BOCA RATON, FL: Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewer, has gained significant benefits from testing its new craft beers in a tap room, based on the logic that a customer buying the product in a natural setting is a powerful indicator for a brand.

Max-Antonio Burger, New Ventures & Innovation Manager at AB InBev's High End craft beer division, discussed this topic at The Market Research Event.

"When we're going to [conduct] tests with consumers, it's really about observing them in their natural habitat," he said. (For more details, read Warc's free-to-access report: Why the tap room taps the funnel for beer innovation at AB InBev.)

"In our case, it's fairly easy, because, most of the time, we have a tap room."

Building on this theme, Burger suggested that such an arena offers clear advantages when compared with conducting tests in a venue bearing little resemblance to a real bar.

"You don't want to give a product to the consumer – it really doesn't matter what it is – outside the environment where they're naturally going to consume it. You just want to be able to observe and have them be themselves," he argued.

His also supported the idea of pursuing "no additional promotion, no scam, nothing for free. Yes, they're going to tell you if they like it or not. But you're going to know if they're going to buy it.

"If I just put it on tap, and they're naturally going to gravitate to that beer, and if you discover that they like the product … then you ask them why they bought it.

"That's a way more interesting learning curve than if we actually just gave them a beer and they told us, 'Oh, yeah; it's nice,' but then go and buy something else."

While the alcoholic drinks category doesn't easily lend itself to the test-and-learn approach of the tech industry, AB InBev's model shows it is possible to quickly try out physical products with a limited investment.

"Our job is to take the risk and go and test it, and then prove that it works for the customer. And we do it in a very cheap way," Burger said.

"From a financial standpoint, we're not like a black hole [where] we have to keep saying, 'Oops, we just spent something like $20m' … That's not going to happen here."

Data sourced from Warc