4 Steps to Concept Testing Research


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You’ve come up with some great ideas, and now you can’t wait to bring them to life and watch your sales soar. But for that to happen, your customers need to love it too. So how do you know if they feel the same way?

You guessed it: Concept Testing.

There is really no way to overstate the importance of concept testing. In order to launch a successful new idea or campaign, you first need to make sure that it will resonate with your target audience. If you don’t, you could end up spending an enormous amount of time, money and other resources into developing a concept that will ultimately fall flat in the market. With concept testing, you can avoid this mistake by making sure your product is viable and valuable—before it’s too late.

What is Concept Testing?

Concept testing is the process of evaluating how your target market feels about your idea before it is made available to the public or is fully developed. This allows businesses to gather feedback directly from their target audience, pinpoint areas that still need improvement, and invest in the concepts that they know will work.

Concept testing can be used to assess products, services, campaigns, or any other stimuli that will be presented to your target market. It can be implemented at various stages in the development of your idea. Whether you’re at the ideation phase or have a fully developed product, concept testing can help you gauge customer reactions and determine which direction you should follow. It is never too soon or too late to start.

Creating a Concept Test Survey

The simplest and most common way to conduct a concept test is with a survey. Surveys allow you to easily gather feedback online and gain a deeper understanding of how consumers respond to different aspects of your concept.

It’s one thing to determine if customers like your new concept, but even more important is to understand why they feel the way they do. Concept testing surveys can get you the inside scoop, giving you confidence in your data-driven decisions and saving you time and money in the long run.

Sound pretty great? We think so too. That’s why we’ve pulled together the 4 most important steps for creating one.

1. Identify your goals

The first step to creating a concept testing survey is to determine what your goals are. Do you need to know which ad or design element resonates the most with consumers? Or maybe which product features customers can or can’t live without? What about the impact your concept has on your customers’ experience?

A concept test can answer any of these questions and more, so you just need to identify which questions are most important for your research. Once you establish what specific questions you’re looking to answer and the metrics you need to track, you’ll be able to pick the right survey method for your needs.

2. Choose your survey methodology

There are four main methods for evaluating a concept that vary by the number of concepts you’re testing and how you want them to be compared. Here’s what they mean:

Single Concept Evaluation (Monadic)

This method is just what it sounds like– respondents are asked to evaluate only one concept in its’ entirety. The benefit of this method is that you can get more in-depth feedback on an isolated concept with a shorter survey.

If you have multiple concepts you need to test, this method can be used by separating respondents into different groups where each group is presented just one concept. This means that you can keep all your survey questions consistent, but the concept respondents see will alternate.

Multi Concept Evaluation (Sequential Monadic)

This evaluation is similar to the single concept evaluation except that respondent are shown multiple concepts one after the other. A benefit of this method is that it can reduce the sample size required, since each respondent will give feedback on multiple concepts in one survey.

A fallback is that this method can make the survey relatively lengthy. If the survey is too long, respondents may experience survey fatigue which could negatively affect the completion rate and quality of your data.

Concept Selection (Comparative)

In the concept selection method respondents are shown multiple concepts at the same time and are asked to select which one they like best. This set up can give you a clear idea of how your concepts stack up, and which one stands out. However, you won’t get as detailed feedback on each individual concept.

Concept Selection and Evaluation (Comparative Monadic)

In this method, respondents are asked to compare multiple concepts and then fully evaluate the concept that they prefer. This will show you the winning concept while also allowing you to dive deeper into why respondents selected it.

Depending on your goals and the level of detail you need for each concept, some of these methods may be better suited for your project than others. Keep this in mind when choosing how to set up your survey. You will also need to consider how many respondents you expect to reach and which of these methods will be suitable for your sample size.

3. Present your big idea

Once you’ve decided what concept evaluation method you’ll use, it’s time to show respondents what you’ve got. There are many ways to introduce your concept to respondents including using descriptions, images, videos, audio clips, and more. This choice will likely depend on what type of concept you’re testing, but you may want to use a combination of these formats to explain your idea.

Since your survey feedback will be based on this presentation of your concept, it’s essential that respondents can easily understand it. This is especially important if you are using a description, as you’ll need to clearly communicate the value and features of your concept in a way that doesn’t bias your respondents.

4. Use a variety of concept testing questions

There are many ways to ask concept testing questions in a survey, and which ones you use will largely depend on your goals for your survey and the specific metrics you want to track. However, no matter what your concept is, it’s best practice to include a variety of different question formats in order to get the most out of your survey. Here are some examples:

Close-ended questions

Close-ended questions are a great way to ask about the general appeal of your concept or the likelihood of a certain action to be taken after seeing your concept. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using Likert scale questions. For example, after presenting your concept you might ask:

How appealing is this {insert concept type}?

  • Very unappealing
  • Somewhat unappealing
  • Neither appealing nor unappealing
  • Somewhat appealing
  • Very appealing
  • This question can help you gauge the overall appeal of your concept, and the data should be relatively easy to analyze. This format is also simple and intuitive for respondents to answer.

    Open-ended questions

    Open-ended questions are one of the best ways to gain meaningful, qualitative feedback from your respondents. They allow you to gather more in-depth insights into what potential customers think about your concepts in their own words. Here’s an example:

    When you see this {insert concept type}, what words, phrases, or thoughts come to mind? {Text box}

    A question like this gives respondents more space to fully explain their reaction to your concepts, including things you may not have thought to ask them about directly. Ideally, this would be one of the first questions you ask after presenting your concept in order to gather unbiased responses from respondents. From there, you can begin asking more specific questions.

    Open-ended questions are also a great way to validate your close-ended answers by giving you more detail into respondents’ thoughts. For instance, you could include these two follow up questions based on how respondents answered the multiple-choice question above:

    {if respondent answered appealing} What are some specific reasons why you find this {concept type} appealing? {Text box}

    {if respondent answered neutral or unappealing} What are some specific reasons why you do not find this {concept type} appealing? {Text box}

    These follow-up questions give you more information on why respondents feel the way they do, so you can leverage their specific feedback to make improvements.

    Likelihood to purchase questions

    Purchase likelihood questions aren’t a type of question format (they can take either of the formats mentioned above) but they have their own considerations in a concept testing survey. If you’re testing a concept related to a product or service, a good way to gauge whether or not consumers truly like your concept is how likely they are to actually purchase it. Here are some examples of close-ended and open-ended likelihood to purchase questions:

    How likely would you be to purchase {this product / product with this marketing element}?

  • Very unlikely
  • Somewhat unlikely
  • Neither likely nor unlikely
  • Somewhat likely
  • Very likely
  • {if likely} What are some specific reasons why you are likely to purchase {this product}? {Text box}

    {if neutral or unlikely} What could this brand change or offer to make you more likely to purchase {this product}? {Text box}

    These questions can help gauge whether respondents like your concept enough to purchase it, and why they would or wouldn’t do so. However, keep in mind that a consumers’ willingness to pay for a product is often influenced by other factors– especially its’ price. To learn how to account for these factors and more accurately measure consumers’ willingness to pay in a survey, check out our guide to creating great pricing survey questions.

    Real Concept Testing Examples

    Now that you know the basics of creating your own concept testing survey, let’s take a look at what these surveys are capable of. The following are two examples of companies that used concept testing surveys to help them make crucial business decisions using the GroupSolver® platform.

    The first company is a federally charted credit union in the United States (one of the largest in the nation) that wanted to determine which of their 5 credit card campaigns were most likely to prompt their target market to seek more information and sign up. Using a concept testing survey, they collected quantitative data that showed that two of their ads stood out to potential customers the most.

    While respondents found one of these ads to have a captivating design, the winning campaign stood out for its’ simplicity and clear messaging of the card’s benefits. The survey data also revealed which two benefits were most valuable to customers, so the credit union could further promote those features in their campaign.

    Read more about the case study here.

    On the CPG side of things, one client needed to use a concept testing survey to test a product in less than 24 hours– before meeting with a big box buyer the next day. The company is an American manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods who was testing a new Mexican food kit concept.

    With their concept study they found that consumers were very likely to purchase the new food kit and thought that it provided multiple benefits including flexibility and convenience. With the help of GroupSolver® and the concept test survey, our client convinced the major big box retailer to put their new product on the shelf.

    Read more about the case study here.

    Rastislav Ivanic
    Rasto Ivanic is a co-founder and CEO of GroupSolver® - a market research tech company. GroupSolver has built an intelligent market research platform that helps businesses answer their burning why, how, and what questions. Before GroupSolver, Rasto was a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company and later he led business development at Mendel Biotechnology. Rasto is a trained economist with a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, where he also received his MBA.


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