Concept testing is a great approach to explore appeal of product and services, and it's highly recommended when you are in the process of deciding if a product is worth your time and money to develop.
But when these tests are not well designed, they can yield generalized information that is not very actionable or, worse yet, misleading. Simply running a concept test isn't enough. It needs to be administered correctly to empower you to make informed decisions.
The first step in creating an actionable, accurate concept test is to create product concepts that clearly define the “reasons to believe” in the product and the experience the customer may expect from it.
If you keep that prime directive in mind and follow these best practices, you'll have a product concept test that you can rely on.
For a Successful Product Concept Test, Do Your Research
Conducting qualitative market research should be the first step in the concept testing process. This kind of preliminary research can provide a lot of value by uncovering what is important to customers and how customers talk about products before you dive too deep into design.
I was once invited to take a survey that was being used as part of a larger concept testing project around online marketing research courses.
Thinking back, I really wonder if the sponsor of the survey did their homework prior to designing and implementing the survey process. They failed to identify which features woulf really matter to potential end users of online marketing research courses.
The survey presented four features of the courses. Of the four features described in the concept, the only one I found relevant was the 24/7 accessibility. The other three were quite vague and somewhat immaterial to me, one of the product's potential customers, which leads me to my second piece of advice.
Get Specific About Possible Product Features
What does it matter if an online courses will have three to eight hours of total instruction if I don’t know the length of each class? Is it 30 minutes or 60 minutes?
My work schedule and home life may only allow me to sit for 20 minutes at a time to attend an online class. I certainly won't be sitting at my computer listening to a lecturer for two hours at a time.
Let this be a lesson to you. When conducting product concept tests, be specific. Give as many details about your proposed product and its features.
Take special care to not get caught up in buzzwords, either. While you may know what you mean by "comprehensive instruction" or "dynamic interfaces," your audience, I guarantee, does not.
Are the classes task-oriented? Will I need to do a lot in preparation to take the class? I associate the word "instruction" with manuals, so when I read this I feel exhausted already. Who reads manuals these days?
Instead, focus on providing concrete examples clearly illustrate aspects of your product and help to set respondent expectations.
Think beyond static images, too. A short video showing different screens or a person interacting with a prototype will provided a better illustration of what the user can expect.
In the case of the concept test I was part of, the organizers omitted one of the most important aspects of the course concept. They didn't tell us what course topics they were considering.
Better Product Tests Through Specific Concepts
Being specific won't give away your product's secret sauce. Instead, it helps refine your recipe through input from genuine potential users.
Int he case of the above example, for me, the most important thing about an online market research course is the topic that will be covered rather than the format – even if they had been better about describing the format.
At the end of the concept test survey, the researchers asked if I would be interested in their courses. My only possible response was: Maybe. Or maybe not.
That answer isn't helpful.
The more detail you can provide, the better your respondents will understand your product concept. And, when they understand it, they an better assess their interest in the product, possible improvements, and whether or not they would make the purchase.
Creating Product Concept Tests That Really Work
Now that we've covered specific examples of what not to do, what's the right way to run a product concept test? There are four mainwhat are the key steps in conducting product concept tests that yield the most accurate results?
1. Conduct qualitative research with members of the target audience.
Avoid "inbred" concepts based only on input from internal staff. A few interviews with marketing research professionals would have provided a richer and more realistic foundation on which to base the concept.
2. Create concepts that are concrete and put them in relevant context.
An online course on a particular topic would have allowed me to give a more realistic response. A video could have shown me what to expect from the "dynamic interface."
3. Write concepts in the target audience’s language.
Be clear, concise, and avoid industry jargon at all costs. Remember: your respondents need as much detail as possible. And while a buzzword may look or sound cool, they very rarely get a precise message across to a lay audience.
4. Focus on Reasons-to-Believe arguments that highlight what is important to your audience.
Again, this point is all about clarity. Give people as much information as you can, particularly about those aspects of your product concept that matter most to your audience.
How do you determine what matters to your target audience? By doing your homework with quantitative research.
Find Out What Your Audience Really Wants with Product Concept Testing
A well designed product concept test can reveal important insights into your customers needs, wants, and purchasing habits. Fortunately, powerful, easy to use tools like SurveyGizmo make it faster and easier than ever to get results.
If you'd like more help with concept testing, check out Relevant Insights. Their Concept Testing and Product Optimization services will help your project along, from design to implementation to final analysis.