Have a New Product Idea or Concept? Here’s How to Test It

A concept test is a valuable way to gather feedback from the marketplace. These can be conducted as a survey in a simple format with direct questioning, allowing you to reach the opinion of hundreds of consumers, and provide the backing you need with which to base your business decisions.

Concept tests are commonly used to evaluate new product ideas, but can also be appropriate for gather feedback for things like advertising copy, a new website design, or even a positioning statement. It isn’t meant to predict potential sales or demand, but it will provide solid evidence on the strength of your concept. It can give you fresh insight on what consumers think and feel; what they like or dislike; or even how to improve upon the original concept.

For example, let’s say your company has an idea to design a flexible computer monitor that can be folded into smaller pieces like a sheet of paper. You may want to know:

  • Is this something consumers would buy?
  • What would they like/dislike about this product?
  • Does it fulfill an existing need?

If you have a prototype of your concept, respondents can touch, hold or use this new product idea and provide feedback on how they feel about it. A qualitative method such as a focus group or in-home usability test may be appropriate in this case. Many times, however, concept tests occur before development takes place and so a concept test within an online survey is appropriate.

In the survey, the concept test would work as follows: consumers review a text description or a visual representation of the concept. Then, they would be prompted to answer questions or discuss their impressions of it. It is a simple, yet effective way to gather insights.

Introducing an innovative breakthrough in technology. The folding laptop brings with you the power and flexibility of the latest in today’s PC computing. But now, the keyboard and screen can be folded into the size of a small device which can easily slide into your pocket. Enjoy the power, comfort, and ease of use of working with a regular sized keyboard and monitor. Then collapse the device down to the size of a smartphone. Perfect for on the go!

If the folding laptop were available today, would you consider it for your next laptop purchase?

  • Definitely
  • Probably
  • Might or might not
  • Probably not
  • Definitely not

Why wouldn’t you consider this for your next laptop? (open end)

How would you rate this product in terms of being different from others that are currently available?

  • Extremely different
  • Very different
  • Somewhat different
  • Not very different
  • Not at all different

Does this product currently fulfill a need that you have?

  • Yes
  • No

How so? (open end)

Figure 1: In a concept test, the consumer evaluates a product idea or concept. They are then asked to indicate level of interest or likelihood to buy it. Further in-depth question can follow.

Insights from your concept test

It is good practice to test more than one concept as part of your survey research. Gathering purchase interest data for multiple concepts allow you to understand the relative difference between them. The basic laptop can serve as a baseline or control measure to compare relative to the folding laptop. This way we can assess how much interest your new innovation has. Without the control measure, we would not know if the folding laptop was perceived to be better or worse (and by how much) than what is already available in the market.

Multiple concepts can be tested using a monadic or sequential monadic design. Paired comparison tests are also commonly used. Once we have the level of interest or purchase intent data for each of our concepts, these can be plotted on a chart to show how much value the new concept (our laptop’s folding capabilities) brings. For example, the chart below shows the folding laptop brings in 50% more purchase consideration than the basic laptop. That’s a significant jump, suggesting the folding laptop does have appeal. Further segmenting and diving into the data can help you determine what part of the market it appeals to most; the needs it fulfills and expectations on how it would be used.

A chart representing the percentage of purchase consideration between the basic laptop and the folding laptop. The basic laptop has 50% of purchase consideration while the folding laptop has 75%.

Concept tests are an easy and effective way to ask for feedback from those you are trying to develop your product for. Knowing how your target audience thinks and feels provides lasting insight on how to improve your offering. Don’t just guess or act on hunches, but gather real data from real people.

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