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Concept Testing: The One Question You Must Ask First

At many companies, concept testing is a routine market research exercise. Using qualitative methods like in-depth interviews and focus groups, or quantitative methods like survey research, innovators can gain important insights about how customer react to new product ideas. Customer data can provide a team with the ammunition needed to proceed with a new product, send it back to the drawing board, or kill it outright.

A concept test is fundamentally an exercise in narrowing risk. Rushing a product to market only to have it fail commercially because it did not meet important customer needs can be expensive and embarrassing. Thus, validating your idea with customers before proceeding to production and launch is often money and time well spent. Questions you might ask in a concept test—whether about overall product appeal, willingness to purchase, believability, and especially, perceived fit with unmet needs—can give you reassurance that you’re headed in the right direction.

If your team is considering a concept test, however, there is one question you must ask first: “What if we fail the test?” In other words, what will the team do if the test data yield an unfavorable result? If you are so invested in the current product design, either financially or emotionally, that a course correction is off the table, then a concept test is a waste of effort. To be truly worth the time and money, you must be ready to accept news that you might not want to hear. Yet hard though it may be to learn that your idea is a dud, in the end you will be better off failing quickly and cheaply, and living to fight another day.

Don’t miss our webinar on demand, “Make the Right Choice: How Concept Testing Leads to Better Products”. In this webinar, Kristyn Corrigan will provide an overview of best practices in concept testing, and give you specific tips on how to make your next concept-testing market research project a success.

Man reviews concept testing process

Prototype and Concept Testing

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