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Concept testing

An idea is finally developed to a point where its benefits can be communicated to target consumers in order to assess their reactions.

Concept testing is a quality check between the description of an idea and actual product development. A variety of approaches are available for concept testing. All methods involve a group of potential consumers rating one or more concept statements in which each concept is presented with specific focus on consumer needs or benefits.

The method of testing is based on the purpose of concept testing and should therefore provide all elements of interest where feedback is expected. Peng and Finn (2008) report the following purposes of practical concept testing:

  • to develop the original idea further
  • to estimate the concept's market potential
  • to eliminate poor concept(s)
  • to identify the value of concept features
  • to help identify the highest potential customer segment(s)
  • to generate an estimate of sales or trial rate
  • to provide diagnostic information.

What is concept testing about?

In more technical terms, consumers are presented with a stimulus (the concept) and measures of reaction are taken which the researcher believes are predictive of the behavioural response, such as eventual purchase (Tauber, 1981, p.169).

Definition: Concept testing

Concept stimuli design

Concepts can be presented in many forms, from a simple factual statement with minimum description of the product's attributes, to a commercialized concept making persuasive claims, or even to a full mock advertisement (Peng & Finn, 2004; Lees & Wright, 2004). Many concept tests use 'stripped' descriptions, with or without visual representations. Stripped descriptions provide a list of product characteristics in a short and concise manner. Additionally, images or sketch drawings of how the product may look can be used.

'Embellished' descriptions are another popular format. In contrast to stripped descriptions, they apply commercial language, words and phrases that are familiar from typical advertisements. Such statements can improve understanding about the product as many of them focus on problem solving; in other words, embellished descriptions often point out the core benefits offered by the product to overcome the consumer's problems.

Whatever the final result of the design looks like, the concept statement should be clear and realistic and should not oversell the concept (Crawford & Di Benedetto, 2008). Although the statement can be worded in a commercial or non-commercial format, the difference between the concept and existing alternatives in the marketplace should be unambiguous and credible. Other presentation formats are rough mock-up advertisements or even fully finished advertisements.

The following is a suggested template for a concept, comprising the above considerations.

Concept template

Core concept:

  • Provide a statement with the core concept in one sentence.
  • Use a preliminary product name (if available).


  • Describe the product benefits, based on sensory, convenience, health, process and other product attributes.
  • Decide on stripped versus embellished formulations.

Product information:

  • Provide information about relevant extrinsic cues such as price, size, product-related information.

Target users:

  • Tell your respondent how you would describe him or her.
  • Describe the person based on segmentation criteria.
  • Ask if he or she feels the description is appropriate. (Do not forget to ask about personal information, before or after the test.)

Survey format selection

You must decide on how you can address your target market best. Table 3 matches the survey format with commonly available methods of communication. It shows that not every format suits every contact method. Whereas all formats are applicable for personal (face-to-face, F2F) communication, modern information and communication technologies differ in their compatibility, as the interactive content or format increases. Physical samples, which could also be sent by a conventional mail service, are a special case. This usually involves substantial financial costs and the potential gains do not justify such investment. The alternative is to allow product trials at the point of purchase.

Table 3. Match between survey format and ways of communicating the product concept (adapted from Ulrich & Eppinger, 2008).

F2F Internet Email Telephone

Verbal text





Physical sample

















Concept stimuli design and choice of survey format need to be considered simultaneously. You need to know what has to be communicated about the concept and how to communicate the concept best to the right people.

Measuring customer response

Up-to-date and constant contact with customers and participants provides an excellent source of information and can act as a check to see if your ideas are working in the way they are supposed to. One way to do this is to use a questionnaire.

You can ask the potential consumer group to fill it out or you can ask the questions yourself and write down the customer's replies. If you have the chance to ask a group of customers you can use the questions as a basis for discussion; perhaps the group can agree on their replies.

Examples of questions asked during concept testing

Would you be interested in such a product?

  • Not at all interested
  • Hardly interested
  • Somewhat interested
  • Interested
  • Very interested

Why? ...

How much do you like the product?

  • Not at all
  • Not that much
  • Neither like nor dislike
  • Like it
  • Like it very much

What do you think is the best thing about the product? ...

What do you think is the worst thing about the product? ...

You are already buying ... (brand AA). How well do you think this product would compare to it?

  • Not very well
  • To some degree
  • Just as good
  • Somewhat better
  • Much better

Why? ...

Let's imagine that the product would already be available to purchase for _______. Would this price be of interest to you?

  • No interest at all
  • Not that interesting
  • Somewhat interesting
  • Interesting
  • Very interesting

Suppose the product is already available to purchase. How much do you think you should pay for it? ...

Why? ...

What would you like to change about the product? ...