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What is concept testing in new product development?

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Image of the post author Jodie Shaw

Concept testing is a crucial stage when developing new products. Before you launch a new product in the market, it’s important to gain a solid overall idea of how your customers will respond and how the product will perform.

This helps you avoid costly errors and nasty surprises, better understand your market, and make a more confident and successful product launch. In this article, we’ll show you how concept testing works and how to do it. Let’s start with a more in-depth definition.

What is concept development?

A concept is the precursor to every great product. It’s a detailed outline of what you’re going to produce, who it’s for, the problems it will solve, how it will work, how much it will cost, and much more.

To make sure your concept is ready to go to market, it’s essential to test it properly with real customers. This process is called concept testing, and in the rest of the article, we’re going to talk about why this is so important and how to do it methodically.

The benefits of concept testing

Concept testing is the process of testing your concept before launch, so you can confidently put it into the market with a fairly good understanding of how your customers feel and how they will respond.

There are several different methods spanning both qualitative and quantitative approaches (which we’ll dive into shortly) but they all involve presenting concepts to consumers and then getting their feedback about different attributes. 

(Check out our detailed guide to concept testing for more information.)

There are multiple reasons to do concept testing, such as:

  • You get real feedback from users. Designers and product teams are often too close to the product to make clear-headed decisions about it, and they might overlook some crucial things. Concept testing allows you to access real feedback from your target customers, which you simply can’t replicate with your own internal team.
  • It helps you notice flaws. Pretty much no concept has ever been perfect. Testing your product with real users helps you notice problems that flew under the radar in the design phase, giving you many new pairs of eyes.
  • It allows you to refine your concept. Before testing, your product is just a rough prototype that has all the major pieces in place but probably needs some extra work. By shedding light on what consumers think, testing gives you some direction for how to refine and improve your product so that it’s more likely to gain traction when it hits the shelves.

The importance of concept testing

The above benefits are important for many reasons. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider concept testing in new product development:

  • It’s easier to get backing for your product. Testing gives you concrete data about how customers feel about products. You can then use this to make a compelling case to others in the organization about why you are making certain decisions. Without this data, it’s just a matter of personal opinion and it will be much harder to convince others.
  • It helps you find out what your customers like the most about the product. This is useful not just for that specific product and how to market it, but also allows you to make better decisions going forward by focusing on the things that people like most and targeting popular pain points with different products.
  • Testing can help you segment your customer base. Who should you target with your product? If certain demographics love the product and others are less enthusiastic, this is extremely helpful when it comes to focusing your marketing and distribution efforts.
  • It helps you estimate how many sales you’ll make and the ROI you’ll generate with the product when it goes to market. This is helpful when it comes to setting budgets, making plans, and getting financial backing from others in your company.

It allows you to identify a reasonable price point. It’s common to ask users during testing how much they would expect to pay for a product. This helps inform your decision for how much your product will sell for.

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How to test concepts: the qualitative and quantitative methodologies

Concepts can be tested quantitatively or qualitatively. Qualitative methods for concept testing include focus groups, online communities or in-depth interviews that allow you to uncover rich qualitative feedback from current or prospective customers relating to your planned product. Ethnography or self-ethnography are other alternatives, particularly if the concept you’re testing is worked up and in prototype form that consumers can interact with at home.

The main quantitative method used for testing concepts is an online quantitative survey, an approach that allows you to test at scale. 

Different approaches for testing concepts 

There are four main approaches for concept testing a new product, and each one has its own pros and cons. It’s best to consider your specific situation and product and then pick one which works best.

Monadic testing

This is where the audience is divided into groups, and each group is given one concept in isolation and asked to evaluate it via a series of questions.

For example, they might be asked to rate the design, evaluate the price or feedback on the packaging.

The pros of monadic testing are:

  • There is less room for order bias since the concepts are shown and evaluated in isolation
  • It’s easier for users — they only have one product to focus on and all the questions apply to that same product
  • It encourages deeper feedback as users take a deep dive into one concept as opposed to skimming over several different ones

On the other hand, the main drawback to monadic testing is that it requires a larger sample size to get enough reliable data. This means it can be costly to gather all the necessary participants, and challenging to find enough people to assess niche concepts.

Sequential monadic

In sequential monadic testing, multiple concepts are evaluated one after the other. Each participant sees two or more concepts, presented in a random order, and answers questions about each one in turn.

The main benefit is that fewer people are needed, so this results in:

  • Being cheaper to gather enough people and set up the testing
  • Taking less time to gather a sufficient amount of data
  • It also works well with niche markets where there might not be many potential customers

The main downside is that it takes longer to carry out each individual test since participants are evaluating multiple concepts instead of just one.

Comparative

In comparative testing, concepts are shown next to each other, and participants evaluate all of them at the same time. It’s an effective way to find out how one concept compares directly against another in the eyes of your customers.

The main advantage of comparative testing is that it’s good for measuring small differences and drilling down into the specific advantages and drawbacks of each product. The main downside is that its comparative nature means that it’s not very effective when both products are flawed. 

Comparative testing is often used as a follow-up for monadic testing to gain deeper insights into a specific product.

Proto monadic 

This is a blend of monadic and comparative testing. Customers evaluate a product via monadic testing and then are shown the same product in comparison with another.

It’s done to confirm the initial monadic results to gain a more sturdy overall conclusion about a product’s strengths and weaknesses.

What to measure

Once you have settled on a method of testing, it’s time to consider what you want to measure. There’s a long list of possible factors to analyze with concept testing, and these might vary based on your chosen method.

Here are some common examples of things to measure:

  • Overall reaction to the product – this measures how customers feel about the product overall, and can be measured with a likert scale (a series of options from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”).
  • Reaction to different elements of the product – you can also use the likert scale to rate certain aspects of the product, for example the packaging, ease of use, battery life, and more.
  • Need for the product compared to the current market – how much of a demand does your participant think there is for the product? Is there an urgent need for it, or is the market already saturated with similar products?
  • Comparison with other products on the market – similar to the above, how does your product compare with what’s already out there. Is it a significant improvement on what exists, worse, or just more of the same?
  • Likes and dislikes – what are the individual things people like and dislike about the product?
  • Purchase likelihood – this is where you ask your respondents to rate their likelihood of buying your product. You can use a likert scale for this (“very unlikely” to “very likely”).
  • Pricing analysis – how much would your participants be willing to pay for the product?
  • Likelihood of use– how much of a need does your participant personally have for the product, and what kind of role would it play in their lives?

(Check out this article for examples of how to test new product concepts.)

Testing your concepts is crucial if you want to release the best possible products to your target market, market them effectively, delight your customers, and see your revenue soar.

How can we help?

It’s important to do concept testing properly so your new products have the best chance of success when they eventually hit the market. To find out how Kadence can help you deliver this, request a proposal or get in touch with the Kadence team here.

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