Concept testing can be and should be conducted at series of stage gates in the product development process to improve the product launch and in-market success of new and improved ideas. As a variety of product managers in many industries are aware, all too often products make it to market but fail within their first year.

To optimize your product development processes and increase your product’s chances of succeeding, learn more about concept testing, from what it truly is to why it’s important to how you conduct it.

What Is Concept Testing?

Before we can even define concept testing, it’s best to understand how it fits within the product development process. Every company, regardless of whether they are in consumer-packaged goods, technology, or food and beverage, follows certain steps for product development.

Often the process begins with ideation, where product teams and other strategic members of a company come together to brainstorm the next innovation. From there, additional steps are taken, and concepts begin to emerge. These concepts are the ones that require further testing and development. Below is an example of a traditional approach to product development:

Whether your product development process aligns with this, it’s safe to say there’s some sort of validation or concept testing stage associated with it.

But now to define concept testing: concept testing is an assessment (usually done through the use of quantitative research methods) of one or more new products or service ideas among a target audience. Concept testing is important for a variety of reasons, and as you’ll see—is instrumental to product success.

Why Is Concept Testing Important?

Concept testing eliminates poor ideas earlier on the product development timeline in order to save time and resources. The way concept testing improves product success is by prioritizing, assessing, identifying, and validating various attributes of a concept.

1. Prioritizes Ideas: First and foremost, if product teams have multiple ideas, they’ll need to figure out which ones to move forward with. This is true of concepts that are both similar and very different. As a result, concept testing early on in the process eliminates poor ideas and ensures only the ideas more likely to succeed are expanded upon.

2. Assesses Performance: Some concept tests assess performance based off of benchmarks or norms. However, most can be done through statistical testing and metrics. Assessing the performance of all concepts helps to understand whether you’re headed in the right direction—specific to your brand or product’s needs.

3. Identifies Improvements: Similar to how concept testing assesses performance, testing a concept against metrics can help identify which areas need improvement or even provide red flags such as issues with pricing, colors, messaging and more.

4. Validates: The end-goal of concept testing is of course to validate one or more concepts. Once prioritized, assessed and improved, concepts are ready to move forward in the product development timeline.

When do you Conduct Concept Testing?

You likely already knew what concept testing was, and why it was important to some degree. But what really matters is making sure you conduct concept testing when it’s necessary and most impactful.

Based off of the product development process listed above, concept testing can actually take place during ideation, screening, and concept testing. Concept tests during ideation and screening are often less robust and more tactile—and won’t always occur.

For example, brands can either feel comfortable with a new product line addition based off of prior research and analysis and feel concept testing during the ideation and screening phase is unnecessary. On the other hand, if a company is looking at releasing a completely new innovation to the public, then conducting multiple phases of concept testing is much more likely to result

Regardless of the type of industry or product, concept testing must take place no matter what prior to product development. This may sound extreme to some, but product managers know without it, it’s much easier to end in product failure.

Further, concept testing should take place when a brand is pursuing an entirely new product, an addition to a product line, or looking to conduct improvements or optimizations to an existing product.

What Does Concept Testing Entail?

While we are more than happy to be your partner when it comes to concept testing, here’s what you can expect.

First and foremost, defining a target audience among which to conduct the concept test is important to make sure you’re getting the opinions of people that matter most. You want those who are either aware of your brand, non-rejecters of the category, intend to purchase the product in question in the near future, etc., to take part in your concept test.

Once the target market is determined, evaluate what metrics are most important to measure in the context of your business and the concepts. Examples of common and effective metrics in concept testing include purchase intent, uniqueness, appeal, and believability. Other more relevant or creative metrics could be:

  • Packaging appeal
  • Brand or industry fit
  • Clear communication
  • Impact

Outside metric evaluation, concept testing can also assess more specific details related to such things including the brand, price, features, and benefits. If it’s just one or two more finalized concepts, concept testing can sometimes even evaluate the potential for personalization or customization opportunities.

Last but not least, concept testing can start to understand things like where consumers would look to buy the product and any barriers and triggers that may exist—though that often requires more custom market research.

If a brand wants to get the most out of their concept testing, they should also look to combine qualitative and quantitative methods. Quantitative research can help prioritize and validate ideas while qualitative research can help assess and improve them.

Ready to get concept testing or optimize your concept testing process? We offer concept testing through our custom research offering where you can test, measure, and assess the validity of the product or digital concepts and determine which are winners and which are losers. Contact us to learn more.


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