CSA Exclusive: Specialty CPG brand streamlines product testing

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Bravo Sierra is basing product development on real-time field testing.

Bravo Sierra is enhancing product development with real-time access to field testers.

The company, which serves as a non-traditional defense contractor that engineers performance consumer products for both military and civilian customers, has built and launched a social manufacturing platform in partnership with Reaktor. The platform is purpose-built to enable real-time product development iteration based on feedback from field testers.

“Reaktor was already building our Shopify consumer-facing website,” Benjamin Bernet, co-founder of Bravo Sierra, told Chain Store Age in an exclusive interview. We wanted to create a tool simple enough to be used by our non-tech people (marketing and product development) but sophisticated enough to allow us to gather customer insights in a constructive way.”

Bravo Sierra’s product tester group consists of more than 2,000 special operations forces, active duty service members, and veterans. Members field-test Bravo Sierra products in “real-world” environments. 

 Leveraging its social manufacturing platform, the company can pair testers with prototypes that best fit their specific wants and needs. Testers are encouraged to input observations and suggestions into the platform, which is accessible 24/7, in real-time. The platform then uses sentiment analysis to distill incoming feedback, which Bravo Sierra integrates into its research and development.

“When building a consumer brand and developing consumer products, such as personal care and performance nutrition, the main challenge is to get customer feedback during the process, to make sure you're developing something the market wants and needs,” explained Bernet. “When you're a small company, most market research tools, such as focus groups and concept use tests, are prohibitive.”

Instead, Bernet said Bravo Sierra sought to build a true real-time consumer feedback tool which would allow the company to create products iteratively and collaboratively.

Bravo Sierra worked with Reaktor to have its social manufacturing platform up and running in 10 weeks. Reaktor designed the platform with built-in automation, so the retailer can quickly grow its field tester organization, known as “Battalion,” without increasing administrative support.

According to Bravo Sierra, it has seen a three-fold increase in qualified signups and a greater volume of on-platform conversation since launching the Reaktor social manufacturing platform.

“Battalion now has 2,500 members,” said Bernet. “We develop all our products, from men's personal care to sports energy products, with the community, from concept phase to final product testing. “The Reaktor-built social manufacturing platform helped us engage our community in ways we never thought possible: uncovering needs, testing products and scaling the program.”

“The relationship with Bravo Sierra felt seamless,” said Ian Fosbery, principal consultant at Reaktor. “We worked on-site to ensure full immersion and exchange of information, and our working methods – including daily sharing of new iterations of the platform as well as talking the client through possible pitfalls – meant that we were able to form a deep level of trust. By engaging with Bravo Sierra on a 360-approach to brand building, we created in record time a sturdy dual-purpose platform that is both authentic and holistic – and does a world of good.”

Walgreens Boots Alliance subsidiary streamlines product development

No7 Beauty Company, a global beauty business whose parent company is Walgreens Boots Alliance, also recently streamlined its product development process. Utilizing the Bamboo Rose product lifecycle management (PLM) platform, No7 Beauty Company intends to enable more efficient product development collaboration across teams and external partners.

By adopting an agile approach to product development and management, the company intends to bring innovative, consumer-led products to market faster and at lower costs.