Concept testing is a term that lies at the cornerstone of every business endeavour and its plan of progress. While a layman might assume that companies launch new products every now and then as and when they come up with innovative ideas of improvements on existing products, this is far from reality. Any company that nurtures a new product idea would test it first for possibilities of success rather than directly presenting it at the open market. An interesting insight from Harvard Business School claims that about 95% of all product launches fail, mostly because of the companies’ inability to gauge their consumers requirements and demands, through inappropriate segmentation. Professor Clayton Christensen from The Harvard Business School points out that while demographic and economic segmentation may help in knowing one’s customer base better, it falls short of capturing their choices in the context of a product simply because the choices are not derived from their segment categories.
This is where concept testing figures as an effective research method to aid in the planning and execution of product launch by brands. It involves laying the ideas of a product in front of a customer and asking questions about its acceptability and their willingness to buy it. This enables the company to make critical decisions relating to the launch. Concept testing can be done to assess one or more of the following at a time:
- Purchase intent – whether consumers want the product enough to be willing to spend their hard-earned money to buy it
- Message appeal – how to suitably word the message promoting the product to appeal to the consumer in the strongest way
- Logo appeal – what logo appeals the best to consumers, what they would remember most
- Product development – whether the intended product has all the features/qualities that customers are looking for in the category
- Advertising and concept appeal – where to put the campaigns for maximum reach and viewing
- Pricing and offer – whether it is viable to make the product, sell it and profit from it at the projected price point
- Website appeal – whether the website layout, design and content are in line with the mission, vision and goal of the organisation
- Name appeal – whether the name of the product or the brand has the right appeal for and connect with the audience
Concept testing offers the following benefits:
- It helps gauge the market of the concept
- It helps prove the acceptability of the concept to consumers
- It helps avoid making bad decisions
- It helps identify the areas and features that customers find the most acceptable
For a market research agency, concept testing of products is the marker that allows them to point their client companies in the right direction in terms of decision making. This is the way they can ensure that innovation does not fall flat as the new launch hits the market, just because companies failed to foresee the reaction to their product with any accuracy.
Some real-life examples of concept testing would help showcase how it achieves the above.
- An advertisement concept test done for a popular scooty brand to find out which resonated most with its women consumers, delivered how the women populace looked at the functionality of a scooty as a medium of independence, and how this opinion varied based on the part of the country. The concept test included deep-diving into consumers’ minds through in-depth questions as well as into their personal accommodation through physical visit to arrive at a comprehensive picture of their lifestyle, their mindscape so as to track the path of their requirements and aspirations
- A concept test done for a sports shoes brand brought out how consumers looked upon sports shoes not only as a sports appendage but also as a style statement, directing the client to consider more variations in style and colour in addition to more brand visibility
- A concept test for a popular skincare company promoting their serum conducted in a way that consumers shared their skincare concerns and skincare journey, highlighting their awareness or the lack of it about serums in the procedure. The study deep-dived to find out the consumers’ concerns about the usage of serums, eventually figuring out the need gaps and directing them to the client for improved strategic moves in their promotion of the product
Hence, the idea of concept testing considers that consumers’ needs may not only be pre-existent, but also something that can be created if the product can be made to resonate with their untapped needs. It also acknowledges that demographic profile of a consumer might not necessarily translate to a pattern of choices when it comes to a range of products, but would often depend on the mood of the moment. This blend of demographic and psychological profiling is what makes concept testing an established strategic move to bring direction to a brand’s planning and execution of its business.