One of the most costly and risky business activities in developing and introducing a new product. Only a small portion of new products are truly successful. There are many reasons for why products fail. One of the primary reasons is because the company didn’t conduct sufficient market research during product development. Product concept testing is an essential tool for bringing new products to market and takes solid research.

The Purpose of Product Concept Testing

Product concept testing uses quantitative methods and qualitative methods to evaluate customer/consumer response to a product idea prior to the introduction of a product to the market. Concept testing is an investment of time and money and while it takes both, it can save a company much more than it uses.

The purpose of concept testing is to attempt to predict the success of a new product idea before putting it into the market. The process usually takes place in the early stages of the product development cycle which involves acquiring people’s reactions to statements describing the product in order to refine the offer. The challenge with the approach is that people are skeptical of new ideas and they will not know how they will behave or what they will buy in the future.

How to Present a New Product Idea

It’s very possible some products we all use today such as ATM machines or DVRs wouldn’t have made it to market using a traditional approach to product concept testing because people tend to shy away from having to learn a new way to do things. So just presenting a new idea statement in a focus group as the product concept test is not the best approach.

A better way to conduct a concept test is in a “laboratory” setting and to reframe the process from being a test process to a development process. The laboratory setting employs customer-oriented scenarios.

Use a 4 Step Process to Test New Product Concepts

A Four Step Product Concept Testing Process

  1. Investigate: The initial development can use interview, intercept and mystery shopping approaches. Why? Because you want to avoid having people react to a paper statement. Instead you want to “investigate” why people are doing what they do now to “solve the problem” your product will address, their current level of satisfaction with their solution, what they wish their solution could do better and differently, and why. The point of these initial conversations is to try to understand which solution(s) they use today doesn’t address their most painful issues, not necessarily the most important, but the most painful.
  2. Listen: Once the first step is completed, use this information to create and present a series of “what if’s” hypotheses for them to evaluate. The “what ifs” can include feature and functionality scenarios but we would recommend that the focus be more on the function and use than the features. People can describe what they need and want to use but may not be able to describe or select 2 features to do it. Listen to the words they use, the way they categorize their ideas. This will be extremely important when it comes to your go-to-market strategy and positioning. You will want to incorporate your prospects’ words into your framework.
  3. Develop: The final step is to write the concept statement which should be done only AFTER you’ve completed the first two steps. The concept statement is not a spec sheet. It should be description of the present situation in the words used by the customer and describe a product concept as a solution to a problem.
  4. Test: Now you are ready to being the concept refinement process which typically utilizes a focus group methodology. However, while we are using focus groups, they will be conducted slightly differently. Rather than presenting the concept on paper we recommend creating a set of “customer-oriented scenarios”. Use the scenarios to elicit concerns, objections, praise and new ways of describing the product. Build on each session to refine your idea. The reiterative scenario process described is going to take 8-12 sessions. If you take this approach, it will be very important to:
  • Tell them what you want them to do and how to approach the task.
  • Make it fun and safe so they can think hypothetically.
  • Make it clear that they are there to help you develop the basic idea into something useful and better and that their suggestions and constructive criticisms are essential to the process.

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As you conduct the “test” remember to focus more on your prospective customers’ reactions rather than what they think they would feel.

Use subsequent groups to test the feedback from earlier groups. One of things you want to pay particular attention to is shifts in opinion. When this occurs, try to understand when and why the shift occurred. Throughout this approach you can use this same approach to test each phase of development to ensure you’re product is still on track with meeting your customers’ needs and wants.

If you don’t have experience and expertise to do this work, then tap ours.

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