3 Agile Concept Testing Strategies For Your Brand

Kevan Chew

Kevan Chew

Marketing Intern, Remesh

Kevan is a Marketing Intern at Remesh, who has an aggressive love of writing, coffee and bagels.

 

According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, more than 25% of total revenue and profits across industries are generated by the launch of new products. Yet, the launching of a new product or concept is often difficult and even unsuccessful. The same piece of research by McKinsey uncovered that less than half of all product and service launches actually succeed in meeting their targets. 

Even more worryingly, this success rate is consistent across both the product launches of completely new products and the release of new features to existing products. This signifies that even the launch of incremental improvements to already familiar products can often be fraught with risk.

With this in mind, how can brands better understand user preferences, and maximize the chances of new product and concept ideas vibing with consumers?

Enter the concept test.

 

What is Concept Testing?

Concept testing in new product development is the process of understanding how consumers feel about your idea before it’s even created or released. This process can help you more accurately evaluate if your product is ready for market, or alternatively, what adjustments must be made to fulfill customer needs.

While companies typically conduct concept tests in the form of surveys, they can also come in the form of qualitative research such as customer interviews, focus group discussions, and observational studies.

new product development process

Why is Concept Testing Important?

In today’s fast moving market, the ability to incorporate agile research into product development and adjust product design quickly based on consumer needs is more crucial than ever. Incorporating concept testing into the early stages of the product development cycle can help you quickly answer some crucial questions pertaining to new ideas, such as:

  • Why is this concept appealing to my target consumer?
  • Which of these concepts should I dedicate resources toward developing further?
  • Where are the gaps in the current user experience?
  • How well does this concept hold up against competitors?
  • Are the benefits of this new idea being effectively communicated to the end user?

 

How to Conduct a Concept Test

While every concept test is naturally unique depending on your objectives and the nature of your product, there are three broad steps that can be followed to write and perform a successful concept test.

 

Step 1 : Identify Objectives and Metrics

First, it’s important to identify the specific objectives you’re trying to achieve through concept testing, since those goals will fundamentally affect every characteristic of your test. For instance, if you conduct a product concept test for the launch of a new soda flavor, some possible objectives include:

  • Comparing preliminary product concepts for a soda can design, and understanding which one appeals most to consumers

  • Doing a deep dive examination of one version of the new soda, and identifying how customers currently feel about it

After establishing a high-level objective, specific metrics of success will also need to be determined based on that objective. Following the soda design example, some metrics to measure might include:

  • Appeal
  • Uniqueness
  • Purchase intent
  • Alignment to the brand
  • Material quality

If your team does not have an experienced moderator or researcher, it can be difficult to narrow down a set of goals. This specialized role can help a company delve deeper into insights, and is sometimes offered alongside online focus group platforms.

 

Step 2: Choosing a Target Audience

After establishing overall objectives, the next step is to identify the target audience you would like to collect consumer responses from.

For instance, in the soda example, if a company wanted to launch a completely new soda brand and understand how the larger market felt about the product concept, the company would likely need a wider sample of a general audience. 

Alternatively, if a company was evaluating incremental changes to an existing soda can design, it might be more valuable to extract a sample from the brand’s existing customers, who may have a better understanding of the original product.

 

Step 3: Establishing the Test Design

After establishing your overall objectives and target audience, the last step of the product concept testing process is to establish the nature of the test design. The choice of a survey design, or a survey alternative like a focus group or one-on-one interview, is highly dependent on the objective of your product concept test.  

For concept test surveys, there are two popular ways you can use to design your survey: 

  • Single Concept Evaluation (Monadic Testing).  Introduce each participant to one of the competing concepts, then ask metrics-based questions to thoroughly evaluate that one concept. Compare the top results to find a clear winner. 
  • Multiple Concept Evaluation (Sequential Monadic Testing). Introduce each participant to all competing concepts in a random order, then ask metrics-based questions to thoroughly evaluate each concept. This is more comprehensive than single concept evaluation, but may cause survey fatigue.

concept testing new product

 

3 Ways to Use Concept Testing

There’s theory, and then there’s practice. Here are three specific ways that brands can use concept testing in action.

 

1. Developing New Products and Product Features 

Naturally, one of the most intuitive applications of concept testing lies in helping companies make better decisions when developing new products. Concept testing can help you better understand:

  • What products and features consumers care about
  • What pain-points consumers face with existing products

 

2. Identifying New Customer Segments 

Beyond gaining insights into the concepts and features when developing a new product, concept testing can also help you gain a better understanding of your current customers. In some instances, concept testing can even help you identify new potential customer segments for your product. 

Concept testing can potentially help you explore the following questions of interest:

  • Have the needs and preferences of my target customer segment changed?
  • Are there new customers that I can potentially target with this new product concept?

 

3. Refining Your Brand's Marketing Strategy

Finally, concept testing can also be used to refine the go-to-market strategy for the launch of a new product, and help you understand how best to position the new product to customers. 

Concept testing can help you better understand:

  • What visual and verbal cues customers relate to
  • What language customers use to describe their needs and preferences

 

Concept Testing Case Studies 

Concept testing seems feasible - but how have prominent brands used the method to boost profits and satisfy customer needs?

 

Lego

lego product innovation(Source: Lego)

In the early 2000s, Lego realized only 9% of their toy users were young girls, despite repeated attempts to market their products to a female audience.

In a new attempt to change their toy user demographic, Lego decided to embark on an extended period of concept testing and market research to better understand the play habits of young girls. For instance, Lego realized that girls paid a lot more attention to the interior layout and details of the structure, and also preferred building entire environments rather single structures. These insights allowed for new product features to be designed around such direct input from Lego’s target demographic.

Lego Friends - a new Lego series marketed at young girls - launched in 2012 and quickly became a hit. The new product tripled the value of construction toys for girls from $300 million to $900 million between 2011 and 2014.

 

NASCAR 

nascar concept testing(Source: Daytona International Speedway)

In 2017, NASCAR changed the format of the Daytona 500 (their biggest race), and wanted to gauge viewer experience following the change.

NASCAR conducted a live Remesh conversation with 200+ super fans to understand viewers’ experiences, thoughts, and reactions to events and advertisements, and what viewers believed made for a winning show. The conversation helped NASCAR confirm that viewers did enjoy the new structure, as well as gain actionable insights that allowed for the successful roll out the new race format.

 

Summing up Concept Testing

Concept testing and the ability to better understand consumer needs is more relevant than ever before. When executed successfully, concept testing can improve your brand’s new product development, optimize your marketing strategy, reduce time to market, and always keep your customers coming back for more.

 


 

If you would like to learn more about how exactly to craft better surveys, we wrote an article about it! Check out our guide below.

Read: "How To Create A Better Survey"

 

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