How To Do a Product Concept TestIn last week’s blog post, I talked about the benefits of integrating concept testing into your new product development process.  This week, I’ll share the product concept testing procedure that I use.  Over the past four years, I’ve tested more than 55 housewares product concepts using this procedure.  

The Purpose of Product Concept Testing

Concept testing determines how interested consumers are in a new product idea.  This information can be used to evaluate the idea and as a diagnostic tool to help identify what consumers do and do not like about the proposed product so that idea can be revised and enhanced to improve its appeal.


The product concepts are typically tested with one or both of the following sample populations:

1. A general population sample of U.S. households
2. An online Market Research Online Community (MROC) such as Riedel Marketing Group’s proprietary HomeTrend Influentials Panel (HIP)

Concept testing is conducted with a nationally representative sample to quantify purchase interest, provide projectable data that can be used to develop sales forecasts, and obtain demographic data that can be used to identify the target market for the product.

Concept testing is conducted with a Market Research Online Community to obtain richer deeper insight and diagnostic information into why the respondents are or are not interested in the product concepts and what they do and don’t like about the product concepts. In addition, variations of product concepts can be tested iteratively.

Research Methodology

Although concept testing can be done in the focus group setting, online surveys are usually the most cost-effective and fastest testing methodology to use.

The Questionnaire

The Concept Statement Includes Graphics and a Written Description

Respondents are shown a graphic depiction and written product description of the product concept.  The graphic may be a free-hand sketch, a more detailed illustration, a computer generated rendering, or a photo.

Example of product description for product concept teset

Concept Statement

The written description of the product typically starts with a brief introductory paragraph that highlights most important product benefit or point of differentiation. Bulleted lists are often used to describe how the product is used, how it works, and key product features and benefits.

The amount of information included in the product description depends on how familiar consumers are with the product category. For example, consumers do not need to be provided with an explanation of how a microwave oven works. But a new-to-the-market energy monitoring device would require a more detailed explanation.

A Standard Battery of Questions

Battery of five standard questions used in product concept test

Battery of five standard questions

I always use a standard battery of five rating scale questions to determine respondents’ degree of interest in each product concept. Interest is measured along five dimensions: desirability (need), likability, believability, uniqueness/superiority, and purchase likelihood.

This battery of questions is based on the concept testing procedure that was developed in the late 1980’s by Sunbeam Appliance Co., then a division of Allegheny International.  Sunbeam determined that its concept testing procedure was predictive of the success of several product ideas that were developed, marketed and broadly distributed. The test also successfully predicted the failure of several products that the company did not develop but that were introduced by competitors. 

I have a database of more than 50 concept test results to help clients evaluate the test results.

A Question to Get At Buzz-Worthiness

Buzzworthiness question used in product concept test

Buzzworthiness question

Because of the ever increasing importance of product reviews and social media-driven word-of-mouth, I also ask a question about how likely the respondent would be to recommend the product.

Pricing Questions

Pricing questions used in product concept test

Pricing questions

Pricing can be tested by using a set of purchase intention questions, each of which includes a different retail price for the concept. The respondent is asked her interest at the highest price point first. If there is no interest in purchasing the product at this price, then she is asked again at successively lower prices to see whether at some price point there is some interest in purchasing the product.