4.4 Concept Testing

Concept testing assesses the marketability of a product idea prior to its actual development.

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The objective of a concept test is to screen the product concept before technical/ physical product development starts. A concept is a product idea described in detail. The immediate benefit of a concept test is that it can be done quickly and easily and gives information for sorting out less-valuable concepts. To be able to conduct a concept test multiple objectives need to be taken into account

4.4.1 What do we want to present to respondents? (Stimuli Design)

A product concept is a potential solution for a problem or need potential consumers perceive. It is therefore important to define the product idea in detail. The aim is to deliver an approximate description of the final product. The concept statement can be formulated in three different ways of presenting a concept:

Textual Descriptions: Describe (Write)

Textual description is one way to communicate a concept. It takes less time and effort to develop visual representations compared to real samples. Written descriptions are also the only realistic alternative when the final look of the product is yet unclear.

In general, concept statements can be presented in a listing of catchwords/phrases or narrative form (text with full sentences). Both can be presented in a formalised or embellished statement. In research literature, you can find publications advocating both forms. Using a listing of catchwords/phrases represents the most efficient format by simply listing all relevant product features. Narrative formulations on the other hand might be preferable to better describe important connotations.

The product concept statement should outline all relevant product attributes that is all product-specific features, functions and benefits (as well as requirements if applicable).

  • Features may include aesthetic characteristics (forms), components and materials (e.g. ingredients), specific manufacturing characteristics, price, services etc.
  • The function explains how the product works and what it serves for. The concept statement explains the difference(s) to other products and also how the difference(s) benefits the consumer, as the purchase decision is eventually based on the (expected) benefits the product promises.
  • Benefits relate to special uses, sensory enjoyments, general pleasure, savings and economic gains. The most important benefits are those other products cannot deliver.

Concept statement template:
Product title:  Concept title (and/or product category; optional: brand, label, origin)
Example:  Scandinavian meat products

Product idea:  Ordered application of attributes (based on sensory, health, convenience, process and/or product aspects) according to their importance to describe the basic &  extended concept idea

Example: Think of a new range of premium pork products inspired by the Scandinavian kitchen. Regional spices such as wild garlic, berries and roots contribute to each meal with a characteristic flavour of the North. Apart from the taste the products are traditionally processed, such as smoked or salted.

The Scandinavian kitchen reflects simplicity, purity and freshness of food products. Attached cooking suggestions to the product packaging enable each consumer to experience the true taste of Scandinavia.

Buyers’ information    Complementary product information(in particular packaging size, product availability and POP placement)
Example: One package contains 500g (ideal for two portions). Scandinavian kitchen products are available in selected retail stores.

Example: Think of a new range of premium pork products inspired by the Scandinavian kitchen. Regional spices such as wild garlic, berries and roots contribute to each meal with a characteristic flavour of the North. Apart from the taste the products are traditionally processed, such as smoked or salted.

The Scandinavian kitchen reflects simplicity, purity and freshness of food products. Attached cooking suggestions to the product packaging enable each consumer to experience the true taste of Scandinavia.

Buyers’ information    Complementary product information(in particular packaging size, product availability and POP placement)

Example:One package contains 500g (ideal for two portions). Scandinavian kitchen products are available in selected retail stores.

Example of a narrative, formalised statement:

Example of a stripped statement:

  • Premium pork products inspired by the Scandinavian kitchen
  • With regional spices and roots
  • Traditionally processed, such as smoked or salted
  • Cooking suggestions attached
  • 500g package available at selected retail stores

Example of a narrative, formalised statement:

Think of a new range of premium pork products inspired by the Scandinavian kitchen. Regional spices such as wild garlic, berries and roots contribute to each meal with a characteristic flavour of the North. Apart from the taste the products are traditionally processed, such as smoked or salted. The Scandinavian kitchen reflects simplicity, purity and freshness of food products. Attached cooking suggestions to the product packaging enable each consumer to experience the true taste of Scandinavia. One package contains 500g (ideal for two portions). Scandinavian kitchen products are available in selected retail stores.

Example of a narrative, embellished statement:

Simplicity, purity, and freshness! Enjoy a delicious new range of premium pork products inspired by the Scandinavian kitchen. The wonderful flavour of the North is brought to you with traditional processing and regional spices. Cooking suggestions guarantee the true taste of Scandinavia, easily prepared at home. The meals are ideal for two portions. Only available in selected retail stores. Try one now!

Visual representation (sketches, images)

Visual representations can help us communicate certain facts better.   When it comes to foods, it is evident that the saying a picture says more than 1000 words is very important and often appearance alone may lead to the purchase decision.   However, be careful using images when you expect the final product to look different from your concept. You need to bear in mind that respondents evaluate the concept at the current stage in product development, and that visual representations always will have an influence on the respondent’s evaluations of the concept and its features, functions and benefits.

hotdog

Example: Ready-made hot dog

a real product prototype (show sample)

Going from concept testing to product development is facilitated more smoothly when using actual product samples. You may neglect the other concept forms described if it is feasible to create prototypes for each concept idea. Only then can you also test for the most crucial criterion in measuring the acceptance level of a food product: the taste. However, allocating resources (time and money) into product development, even if it is only a prototype may not be feasible for each product idea you consider.

pie

Example: Variation of spiced salami and ham slices

Finally, combinations of the stimuli designs above can be applied as well; for example, stripped descriptions together with a visual representation. This way, you can make sure that the respondent has a sound understanding of both product form and features. Please be reminded to visualise your product concept only if you expect no significant changes to its appearance!

4.4.2 To which respondents do we talk? (Respondent Selection)

Selecting the right respondents is another crucial aspect in concept testing. Depending on the purpose of concept testing, you may need to apply different selection criteria. It is important to survey those people who can respond most accurately to the questions you want to ask.

The most appropriate respondents might be those who have real interest in the respective product class (for example, regular pork meat buyers and consumers), who are open for new products in general (lead users; for example, consumers who frequently eat convenience products). Besides, socio-demographic criteria have a high relevance in every consumer profiling attempt. Commonly used socio-demographic criteria are: gender, age, marital status, residential status (also household size), place of residence, education, occupation, income.

  • Lead-users
    Defined as innovators in the product life cycle. They are the first to buy new products and consequently spread product awareness across larger groups of consumers. Lead-users are also willing to tolerate initial glitches and problems that may accompany any new market introduction and are willing to develop makeshift solutions to such problems
  • End-users, suppliers, retailers
    While end-users (consumers) represent the typical target respondents for a concept test, smaller groups or single respondents can provide valuable information. Focus groups (see opportunity identification), for example, could be an attractive method to gain such information at an early stage. Also other actors in the supply chain, namely upstream suppliers and downstream retailers, can have crucial importance in the early stages of product development. Suppliers can tell you what is technically possible, while retailers can tell you what is appreciated by the market.

4.4.3      How do we measure their responses? (Response Measurement)

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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

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Disclaimer

LLP/LdV/TOI/2011/IRL-502 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. The author is solely responsible for this publication (communication) and the Commission accepts no responsibility for any use may be made of the information contained therein.