Product Concept Testing: How to Go to Market with Confidence

Here’s a statistic that may shock you: 95% of product launches fail. With approximately 30,000 new consumer products entering the market each year, that means only 1,500 will stick around. According to Harvard Business School, one of the main contributors to a product’s failure is a lack of preparation before launch. If you want your new product to succeed, it’s critical to complete the necessary research and development before it ever hits the shelves. The best way to do that? Product concept testing.

What is Product Concept Testing?

Product concept tests is a form of market research that gives valuable insight into how consumers will respond to product, design, and marketing ideas early on in the development process. Before you invest time, resources, and production hours, concept testing can help you hone the final product and see what resonates with consumers.  


When you develop a product, you do so because you assume it will connect with consumers. Put simply, product concept testing helps you validate that assumption.


The Benefits of Concept Testing

Here are a few reasons why concept testing should be a part of your product development process:

  1. It helps you weed out the bad ideas: If your team is evaluating multiple product ideas, concept testing can help you determine which (if any) would be valuable to consumers. Pursuing bad ideas comes with a cost, and could damage your company’s reputation if it draws enough attention. By testing your ideas with consumers before they’re developed, you can avoid wasting resources and make informed decisions when choosing between competing ideas.
  2. It saves you time and money: Yes, concept testing adds time to the development process—but think of the time and money you’ll save by investing only in products that have been evaluated (and approved) by a test group. Failed products can be costly, and concept testing helps you avoid wasting precious resources on products that won’t do well in the market. Plus, conducting online market research has never been easier with the help of market research companies like Starlight Analytics and concept testing survey platforms like SurveyMonkey.
  3. It gives you (and others) more confidence in your product launch. Wouldn’t it be nice to know whether or not people would actually be interested in your product before you invest time and money in creating it? Concept testing can help with that. It can also help you get buy-in from executives, team members, or investors who may not be sure about a new project.


The benefits of concept testing- when to run a concept test & how to run one

Real-Life Examples of Concept Testing

Here are a few real-life examples of concept tests and how they influenced the product development process:

  • A few years ago, Intuit used a test-and-learn approach to rapidly overhaul their Quickbooks Online software. Intuit employees collected feedback from customers while they were using Intuit software in their homes or at work. They then used the feedback to identify common pain points and found ways to solve them. Using this approach, they relaunched Quickbooks as a cloud-based, open platform—and subscribers increased by 58% during the following year.
  • Before officially launching the Model 3 in 2017, Tesla recruited people to learn more about the Model 3 (which hadn’t been fully designed yet). After learning about the car and sharing their feedback, participants had the option to put down a $1,000deposit for their own Model 3. Tesla raised $400 million from this project and used the participant’s feedback during the final design stages.


When to Run Concept Testing

Concept testing can (and should) be performed at multiple stages of product development. Whether you’re looking for feedback on an early-stage product idea or you’re finalizing a prototype and packaging, concept testing can fit in during virtually any stage of the process. Here area few ways to use concept tests throughout the product development process:

  • During the ideation stage, you can run concept tests to determine if your product can actually help solve the problem you’re hoping to address.
  • During the design stage, concept tests can help you narrow down which features a product should (or shouldn’t) include.
  • Once you have a prototype, you can solicit consumer feedback on the usability and overall experience.
  • As you near the final stages, you can run concept tests to get feedback on branding, packaging, and more before launch.

How to Run a Concept Test For Your Product

There are a handful of ways to gauge customer appetite for product concepts, but one of the most common (and effective) methods is running a survey. By surveying end users, you can get in-depth insights about the overall effectiveness and appeal of a product with your target customers. Here are the basic steps to concept testing:

Get input from all stakeholders

Before you test anything, make sure you know what you’d like to test. Meet with all the stakeholders to brainstorm the test concepts, discuss the survey parameters, and decide what you’d like to test.

Set your goals

What do you want to learn with your concept test? Are you trying to A/B test two products? Are you looking for feedback on whether or not consumers will like a new feature you’re thinking of adding to an existing product? Make sure you have clear goals in mind before developing a survey.

Choose your survey methodology

Depending on whether you’re running the survey yourself or working with a third party to facilitate the test, you may have to choose between a variety of survey methodologies. Two popular methodologies include:

  • Monadic testing: Split your survey respondents into multiple groups and ask each group about one concept. This lets you get in-depth responses about very specific concepts.
  • Sequential monadic testing: Show respondents two or more products and ask how they compare. You may not get in-depth insights into individual concepts, but you’ll get a better idea of how they stack up against each other.

Build your survey

Survey design is a crucial part of a concept test. Let your participants know what to expect from the survey and how long it will take. When building your survey, avoid leading questions that may lead to biased responses. Try to keep your questions consistent and use visuals so respondents know what you’re referencing.

Recruit your respondents

If you’re building a product for a specific target market, you need feedback from people who fall into the target audience. Make sure you’re only surveying the appropriate audience or their feedback won’t be as helpful.

Conduct your survey

Once you’ve built your survey and recruited participants, you can conduct the survey.

Analyze the data

This is the most important step in the process. You can generally draw conclusions pretty easily from quantitative data (e.g. How would you rate this product on a scale of 1-5?), but data analysis can be trickier with qualitative responses. You can drill down into the data to filter by various categories (e.g. respondent age, respondent income, etc) to gain a better understanding of how your product is received by different demographics.

Common Concept Testing Mistakes

Concept tests can be time-consuming, and it’s not uncommon for mistakes to happen. Try to avoid these common mistakes while running your concept tests:

1. Choosing the wrong survey method.

The survey method you choose for your test will depend on where you are in the product development process. Some stages will require long-form, qualitative feedback, while others can benefit from quick, to-the-point quantitative questions.

2. Recruiting the wrong participants.

Asking the wrong people about your product won’t give you the insights you need to continue the development process. For example, you probably shouldn’t survey people without any children about a new diaper design!

3. Testing for too many things.

If you’re trying to test for multiple variables across multiple concepts, your data will get muddy and you won’t be able to draw clear conclusions.

4. Asking too many questions.

Similar to the above mistake, asking too many questions can crowd your data pool and make it hard to draw out important insights.  

5. Not having clear goals in mind.

If you don’t have a predetermined goal before building the survey, you’ll run the risk of asking the wrong things, which means your survey data won’t be as valuable as it would if you’d gone into the process with an agreed upon goal.


Now that you know the basics about concept tests, you can start incorporating them into your own product development. Concept tests are invaluable tools that can ensure you’re on the right track with your product. They’re a great learning opportunity, and when used properly, can help you go to market with confidence that your product provides a clear benefit to consumers.

Partner with Starlight Analytics For Your Online Market Research

Starlight Analytics helps power winning products across all major industries.

Whether you’re early on in the product development process or you have fully developed concepts, Starlight Analytics’ rapid, customized product concept testing delivers you high-quality results so you can stand out in the market.

 Our team brings world-class, easy-to-read research to key product decision-makers. Using our data science expertise and best-in-class methodologies, we take the uncertainty and guesswork out of product research, while keeping our insights powerfully simple. Contact us today to get started.

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