Concept Testing for A Product Change

Updating your product? Test your concept for best results. Read below to explore the differences between new product and product change research.


Throughout our series, we’ve described concept testing in general terms; however, we recognize that every research study has unique, individual characteristics. Because of this, we customize our approach by starting each project with a fresh perspective – beginning with a general framework and then adapting it to meet your specific needs.  

To streamline this process, we have developed frameworks to address common research concerns we frequently encounter. An example of the most common adaptation is the way we adjust our framework when conducting a concept test for a new product versus concept testing for an incremental product change. It’s important to recognize concept testing a new product is not the same as concept testing for a product change. When you don’t treat the two differently, you run the risk of missing the big picture results.


What Can Go Wrong

  1. Recruiting the wrong respondents can skew your interpretations.
  2. Asking the wrong questions will leave gaps in desired knowledge.
  3. Improper segmentation of the data may not give you a complete picture.


What Can Go Right – It’s All in the Design

Getting it right means making sure that we are asking the right people the right questions to get the answers that we seek. Solid research design leads to actionable recommendations.


Recruiting the Target Market and Asking the Right Questions

For a new product test, we have a basic idea of who our target market is. But until we conduct a concept test, we can’t be certain who is actually interested in this product and why.  To gather this data, we always include demographic and attitudinal questions to understand buyer motivations as well as segmentation.

For a product change test, on the other hand, we are already more familiar with existing buyer demographics. We have a good idea of their profile (i.e. whether they live in a rural or urban environment, income level, job responsibilities), and by extension their motivations for purchase. We don’t have information, however, about those who might find the product change appealing. This type of testing, then, requires recruiting both current product users as well as non-users. The product change may appeal to both but it can also appeal to one group at the expense of another.

There are limitations to what you can ask a respondent to do. They can tell you what they feel about a concept, what they think about a certain feature, whether or not they will pay for it and how much they might pay; but, bear in mind they cannot invent or design a new product for you - only test it.


Concept Testing for a New Product 

The main difference between the new product concept test and the product change test is the number of knowns and unknowns. The kinds of questions that we would ask for a new product concept test are more basic and exploratory than for a product change test.

Our main objectives are to understand the product appeal (perceived value; target demographic) and assess the competition. From these we can identify unique selling points and features that appeal to the consumer and that distinguish the product from its competition.

After all, the goal is to capture new customers; so we have to lay the foundation for a successful launch by understanding the basics. To do this, we assess the initial consumer reaction to a new product, seeking to understand optimal methods for communicating its benefits as well as potential areas of improvement for the product.

We must also understand who’s already in the game and to what extent. Who are the competitors and what are they already doing (right and wrong)? For a new product, we still have the flexibility to maneuver and build the optimal product that customers really want to see taken to market. For this, we seek to identify pain points and areas of improvement in competitors’ products.


Concept Testing for a Product Change

We encounter product changes every day at the supermarket in the form of “new formula” or “new and improved” products. The main objectives of concept testing for a proposed product change are 1) to determine which combination of added-value features will result in the highest increase in revenue, and 2) to determine if the product changes will negatively impact sales. It’s a dual-edged sword. Let’s take stock of what we know.                                                                                       

We do not want to alienate our existing customer base, but at the same time, we also want to appeal to a larger audience. So when we set out to find our test market, we must incorporate current product users and non-users alike. Ideally, we want to identify a niche for new audiences without reducing our existing clientele.

This involves comparing the responses and likelihoods of purchase among user and nonuser segments. But it doesn’t stop there. If the sample sizes allow for additional segmentation by demographics and attitudes, this would provide deeper and more meaningful insight into what kind of changes people will tolerate and which are unacceptable.


Figuring it Out is Half the Battle

If you begin by setting objectives and then testing the market prior to development, you will greatly reduce the risk of launching a new product. Actionable has been conducting concept testing research for more than 15 years. We have helped many companies meet their research objectives and ultimately make the most effective and actionable concept decisions.

Actionable Research Concept Testing Whitepaper