automotive, textile, or packaging, which are common industries that use Sensory Analysis, as well as personal care and household items. Also, for instance, in the health sector, Daxue can utilize this methodology. An example would be the perceived waiting time at a clinic. Daxue Consulting can help to influence the consumers’ perception about waiting time, even without any change of the product or service, just by knowing which sensory aspects (such as color, sound, or the environment like plants and watches) impact the clients’ behavior and perception.
How does Daxue Consulting perform Sensory Analysis?
While most people accept or reject a product based on its sensory characteristics, they fail to distinguish one sensory characteristic from the others or to find the right vocabulary to describe it. Therefore, it is essential to include the right participants for the analysis. Daxue Consulting has in-depth expertise with screening & recruiting and additionally possesses deep know-how about the Chinese market and culture which leads to better training results for panelists. According to Kuzmina, to be able to carry out accurate data analysis it is crucial to qualify with statistician experts, such as Evelyn Chen, our specialist in Sensometrics. Using many complex formulas and different software to calculate, for instance, the level of error (if e.g. assessors have not been honest), helps our team to obtain reliable data on tests. Therefore, Daxue Consulting in China can supports brands, manufacturers, or retailers with the know-how to create tailor-made products and services for the targeted consumers. Key information includes, for instance, the influence of technological or ingredient changes to consumer buying behavior and which of the so-called ‘stimuli’ is most important to have, or which combination of attributes of the product are best to enter the market.
Depending on the objectives of a sensory project, Daxue Consulting applies various suitable tests. Our team differentiates three main methodologies and executes them according to the needs of the project which may also require performing a combination of them: Affective testing helps to investigate subjective matters, such as perception, likes and dislikes, and involves untrained assessors. Descriptive and discrimination tests, on the contrary, support discovering objective arguments about particular attributes, such as the level of intensity and needs trained panelists. Our research team complements the Analysis with qualitative data to understand the why.
Tatiana Kuzmina, Daxue’s sensory project leader, stresses the major hardship of the analysis: “It is crucial to select and apply the right methodology. Otherwise, no data can be obtained, and data analysis is a complex procedure. However, it is not that difficult to conduct, for example, the descriptive tests, but it is a real challenge, and it is time-consuming as it may take weeks to train the panelists for those and you need to write strict, precise protocols in advance.”
Therefore, it is vital for our team to understand the objectives of the project to be able to determine the test type and experimental design as well as the statistical analysis. Also, Daxue Consulting takes into consideration the product or service type, as there are products which need to be tested in combination with others, such as cereals with milk, or in line with their use, such as skin creams or shampoos. As every sensory research project is unique, Daxue’s team decides on each and every case which methodology, test type, and design best to perform.
Our experienced research consultants select the most suitable methods for different inquiries ranging from R&D purposes over marketing or quality follow–ups. It allows you to develop the optimal product for a successful introduction into the market or helps you optimize and adapt your existing products towards the sensory preferences of your targeted consumers which support you differentiating your products in a competitive environment. Also, without changing your products or services, Daxue Consulting can give you advice of how to influence clients’ perception through alternative sensory aspects. Moreover, our research team can define the consistency of each product over time (shelf-life determination, quality follow-up). Daxue’s expertise additionally comprises sensory marketing, which aids testing the impact on consumers’ perception concerning your marketing material.
Our team carries out the tests in appropriate facilities, tailored sensory testing laboratories, to avoid environmental influences. However, depending on the project, Daxue also applies Home Usability Testing (HUT). With our specialist for Sensometrics and multidimensional statistical techniques, our Consulting firm then analyzes the relations between product data, sensory attributes, and consumer liking. To help to understand your target markets’ preferences our team additionally prepares visuals such as sensory maps or spider charts.
Daxue’s expertise in the Chinese market in combination with unique sensory fingerprints in China
Our dedicated research team offers a comprehensive knowledge of the Chinese market and carries out an extensive desk research at the beginning of each project. Daxue Consulting will help you understand the current market situation, its trends and the size of opportunities, but also the risks and challenges it encompasses. Our consultants consider a vast variety of factors to deliver high-quality market studies. In combination with Daxue’s Sensory Research, it is a powerful key to doing business in China. As every Sensory Analysis project is different, Daxue Consulting individually adapts to your concerns and will choose the best practices for you to investigate your (potential) customers’ needs and wants. Satisfying those by employing unique sensory fingerprints in China, our clients will differentiate their products from competitors’ by having their human senses involved. Thus, you will experience long-term results as consumers emotionally attach to your brand or product; and what can be stronger than purchase decisions based on emotions – in a world of information overload, a wide range of goods, and a lack of time?
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