5 Concept Testing Tips

By Carmel Dibner

Companies often come to Applied Marketing Science (AMS) with a kernel of an idea – a new capability they’ve developed or a novel technology that they believe will change their industry. They approach our market research firm looking to quickly gauge customer interest in the new solution.

At AMS, we frequently help our clients to qualitatively test these early-stage ideas. But, before we can begin gathering feedback from the target audience, we must first carefully craft written concept descriptions as stimuli.


Below, we share five tips for writing effective concepts:

1. Explicitly articulate the customer needs on which the concept is based.

Don’t rely on respondents to read the concept description and deduce the need(s) it would address. Explicitly state them. Furthermore, the needs shouldn’t be guesses. They should be verified unmet needs based on Voice of the Customer research. Oftentimes there are several needs that a concept could address, and it’s beneficial to list more than one need in the written description. This approach will afford you the opportunity to engage respondents in a rich discussion to understand how well the concept addresses each need.

2. Don’t get lost in the technical details, quite yet!

For early stage concept testing, there’s no need to detail exactly how the technology would work. At this point, the goal is to convey the benefits and determine whether the idea would be appealing to the customer. For example, a company designing a new in-home speaker system may want to talk about “new surround sound technology that provides the most robust sound and greatest range of volume”. This kind of a description is often better than providing a precise explanation of how the technology optimally splits the audio signal in a way that only sound engineers would understand.

3. Provide just enough technical details so customers believe you could solve the problem.

While you don’t want to share too many technical details, it’s important to share some details so that customers believe a solution is feasible. Sometimes, one brief sentence overviewing the technology is enough to get customers beyond the objection of “that’s not possible!” Ways to do this can include sentences that speak to “a novel technology that…” or “a formulation uniquely designed to….”. For example, “a novel way to have food delivered to your home that…” or “a new formulation designed to treat the most stubborn carpet stains…”

4. Make sure your concept is written concisely.

Often, one or two paragraphs are enough to test a concept qualitatively. If your concept is too detailed, respondents may react to a sub-section of the concept and not the overall idea that you intend to test. You don’t want to get a false positive – or negative – result based on details that aren’t core to the concept.

5. Think carefully about how you format the concept.

Try to avoid writing dense paragraphs that are hard for your customer to read through and process. Instead, opt for one to two short paragraphs and bullet point when possible. This is especially true when asking respondents to evaluate more than one concept during a qualitative interview.

By following these tips, you can maximize the results of your concept testing.

Effective concept testing requires a clear understanding of your customers’ needs. Learn how to uncover a complete set of customer needs in our upcoming webinar.

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Prototype and Concept Testing

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