Concept Testing Among Dual Audiences To Help Drive New Product Success

Concept testing is an important step toward successfully bringing new products and services to the market.

Concept Testing

Getting reactions to concepts qualitatively gives companies initial insight into what consumers like and don’t like, what needs the concept can meet, pitfalls or barriers that may not have been expected, and what role end users perceive the product or service would play in their lives. What’s learned during this initial qualitative phase can then be used to further refine the concept for a quantitative concept test. This process is straightforward, and for many consumer goods and services this initial step meets the need.

I recently had the opportunity to be in the back room during focus groups for one of my clients. This particular client’s industry uses an intermediary for distribution of their products to the end users. This distribution path is not unique to this client; I have several clients in various industries that operate with this model. While it is not uncommon, it can result in different research needs. For our purposes, we’ll focus on what this means for concept testing.

For organizations like my client’s that are embarking on concept research, it’s important to determine among which audience the research should be conducted. Can you limit yourself to only the end user or only the intermediary? I would advocate for research with both audiences as a best practice for ensuring the success of the product or service, and here’s why.

The Intermediary

The intermediary can play a critical role in the success or failure of a new product or service. They are the direct link to the end user, and it’s important to understand their response to a concept. Using one-on-one in-depth interviews to explore the concept idea provides us with their perceptions of the concept, the features they expect will be positively received or that will help them to sell the concept, and the barriers and challenges they foresee. Keep in mind, the challenges raised by this audience could be things the end user would never know. For example, what if they see problems with the installation or servicing process? This B2B audience (the intermediary) could form a negative opinion of the product from that perspective and set up an unforeseen obstacle for the manufacturer. Research with the intermediary can uncover issues like these and allow the design team to address them.

After using qualitative input to refine the concept, it can then be put into a quantitative concept test. For Decision Analyst that means using our ConceptTest® methodology. This standardized technique allows us to leverage a proven framework, customized to the product category, to capture predictive measures and diagnostic ratings about the concept.

The insights gained from quantitatively testing the concept with the intermediary audience can guide the final stage of a concept’s development. It can also inform strategies for communicating and marketing the product to the intermediary in a meaningful way.

The End User

The end user cannot be ignored as they are often the final determinant of the success of a new product or service. With this audience, qualitative feedback can take the form of focus groups or individual in-depth interviews. The right methodology may depend on the product or service that is being explored, but the goal of either methodology is similar. Like with the intermediary audience, this concept exploration will uncover end users’ positive and negative reactions to the concept, what the concept communicates to them, their level of understanding of the product or service and all its features and benefits, any missing features, and any barriers to adoption.

Again, out of this research, the concept can be refined and then placed into a quantitative concept test to measure the potential for success. The results will guide the final development, inform communication and marketing, and, if included as part of the quantitative survey, inform the pricing strategy.

Putting It All Together

Once you’ve conducted the research with each audience, and assuming the concept will be pursued, the question becomes how to use the results from both audiences in tandem. An Activation Workshop is one way to answer these questions and prepare for the big challenges. These sessions bring together relevant stakeholders to quickly disseminate learnings, allow for brainstorming, discussion, and decision-making, and assign move-forward activities. While the session will likely require team members to commit to several hours for the session, this upfront investment of time typically saves a lot of time in the long run.

Testing new product ideas among the relevant audiences is worth the commitment. Our clients find that building this practice into their innovation process helps increase their new products’ chances for success.


Julie Trujillo

Julie Trujillo

Senior Vice President

As a research consultant with over 20 years of experience, Julie provides strategic direction to clients who are struggling with difficult business challenges. Julie guides her clients to identify the business questions and then designs research to get answers. Julie’s experience includes quantitative and qualitative research across an array of categories and research techniques. Julie holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing, from Valparaiso University.

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