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GSK Consumer Healthcare debuts new innovation labs at U.S. headquarters

When GSK Consumer Healthcare moved into its new U.S. headquarters in Warren, N.J., in June, the company also unveiled its state-of-the-art Innovation Labs, which bring together three facilities that work to help create solutions to unmet customer needs and help retailers better understand customer behavior. Drug Store News was on location Thursday for a tour of the new facilities, which include the Research and Development Lab, the Consumer Sensory Lab and the Shopper Science Lab, and a firsthand look at the work GSK Consumer Healthcare is doing to identify emerging consumer and retailer needs.

“What makes this space unique is that we are the only innovation center in the United States that takes you from the R&D process to the consumer sensory process and the Shopper Science Lab,” GSK Consumer Healthcare chief customer officer Dennis Curran said. “That's important because we're able to bring our retail partners in here and collaborate on a different level. We can show them our new innovation, talk about what can make it bigger and better at each of our retail partners, and then we can work through the R&D and the Shopper Science Lab to make our products even better.”

The Shopper Science Lab is the centerpiece of the new headquarters and offers a variety of spaces — all outfitted with HD cameras and audio — to test customer behavior at retail. Shopper Science Lab director Mary Beth Barrett led a walkthrough of the space, which includes focus group rooms, meeting spaces and one of the world’s largest (9 feet by 18 feet) seamless touchscreens, where retail partners can see a virtual replica of their stores and shelves and quickly reconfigure and test different layouts, end-caps, shelving placement and more.

The Shopper Science Lab’s smallest room houses the technology that could have the biggest impact on consumer insights: eye-tracking technology, biometric indicators and facial recognition that the company and its retail partners can use to analyze what consumers are looking for on the shelf and on product packaging, heat mapping where consumers look the most. In a bridge between the Consumer Sensory Lab and the Shopper Science Lab, the company uses mobile eye-tracking technology to analyze how shoppers behave in a mock store environment and what they look at.

The Shopper Science lab is the end of the journey for many products that begin in GSK Consumer Healthcare’s R&D Lab, a tour of which Brendan Walsh, director of new product development, respiratory health, led. The R&D Lab combines a flexible lab space with the ability to rapidly prototype products and packaging to allow the company to take an idea from its inception as a possible solution to some unmet consumer need to an actual product prototype. The latest innovation to emerge from the R&D Lab was GSK Consumer Healthcare’s Theraflu ExpressMax caplets, which replicate the warming experience of the original Theraflu Hot Liquid Powder and offer a caplet alternative to the company’s Theraflu ExpressMax Syrups.

“What we do in here is look at our consumers’ unmet needs — what are their insights, what do they really need?” Walsh said. “We brainstorm around the table, we put things on the wall and then we come up with the spark — what is the idea we want to do? That's really the purpose of the innovation space. We take that spark and push it up the chain into the rest of the R&D site to make it a reality.”

The facility also houses the Consumer Sensory Lab — outfitted with HD cameras and microphones — where the company analyzes consumer behavior when it comes to interacting with products, both in actual use cases and on the shelf. Senior consumer innovation scientist Caitlin Corrigan led a tour of the space, which includes testing rooms with one-way mirrors, a bathroom environment and even replica dentist and doctor exam rooms.

Curran noted that the three labs being housed in the same place is a unique way to help the company and retailers understand what customers want and deliver it.

“I joined GSK a little over a year ago, and I think bringing these labs together was a brilliant move by GSK,” Curran said. “This is one of five centers we have around the world, ... and this was the latest investment by the company [in] making sure we can deliver the shopper and customer’s needs.”

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