How To Validate Ideas With Concept Testing
In this article, we’ll explain what concept testing is, how to run this type of market research, and how quantilope’s advanced methodologies validate your concept ideas to move forward with confidence.
Brands can dream up countless new product ideas, packaging designs, and ad campaigns every day. Some might be exceptional, some great, others mediocre and some a total miss. So how can brands get an idea of their idea’s potential success before committing time and money toward it?
Gut feeling isn’t enough when it comes to major business decisions; you need to be sure your idea has traction and potential amongst your target audience. This is where concept testing, also known as concept validation testing, comes in.
Table of contents
- What is concept validation?
- Why validate ideas with concept testing?
- How to validate new ideas using concept testing
- Concept validation best practices
- Concept validation mistakes you should avoid
- Concept validation testing example
- Concept validation use cases
- How quantilope helps to validate ideas with concept testing
What is concept validation?
Concept validation is a stage in the product development process that screens new product ideas to establish how appealing they are to the target market. Often a business will have first gone through an ideation stage where they draw up new business ideas or product concepts addressing key customer needs; this may be done via qualitative research like focus groups, quantitative online surveys, or a mix of both. The results from these initial studies then proceed onto the concept validation stage where brands might test a simple description of their new idea, an illustrated concept, or even a polished prototype.
Concept validation can be used across a range of concept types, such as websites, ad campaigns, logos, marketing messages, or actual products.
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Why validate ideas with concept testing?
Validating ideas using concept testing provides a trusted, data-backed foundation for new product development and many other areas of business.
Concept testing reveals a consumer’s view of an idea: where its strong points lie, what its downsides are, which consumer needs it meets (or doesn’t). Concept testing indicates whether an idea should be scrapped completely, if it needs some fine-tuning, or if it’s a sure success. It also shows which demographics and which segments of your customer base are most likely to buy into each new product concept you’re testing.
Brands use concept testing because it effectively allocates budget to the right concepts, at the right time, for the right group of consumers and their needs. If you have a number of potential product routes in mind and don’t know which one to invest in, concept testing is the best way to identify the strongest ideas and prioritize those concepts to work on. You might find that some ideas gain customer approval but aren’t immediate needs in the market. You also might find that some elements of concept A work well, but concepts B and C contain other appealing elements that could be combined to create a whole new concept.
As well as testing the inherent ideas and elements within a concept, concept validation also helps pinpoint motivating language used throughout concept descriptions. For example, if you’re testing a new body spray, respondents might be noticeably drawn to simpler words like ‘fresh’ or ‘clean,’ but less attracted to words like ‘reviving’ or ‘invigorating’; this helps guide marketing communications for the new product further down the line.
Concept testing gathers the objective opinions of those who are in the market for the product, and who will ultimately determine whether a product does well or not. Hearing from consumers reassures stakeholders and helps product development and marketing teams feel confident in their decisions. After all, it’s said that over 30,000 new products are launched each year, and 95% of them fail. Concept testing will help assure your idea falls within the 5% that don't.
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How to validate new ideas using concept testing
Once you’ve come up with some ideas for your business - be it new products, communications, packaging designs, or something else, it’s time to validate those ideas with a market research concept test. Below we go through the steps to do so.
Establish your hypotheses and desired metrics
First, check that your concept(s) are research-ready. This means making sure respondents will understand what it is you are asking of them. While you don’t need to have a fully developed prototype to start your concept test, make sure you have a way of clearly communicating your idea to survey takers (e.g. a detailed description, mock-up illustration, etc.).
With each concept you’re testing (if testing more than one), consider the desired metrics you want to come out of your research. Maybe you want to find out your concept’s appeal (is there a perceived needs gap it will fill?), its viability (will it sell enough units to make it an attractive business proposition?), or its uniqueness (does it solve a problem for customers that competitive concepts can’t?). These consumer-based metrics will help guide internal decisions later on, like manufacturing feasibility and pricing - given that the perceived success of a product will dictate the resources you can put toward creating it.
Use your desired metrics to formulate a hypothesis (or, hypotheses) that will guide the rest of your concept testing project.
Decide on your methodology
Concepts can be tested using quantitative or qualitative research - and many times, brands opt for both!
Your choice of research methodology (aka, your research approach), depends on the stage of your concepts for testing. If you have ideas that are more early-stage/abstract, you might benefit from starting with qualitative research to gather feedback and opinions that will help shape up your final offer for further testing. Or, say you have a number of concepts that you want to narrow down; using qualitative research to discuss the pros/cons of each can help curate a solid list of final concepts to test in a quantitative study. Qualitative studies might involve focus groups (to generate discussion and debate) or in-depth interviews with individuals to delve more deeply into the view of the target customer.
If your concepts have already been through qualitative testing or have been honed enough for them to be fully understood by respondents, then you might be ready for a quantitative study. Quantitative research today is mostly in the form of an online survey. The advantage of quantitative research is that you have access to a much larger number of respondents (compared to qual) with statistically reliable analysis. The other benefit of using a quantitative study is the opportunity to leverage advanced research methods like TURF, MaxDiff, Conjoint, and A/B Testing to validate your concept ideas.
Design your survey questions
For qualitative research, this will be a discussion guide: a list of topic areas that you want to cover during focus groups or in-depth interviews. Topic areas will include respondents’ existing beliefs and attitudes, relevant product usage, and any needs gaps they might have. Questions will take an open-ended form - for example ‘tell me about looking after your teeth’ (if your concepts are dental care related) or ‘tell me what you think of this concept overall.’
Quantitative questionnaires are much tighter in their design, with more direct and close-ended questioning. They will include single/multi-select, scales, and ratings questions, allowing respondents to score ideas or to choose from a list of pre-set answers. Answers to questions like these are easier to quantify than qualitative surveys, and statistical comparisons can be made across a large group of people.
Some quantitative questions around a dental care product may be:
Which flavors do you prefer in a dental care product? [Select all that apply]
- None of the above
How appealing is the following dental care product packaging? [Likert scale]
Neither appealing nor unappealing
Rank the following colors you’d prefer in a dental care product [ranking question]
Choose your sample
Once you decide on a methodology and build your research project around your research hypotheses and metrics, it’s time to set up your sample (aka, the people who will actually participate in your research).
The people who review your concepts need to be ones that represent the consumers who are most likely to buy the finished product or service. This means you should send your concept testing survey to people that represent the concept’s desired demographics (age, gender, income, geographical location) and behavioral profile (those who buy existing products from your brand/competitors, or those who undertake activities with which your concept/product is associated).
You can choose to recruit your respondent sample through a panel provider or send your survey to your own business-supplied-list of participants (be it that they meet your demographic and behavioral requirements).
Analyze the responses
Once survey results are in, study the commonalities as well as the contrasts in responses.
For quantitative research, this is where you can measure scores and other feedback for each of your desired metrics to learn where each concept’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Statistical testing comes in handy here to point out major differences in concepts, demographics, features, etc. For qualitative research, listen back to interviews and review your notes for highlights or overriding themes.
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Concept validation best practices
When conducting your concept validation study, below are a few best practices to be mindful of.
Make your concept testing iterative
Start testing ideas as soon as you have them. The earlier you do so, the more quickly you will catch onto idea elements that work and identify those that don’t. Then, as your ideas develop, keep testing and building upon each iteration of your concept.
Have a plan before you start
Get the most out of your concept testing by thinking carefully about your target audience, the most appropriate methodology to use, and which metrics you want to include. Having the right sample, approach, and metrics will make your research reliable and actionable - rather than jumping right in without any thought.
Benchmark the findings
Decide which thresholds you want to use in determining whether a concept has potential or not. If you have five concepts and want to know which one is the most original, the winner might still only receive a score of 6/10 for originality. Use this as a benchmark for future iterations of testing, to see if any new ideas beat the original winner.
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Concept validation mistakes you should avoid
Now knowing best practices to put forth in your concept validation research, there are also a few things to be mindful of not including:
Don’t test too many concepts
While it’s great to test several concepts against one another to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t, be careful not to test too many at once among the same group of people. It’s generally best to stick with around 6 concepts in one test - any more than that and respondents may start to become fatigued. Choose concepts that represent a good mix of elements. You can always run subsequent iterations of concepts to narrow in on final idea.
Don’t ask the wrong people
You might get great feedback on your concepts, but if the people you ask don’t represent the ones who will make the actual purchase decision or aren’t in the market for your idea, it’s time and money wasted. Make sure your sample has sufficient interest in your category and sufficient motivation to pay for the final product you’re testing.
Don’t launch too early
Your concept testing research might identify two or three avenues that consumers gravitate toward, but make sure you test those strong concepts several times before you officially take them to market (remember, concept testing is iterative!).
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Concept validation testing example
In one of quantilope’s syndicated studies, we tested six different concepts for Spotify’s music platform interface. In each concept, we changed the layout of elements on the page (i.e. top navigation bar, music content, music tab, and main navigation bar). We tested the study among 900 US consumers who own a smartphone and are users of music streaming services.
Using our steps outlined above, we started the concept validation test by setting hypotheses and desired metrics. In this case, we had three hypotheses:
A vertical layout for the music content segment is easier to read and process
Users will have a higher preference for colorful elements on the page opposed to black/grey
The high purchase likelihood of the optimal version is due to a universally appealing design
Next, we decided on our research methodology. For this study, we chose a quantitative survey approach leveraging a Choice-Based Conjoint analysis. With this, we started to craft our survey questions around this method and our hypotheses.
From there, we chose a sample that would be reflective our concept's audience - smartphone users who access music streaming services, and began collecting/analyzing the findings.
The findings from this ux concept testing study challenged the hypothesis that Spotify had moved to a more universally appealing design - suggesting further iterations of usability testing could be valuable for the brand to really stand apart. From this test, Spotify is left with a much stronger understanding of what music streamers prioritize and care about in streaming platform user experience so they can curate the best layout possible in their official final launch.
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Concept validation use cases
Above we looked at a user experience/UX research concept testing example, which is just one of countless ways to leverage a concept validation study. Concept validation is applicable to almost any idea where there is a number of possible iterations that could be chosen.
Below are a few additional areas where this type of market research would be beneficial:
Imagine you have an idea for a new smoothie. There are endless flavor combinations, ingredients, and benefits that you could offer. To narrow down the possibilities, you could use a product concept test to conduct focus groups or in-depth interviews with those who buy smoothies. You would explore how satisfied they are with existing smoothie products in the category and what they typically look for in a smoothie (taste? a certain consistency? health benefits?). You could ask participants to create their own ideal smoothie concept and use these insights in your own concepts later on. Follow up on your focus group or interview findings with a quantitative product concept test for statistically significant insights and to quantify product-market fit.
Continuing with the above example of smoothies - say you’re now at a stage where you’re starting to think about smoothie packaging. Should that smoothie be sold in a carton, a pouch, a plastic bottle, glass, or something else? What should the opening mechanism be - twist off, screw cap, straw? How do environmental concerns, ease of use, and pricing expectations feed into people’s preferences?
Concept validation for packaging will tell you which packaging design fits best with the brand, what different packaging options communicate about your product, and how each packaging concept is viewed among consumers.
You might have your smoothie recipe and packaging solidified, but how are you going to tell your target audience about it? Which language will you use to make sure perceptions of your brand are aligned with brand values? Which messages will strike a chord with consumers, which words will capture their interest, and which will tell them that this product will fulfill their needs gaps? These are all elements to include in a marketing concept testing study - perhaps leveraging a conjoint, A/B test, or some other methodology.
How do you make your smoothie stand out amongst the array of competitors on the market? Which product name will resonate most with consumers, fit with what your brand is all about, and be memorable enough for your consumers to search for it on the store shelf? Names are an important part of the marketing mix, and you need to make sure you choose a strong one that is relevant. You might be surprised at the associations people have with different names, making them more or less appealing to them. Name concept testing will tell you what each idea communicates, the associations each conjure up, and which is perceived as the most original and attractive for the category.
There are millions of logos out there, each evoking a different emotion, response, or recognition among consumers. Logo concept testing will help you choose a logo that stands out in your category, communicates what you want to say about your product (e.g. the finest ingredients, freshness, great taste), and is recognizable in stores and on marketing communications.
Getting the price point right for your product is crucial. You might have a great product with eye-catching packaging and a strong marketing campaign, but if the price is too high it will lower purchase intention, and if it’s too low it will affect quality perceptions.
Pricing concepts can be tested through a variety of methodologies - like PSM/Van Westendorp or Conjoint, each eliciting assumptions that consumers make about the quality and type of product you are offering.
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How quantilope helps to validate ideas with concept testing
quantilope’s consumer intelligence platform automates your concept validation process, providing advanced, real-time insights around your ideas. Start your concept test using quantilope’s pre-built (yet customizable) template or drag and drop question modules to start your survey from scratch.
Connect your panel of choice within quantilope’s fielding tab and begin analyzing results at any point within your fieldwork, using AI-driven analysis for chart titles and descriptions. Save your charts in the reporting tab to include in a final, shareable dashboard with an AI-generated insights summary.
quantilope offers many approaches to concept testing - with both quant and qual solutions and the largest suite of advanced methodologies out of any research platform.
To learn more about how quantilope’s online concept testing tools can help you build and launch successful products or services, get in touch below!
Get in touch to learn more about concept testing with quantilope!