This article provides a practical explanation of concept testing. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful marketing tool.
What is Concept Testing?
Concept testing is the process of using qualitative and quantitative methods to measure the acceptance and willingness to buy before launching a new product or service. Concept testing is different from ad testing, brand testing, and packaging testing. Concept testing is aimed at the basic idea of the product.
Concept testing serves as a quality check to find out if the description of an idea and the actual product functionalities match. There are several techniques available for concept testing. Each of these consist of a group of potential consumers who assess different concepts while specifically focusing on customer needs and benefits. This group makes their assessment in the form of questionnaires, focus groups, and other ways in which consumers can share information about their ideas and needs.
Concept testing is important for lots of reasons. One motivation to implement concept testing is to further develop the original idea. In addition, the market potential of concept products is determined using concept testing, and errors are ironed out of the production process.
The instruments that are used for concept testing, such as questionnaires, must be of high quality. Measuring errors can cause unreliable results that can in turn influence the production process. That makes concept testing more challenging.
Market research is essential when trying to convert a product concept into a profitable business element. Product concept tests identify the concept’s weaknesses and potential market failure before the launch. It can also reveal a products strengths that can be used to make the launch more successful.
If used well, concept testing can help to:
- Measure the effectiveness of separate concepts
- Remove obstacles to achieve the full potential
- Build consumer relations
- Identify potential failures
- Improve the brand image
- Reveal unknown product advantages
Types of questionnaires in Concept Testing
Questionnaires are an important part of concept testing. These surveys are adapted to the purpose they’re being used for. There are different kinds of concept tests, which means different approaches. Some of the most commonly used methods are explained below.
Evaluation of a single Concept
In this form of concept testing, participants (potential customers in the market) analyse a single concept in its entirety. It is a fast, neutral, and user-friendly concept testing method that is quite easy to carry out. The participants hear different facts about the products and the functions of the product, and then evaluate whether or not the product appeals to them. This method offers a high response percentage because of the convenience, detailed descriptions, and feedback from the respondents.
The evaluation of multiple concepts, also called multi-concept evaluation, can be compared to the evaluation of a single concept. The difference is that in this process, participants evaluate multiple concepts during a single session. Participants fully analyse the first product and then move on to another concept. This yields results for multiple concepts during a session, which allows the company to save costs. However, it’s more of a challenge to keep the participants focused for a long period. This can negatively impact the accuracy of the reviews.
Concept selection is the third concept testing method. This form involves participants being presented with two or more concepts for them to analyse. They then choose one of the concepts with the product that is most appealing to them and explain their choice. This method enables the company to determine which concepts are most appealing to the participants. However, the participants give less constructive feedback for the concepts that they’re less interested in, compared to the other concept methods we discussed. Although details about the performance of concepts is lacking, it is a fast and easy way to determine the popularity of various concepts.
Concept Selection + evaluation
In concept selection and evaluation, the participant combines these methods in order to offer feedback on a concept. Participants choose the concept that appeals to them the most and then produce a full evaluation on the product concept. This method takes a little longer than a standard concept choice, but offers the organisation the option to gather detailed descriptions and feedback about the concept and the performance of different parts of the concept.
Concept Testing questionnaire step-by-step plan
Concept tests are therefore indispensable for companies that regularly introduce products onto the market. The tests have been designed to record what potential customers think about the idea, product, or service. This information is obtained through questionnaires. By using questionnaires, participants produce useful bits of information about the concept.
Below we describe the basic process for composing a good questionnaire for concept testing.
Step 1: Objective
Thinking of good questions to get sufficient relevant information about the concept becomes easier if a general objective for the questionnaire is first set. Think about the purpose of the testing, which specific details are looked for, or other properties of the eventual product.
Step 2: Question development & structure
Now write down all questions, including ways in which they can be answered. Use questions that are related to each other and group these together in the questionnaire. This creates a flow in the questions that makes it easier for the respondent to answer them. Participants won’t have to shift their focus and can produce more accurate and detailed answers.
Examples of questions are:
- Below is a list of features of a certain product. Which appeal to you the most?
- Whether or not you know the product, how positive is you response to this concept?
- Based on the product statements, what are the chances that you’ll buy the product if it suits your budget?
- What are you expecting to have to pay for this product?
- How often will you be using this product?
Step 3: Use Likert scales
By using the Likert scale in the questionnaires, respondents are asked to give their answer based on a five-point or seven-point scale. That creates a consistent structure in the questionnaire, which makes it easy for the participants to give answers. The answers can be processed in statistical software, in order to automate and simplify reporting.
Step 4: If necessary, use images, videos, or text
There’s not always a detailed draft product description available, or an option to design a prototype. In that case, participants are asked to analyse and assess a concept visually. In such cases, use images or videos in surveys. An example of this is analysing different logo options for a company. Show different logos in the questionnaires and ask the participants which appeals to them the most.
Step 5: Identify demographic details
In the case of concept test surveys, the organisation behind the concept product also wants to know who will be participating in the evaluations, and whether these participants match the target audience. When a respondent is negative about a product, that does not necessarily mean that the idea or concept is bad. The participant is probably just not very ideal and therefore not interested in the product. That’s why it’s important to include demographic survey questions in the questionnaire. This makes it possible to look at whether an idea or concept is popular in a specific group of people. This group of people is the target demographic.
Now It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognise the explanation of concept testing? What do you think is important when developing prototype concepts? Do you know other methods to measure the opinions of potential customers? What value do you think concept testing questionnaires add? Do you have any tips or additional comments?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Dahan, E., & Mendelson, H. (2001). An extreme-value model of concept testing. Management science, 47(1), 102-116.
- Dahan, E., & Srinivasan, V. (2000). The predictive power of internet‐based product concept testing using visual depiction and animation. Journal of Product Innovation Management: AN INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATION OF THE PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT & MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION, 17(2), 99-109.
- Moore, W. L. (1982). Concept testing. Journal of business research, 10(3), 279-294.
- Page, A. L., & Rosenbaum, H. F. (1992). Developing an effective concept testing program for consumer durables. Journal of Product Innovation Management: AN INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATION OF THE PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT & MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION, 9(4), 267-277.
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