The Four Dimensions of Concept Testing: Dimension 1 – Problem Urgency

Actionable Research takes an extensive look at concept testing through four dimensions. Here we discuss the first of four dimensions, problem urgency.

Concept Testing

As defined very succinctly and intentionally narrowly in the first blog of our Concept Testing series, a concept test is the presentation of an idea, new technology, approach, or product, in varying states of completeness, that is designed to receive a response from a specific audience to determine its fitness for market and its purpose, relative to cost. Working from this definition, today we will jump straight into our first look at determining fitness for market.


The Four Dimensions of Concept Testing

When approaching concept testing, it’s essential to consider the process as a complete cycle that addresses each of the following adequately:

  • Problem Urgency
  • Solution Fit
  • Adoption Velocity
  • Market Impact


This, of course, must be done without losing sight that each exists as part of a whole; each dimension is independently vital, but works in conjunction with the others to move a new product from the development stage through to successful market acceptance.

And shortchanging any of these steps, or, worse, skipping them entirely, can potentially result in disaster. To help you prevent potential disaster, over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at each of the four dimensions of concept testing, beginning with problem urgency.


Dimension One: Problem Urgency

Every new concept – be it a product, idea, new technology - is a solution to some problem, whether minute or major, or somewhere in between. The urgency dimension of concept testing focuses on how the problem your concept solves is perceived by your audience. Is this a trivial, almost non-issue or a key hindrance? A minor inconvenience or a major predicament? Just how serious is this problem? And how long have they been waiting?  Has your audience been expecting a solution for quite some time, or will your concept offer them an answer they didn’t even know they needed?

All of these questions influence the perceived urgency of need for your concept.

Essentially, when we’re considering the idea of urgency within the scope of concept testing, we attempt to answer the foundational questions: 1. ‘Is the problem experienced a perceived issue which requires a solution?’ and 2. ‘How urgently is the solution required?’


Perceived Issue

All of us have had that moment, at work, at home, at play, where we mused, “If I only had a _____ that did _____.” My moment was in a hotel room on the way to visit family with my newborn son, miserably attempting to simulate the rocking chair motion on the edge of an ultra-firm mattress. Why in the world hadn’t anyone invented a portable, folding rocking chair? And yes, someone has since then.

The first question raised in concept testing will always be whether there even exists a problem your solution purposes to solves. Problem – dropped cell phone calls, lethargic computer, replacing my tires way too often for my taste, flattened pillows on my bed. The list is endless.


Requiring A Solution

Next, assuming we have successfully established that a problem exists, we must stop and ask the next logical question – is the problem big enough or important enough that it needs a solution? And, more pointedly, will anyone spend their money to have that problem solved?

A more reliable cell phone signal, a more powerful hard drive, a longer wearing tire. The need for each of these was (and may still be) quite real, and presented a problem that was both worth resolving and worth paying for. But a machine that fluffs my deflated pillows? Not an issue I’m overly concerned with. And certainly not one I’d pay for. No telling how many others may disagree.


Urgently Required

Urgency adds an additional element to this dimension of concept testing. Having confirmed that your concept solves a valid problem that actually required solving, we look now at both timing and market saturation. Timing speaks to how long the problem has existed and how quickly it needs resolution.

Market saturation is also key, though. Let’s presume your concept fixes a very real issue that a great number of people are experiencing and from which they need relief. Soon. But, there are already 100 solutions on the market today. Is the problem in fact urgent if a vast number of solutions are currently accessible? In this case, your concept must be better, faster, less expensive, more easily obtained, more durable. Something must elevate it and set it apart from what is presently available.


Does Anyone Really Need It?

Let’s be honest… you may have designed the perfect widget. Elegant, streamlined, aesthetically pleasing. But if there is no problem that your moss-covered, three-handled, family gradunza (thank you, Cat in the Hat and apologies to Dr. Seuss) solves, then it will never leave the shelf (or wherever one displays family gradunzas).

Concept testing allows the opportunity to test the waters before investing in full product development or introduction, to see if a majority of your audience raises their hand and says, yes, we’ve been desperately needing a family gradunza for years!


What We Can Do

Actionable Research has designed a concept testing methodology that approaches the required dimensions in a specialized and successfully-proven way. If you’d like to learn more about how we can design a unique concept test for you, please contact

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