Concept Testing

Concept Testing

Concept testing is important for evaluating consumer responses to a product before market introduction.


Explain concept testing, its disadvantages, and alternative methods used to evaluate consumer behavior toward new concepts


Key Points

  • Concept testing can also be useful in altering existing attitudes towards existing products in the market.
  • Concept testing uses qualitative and quantitative methods. Concept generation portions of concept testing are generally qualitative, while evaluations, positioning, and product/concept tests are usually quantitative.
  • Traditional methods of concept testing faced many shortfalls, including not providing consistent information on the ranking of consumer preferences. However, newer methods are alleviating such issues and providing more useful information.

Key Terms

  • concept testing: The process of evaluating consumer response to a product idea prior to the introduction of the product to the market.

Concept testing

Concept testing is the process of using quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate consumer response to a product idea prior to the introduction of a product to the market. It is a vital part of the idea screening stage of new product development. It can also be used to generate communication designed to alter consumer attitudes toward existing products. These methods involve the evaluation by consumers of product concepts having certain rational benefits, such as “a detergent that removes stains but is gentle on fabrics,” or non-rational benefits, such as “a shampoo that lets you be yourself.” Concept testing is often performed using field surveys, personal interviews and focus groups, in combination with various quantitative methods.


Focus Group: Using focus groups to generate user feedback is one method used to perform concept testing.

The concept generation portions of concept testing are generally qualitative. Advertising professionals create concepts and communications of these concepts for evaluation by consumers, on the basis of consumer surveys and other market research, or on the basis of their own experience as to which concepts they believe represent product ideas that are worthwhile in the consumer market.

The quantitative portions of concept testing procedures have generally been placed in three categories: (1) concept evaluations, where concepts representing product ideas are presented to consumers in verbal or visual form and then quantitatively evaluated by consumers by indicating degrees of purchase intent, likelihood of trial, etc., (2) positioning, which is concept evaluation wherein concepts positioned in the same functional product class are evaluated together, and (3) product/concept tests, where consumers first evaluate a concept, then the corresponding product, and the results are compared.

Shortcomings of Traditional Concept Testing

Traditional systems of concept testing generally failed to provide a systematic, proven way of showing consumer preference of one concept over another. The relative importance of the factors responsible for or governing why consumers, markets and market segments reacted differently to concepts presented to them in the concept tests were not demonstrated. Thus, communication of the concept was generally left to the creativity of the advertising agency, with no systematic quantitative method known or employed that could identify the criteria on which consumer choices were made (at least, not with any real accuracy).

Moore and William (1982), in a literature survey and review of concept testing methodology, point out that concept tests have failed to account for changes between the concept tested and the communication describing the benefits of the product which embodies the concept. The paper reports that “no amount of improvement in current concept testing practices can remedy these problems. ” This is reflective of the fact that none of the traditional methods provided a quantitative means for ascertaining the relative importance of the underlying criteria of concept choices as a means for identifying the visual and verbal expressions of the concepts which best communicate the benefits sought by the consumer. Nor did the traditional methods quantify the relationships between concepts and existing products offered in the same consumer market. The ability of a method to ameliorate or overcome the above shortcomings would provide substantial improvement in communication of the concepts identified in testing and offered to the market as a product.

One such method is conjoint analysis and another is choice modeling. In addition, with online retailing becoming increasingly prominent, many online respondents are also online consumers. Thus, they are able to easily place themselves in the mindset of a consumer looking to buy goods or services. Since the arrival of these methods, market researchers have been able to make better, more accurate, suggestions to their clients regarding the decision to move forward, revise, or start over with a product concept. Online choice modeling, for example, can produce detailed econometric models of demand for various attributes of the new product such as feature, packaging and price.