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Concept Testing: Examples | Types | Costs | Benefits

Updated: Apr 4

Part of the great concept testing examples to draw inspiration from - red felt pen highlighting the process from analysis to concept to solution to success

Discover how concept testing works with examples along with the definition, the types, costs and benefits to highlight the importance of conducting concept testing research from product or service designs to advertising and messaging. Concept testing will not only help to establish whether a new idea will attract potential customers but also refine elements of the offering to be more appealing to a target audience.

Table of contents:

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What is concept testing?

Concept testing helps to evaluate one or more new ideas amongst a small selection of people that are representative of a target audience for a business or organisation. This technique will support refinement of product and service ideas in the early stages of product development (NPD) but is also used for advertising, website design, packaging design, name tests, logo testing and promotions.

9 key reasons why concept testing is important

The concept testing examples mentioned above highlight many of the advantages of conducting concept tests. Here are 9 significant reasons that emphasise the importance of concept testing:

1. Helps to prevent making the wrong selection

All types of businesses are susceptible to mistakes such as the logo designs for BP (British Petroleum) in 2000 and Dirty Bird (Welsh catering company), so choosing a bad idea is likely to be very costly and cause reputable damage to your brand. Therefore, the need to test these ideas with your target audience and see what they think, what they like and dislike is invaluable.

2. Optimising features and design

In surveying your desired audience you are able to test all elements of the concept idea whether that be the colours, features, style, pricing or branding that resonate positively or negatively with potential customers. Adjustments can be made to the concept following the initial findings and be retested again until you find a concept idea that your customers will truly want and need.

3. Helps to gain backing from your work colleagues

The consumer insights gained from the research maybe positive to win over any sceptical colleagues at work to warm to your ideas like the popularity of the idea or the high level of purchase intent amongst potential customers.

4. Customer Validation

By gathering feedback from the target audience during concept testing, businesses can confirm whether their product or service meets the needs, preferences, and expectations of customers. This validation is crucial for ensuring that the final product will be well-received in the market.

5. Message Refinement

Understanding how the target audience responds to different marketing messages helps in improving communication strategies. Concept testing allows businesses to identify the most effective messaging to convey the value proposition, resulting in more engaging and impactful marketing campaigns.

6. Resource Allocation

Efficient allocation of resources is vital in product development. Concept testing helps businesses prioritise concepts based on customer feedback, enabling them to focus their resources on the most promising ideas and avoid investing in less viable ones.

7. Competitive Advantage

In competitive markets, concept testing provides a strategic advantage by helping businesses understand how their proposed product or service compares to existing offerings. This knowledge allows for differentiation and the development of unique selling points.

8. Time and Cost Savings

Investing in concept testing early in the product development process can save both time and costs. Identifying and addressing issues at the concept stage is more cost-effective than making changes after the product has been fully developed or launched.

9. Market Adaptation

Markets are constantly changing, and consumer preferences evolve. Concept testing enables businesses to adapt their products to changing market conditions, ensuring that the final offering remains relevant and competitive.

4 main types of concept testing

There are 4 main types of concept testing, each serving a specific purpose. Here are explanations and examples for each type:

  1. Monadic testing (single concept)

  2. Sequential monadic testing (multiple concepts)

  3. Protomonadic testing (multiple concepts with a preference at the end)

  4. Comparative testing (comparing multiple concepts)

1. Monadic Testing

Description: Monadic testing is a technique where participants are presented with a product to test on its own, rather than being asked to compare it with a competing product. Therefore, each person only tries one product and then the evaluative questions are asked, for example, overall liking, value for money questions and so on. This approach ensures that each participant can review and provide feedback on the concept without being influenced by exposure to multiple concepts. These types of monadic tests are used for new products or line extensions. A current offering should be included as a control/benchmark.

Example: For instance, let's say a consumer goods company is working on a new packaging design for a snack product. In monadic testing, individual participants are shown only one version of the packaging. This allows the company to gather unbiased feedback on the packaging's appeal, readability, and overall impression.

2. Sequential monadic testing

Description: Sequential monadic testing is a technique that involves presenting participants with different concepts one by one, allowing for independent feedback on each concept. This approach eliminates the bias that can arise from direct comparisons and provides valuable insights for decision-making. Participants should be evenly distributed across all concepts as a starting point, so that they have an equal opportunity of seeing each of the concepts first.

Example: Imagine a company planning to launch a new product. By using sequential monadic testing, they can gather feedback on each product feature separately, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of customer preferences and needs.

3. Protomonadic testing

Description: Protomonadic testing is a method that starts by introducing a primary or "proto" concept to participants, followed by other concepts, which are then compared at the end in find out their preferred choice. The main purpose of the primary concept is to serve as a point of reference for participants to evaluate and differentiate the subsequent concepts.

Example: A software company is working on enhancing the design of their productivity application. In protomonadic testing, they would first show participants the existing interface as the proto concept. Then, they would introduce different interface concepts and gather feedback from participants regarding their usability and features in comparison to the original interface.

4. Comparative testing

Description: Comparative testing is used to compare two or more concept ideas to see how they measure up to against each other by evaluating the performance of these concepts. This approach helps to identify preferences and strengths/weaknesses between the concepts being tested.

Example: A clothing brand wants to launch a new collection. By using comparative testing, participants are shown different designs side by side and are asked to rank them based on factors like style, comfort, and price. This enables the brand to determine which designs are most preferred by their target audience.

These methods for testing concepts offer flexibility in collecting feedback based on the particular objectives of the testing procedure. Monadic and sequential monadic testing offer valuable insights into the performance of individual concepts, while protomonadic and comparative testing enable direct comparisons between concepts, assisting in the identification of the most favourable options for further development or implementation.

5 good concept testing examples

There are some great examples of concept testing to show the importance of

conducting this type of research:

1. Tesla (2017)

This has got to be one of the best examples of concept testing, where respondents virtually bought into concept idea they were evaluating.

Back in 2017, Tesla were running concept tests of their new Model 3 car and after participants finished studying and evaluating the concept car, they were invited to put down a deposit for the Tesla Model 3. The result of this move generated $400 million and the findings from the research were put into action to make any necessary modifications.

2. Coke Zero

Coke Zero may have been called Zero Fat Coke if concept testing research was not done. Plus, the launch of the drink was slow even though concept results highlighted big market potential. However, the marketers stuck with the concept idea and it eventually turned out to be a success.

3. Yamaha

Yamaha in their production of musical instruments, were weighing up the idea of whether to use sliders or knobs on their Yamaha Montage Keyboard. They conducted a survey to test the preference of these ideas and received 400 responses from musicians across the globe. In a relatively short time, they were able to make a decision where sliders were included with a key knob.

4. Lego (2012)

For many years Lego was mainly bought for boys, which concerned the brand so they conducted market research over period of time and found boys and girls interacted with the Lego in different ways. Boys tended to like stand-alone structures, while girls were more concerned with the backgrounds and environments.

Therefore, with the help of concept testing, Lego launched Lego Friends in 2012 with the product range including stylised boxes of Lego to build a pop star house, cupcake café, a hair salon, supermarket and so on. This proved to be a resounding success with the brand’s average annual growth of 15% since launch.

5. Apple iPod (2001)

Before the iPod, portable digital music players existed, but they were often bulky and had limited storage. Apple set out to revolutionise the music industry by creating a device that could store a significant amount of music and provide a seamless user experience. To ensure the iPod's success, Apple conducted extensive concept testing during its development. They gathered feedback from potential users to understand their preferences for design, functionality, and user interface. This allowed Apple to create a sleek, portable music player that aligned with consumer expectations and needs.

The iPod's minimalist design, scroll wheel for easy navigation, and ability to store thousands of songs made it a ground-breaking success. It reshaped the music industry and paved the way for the digital music revolution. The iPod's positive reception and continued dominance in the market demonstrate the effectiveness of concept testing in meeting consumer demands.

Examples of when concept testing was not applied correctly

Concept testing is essential in preventing costly mistakes, as demonstrated by the following examples. There are instances where businesses rely solely on instinct without conducting any research, and unfortunately, it often leads to failure. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to conduct concept testing to avoid such expensive errors.

Hard Rock Theme Park at Myrtle Beach (2008)

Situation: $400 million was invested in a venture to open a Hard Rock Theme Park at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, where management did not conduct market research of either the market or the concept as well as ignoring advice from leading experts.

Outcome: The result of not conducting any research and listening to advice led to the theme park being shut down six months after it’s grand opening.

New Coke by Coca-Cola (1985)

Situation: Coca-Cola, a well-established beverage company, decided to reformulate its iconic cola and launched "New Coke" without thorough concept testing.

Outcome: The response from consumers was overwhelmingly negative. The new formula didn't resonate with the loyal customer base, and there was a public outcry. Coca-Cola had to reintroduce the original formula as "Coca-Cola Classic" to regain consumer trust.

Microsoft Windows 8 (2012)

Situation: Microsoft released Windows 8 with a radically redesigned user interface without extensive user testing.

Outcome: The operating system was criticised for its departure from familiar features, causing confusion among users. The lack of concept testing resulted in poor adoption rates and negative reviews. Microsoft subsequently released Windows 8.1, addressing some of the usability issues.

Amazon Fire Phone (2014)

Situation: Amazon launched its Fire Phone with features like 3D display and dynamic perspective without adequately testing the concept's appeal.

Outcome: The phone received lacklustre reviews, and sales were disappointing. Consumers did not find the unique features compelling, and the high initial price point further hindered its success. The Fire Phone was eventually discontinued, illustrating the importance of concept testing in the highly competitive smartphone market.

How much does concept testing cost?

There are two avenues that are available to do concept testing with different ranges in cost.

Research agencies typically cost between $11,000 to $30,000 (£8,000 to £20,000)

If using research agencies, concept testing can typically cost between $11,000 to $30,000 (£8,000 to £20,000), which is dependent on the sample size, the number of concepts being tested and the level of difficulty interviewing your target audience (incidence).

This will not only include the fieldwork costs but also the analysis and reporting of the results. For business 2 business research (B2B), the cost will be alot more due to a smaller more complex audience for recruitment along with a likely alternative method of recruitment being used (telephone research).

DIY market research via survey platforms typically charge from $19 (£21) per month (personal plan) to $200 (£150) per month (business plan)

Alternatively there is a much cheaper option through DIY market research, there are survey platforms available such as JotForm with a wide range of customisable template surveys and a variety of other online forms that you can use including concept testing or SurveySparrow that also include their own online panels to take part in the research if you don't have customer or subscriber database that you can reach out to.

These survey platforms typically charge from $19 (£21) per month for a personal plan to $200 (£150) per month for a business plan. This will not only be for concepts test but other types of surveys and forms of customer feedback as well to give you continuous insights of your client base.

An interesting alternative to the standard survey makers is PickFu, which allows anyone to run a quick poll of one or more questions to their 15 million panellists across multiple countries in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and Mexico.

This could be for assessing ideas, developing concepts, comparing designs or for a launch of a new product. Below are some examples of how this platform can be used:

  • Best website landing page including Amazon sales pages.

  • Comparing product designs, book covers or logos.

  • Testing which ad messages work best.

  • For the development of a new app, website, video or anything else.

  • Assessing interest of a potential new product or app.

PickFu is a simple, inexpensive (starts at $15) and easy to use solution for individuals or businesses whether it is a one off or on a regular basis in enabling you to define your audience, run a poll and view results quickly. Therefore, this is great to test before presenting this idea, message or product whether you have an existing audience or not.

Factors that affect the cost of concept testing

The given examples above provide you with an idea of the potential costs involved, but it's important to note that the cost of concept testing can vary significantly based on various factors. These factors include the complexity of the product or service, the testing method chosen, the size of the sample group, and the geographic scope of the testing.

Below are some factors that can impact the cost of concept testing:

1. Research methodology

The type of concept testing method chosen, such as surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, or online testing, can impact costs. Some methods may require more extensive resources or specialised expertise.

2. Sample size

The number of participants involved in the testing process can influence costs. Larger sample sizes generally provide more robust and representative results but may incur higher expenses.

3. Geographic scope

If concept testing needs to be conducted in multiple regions or countries, expenses may increase due to the need for diverse participant groups and potentially different research methodologies for each location.

4. Technology and tools

The use of advanced technology and tools for data collection, analysis, and reporting can contribute to the overall cost. Online surveys, video conferencing, and specialised software may have associated fees.

5. Expertise and consultation

Hiring professionals or consultants with expertise in market research, consumer behaviour, and concept testing can add to the overall cost. Their guidance can be valuable in designing and executing effective concept testing.

6. Prototype development

If concept testing involves the creation of prototypes or samples of the product or service, the cost of developing these materials needs to be considered.

7. Travel and facility costs

For in-person concept testing, travel expenses, venue rental, and facility costs for focus group sessions or interviews can contribute to the overall budget.

8. Data analysis and reporting

The process of analysing data collected during concept testing and preparing comprehensive reports may involve additional costs, particularly if specialised statistical analysis is required.

How to conduct concept testing?

Conducting concept testing involves a structured process to gather valuable feedback on a product or service idea. The following are the key steps you would typically take:

1. Define objectives and research questions

Clearly state the goals of the concept testing and the specific research questions you want to answer. This will guide the entire process and ensure that the testing aligns with the product development goals.

2. Develop clear concepts

Clearly articulate the concepts or ideas you want to test. This can include written descriptions, visual representations, or prototypes. Make sure the concepts are well-defined and representative of the intended product or service.

3. Identify the target audience

Define the target audience for the concept testing. This group should represent the potential consumers or users of the product. Ensure diversity in the sample to capture a range of perspectives.

4. Choose the concept testing method

Select the appropriate concept testing method based on your objectives and resources. Common methods include surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, prototype testing, or a combination of these. Each method has its strengths and is suited to different types of concepts.

5. Design the test materials

Prepare the materials needed for testing, such as a survey questionnaire, discussion guide for focus groups, or prototypes for hands-on evaluation. Make sure the materials are clear, unbiased, and aligned with the research objectives.

6. Recruit participants

Recruit participants from the defined target audience. Use appropriate channels for recruitment, such as online platforms, market research agencies, or customer databases. Ensure that the sample size is sufficient for meaningful insights.

7. Conduct the concept testing

Administer the concept testing based on the chosen method. If using surveys, distribute them to participants. For focus groups or interviews, facilitate discussions following the designed guide. If using prototypes, allow participants to interact with them and gather their feedback.

8. Collect and analyse data

Obtain responses and data from the concept testing phase. Utilise both quantitative and qualitative analysis methods, depending on the nature of the feedback. Look for patterns, trends, and valuable insights that can provide guidance for decision-making.

9. Iterate and refine concepts

Based on the feedback received, iterate and refine the concepts. Address any identified weaknesses or concerns, and enhance the strengths of the concepts. This may involve adjusting features, refining messaging, or modifying design elements.

10. Draw conclusions and make recommendations

Summarise the findings, draw conclusions about the viability and appeal of the concepts, and make recommendations for further development or refinement. Consider how the feedback aligns with the initial objectives and determine if any adjustments are necessary.

11. Communicate results

Share the results and insights with relevant stakeholders, including product development teams, marketing teams, and decision-makers. Utilise the information to guide the next steps in the product development process.

12. Implement changes and monitor success

Implement the recommended changes to the product concept based on the concept testing results. As the product progresses, monitor its success in the market and remain open to further adjustments based on ongoing feedback and market dynamics.

Key take out

Concept testing is the key to unlocking successful product development. By investing the time to understand the needs of your users, you can ensure you have the right product at the right time. By weighing the pros and cons of different approaches in concept testing, you can find the best solution for your product and maximise the success of your business.

Ultimately, the success of concept testing lies in its ability to be tailored to meet the needs of a business and its audience. It is a powerful tool that should not be overlooked when developing a successful product. So, take the time to weigh the options and plan your concept testing wisely.



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