Soft openings, beta versions, rough drafts; we may not realize it, but there are a lot of things we test for feedback before we officially unveil them to the world. There are plenty of reasons we double-check our work and ask for criticism, but the most obvious one is that we want to make sure our end product is the best it can possibly be. But sometimes, spending more money on research while potentially revealing too much and losing valuable time on the shelf sounds like more of a risk than a benefit. That is, until the product or service is introduced too soon to a lukewarm—or even critical—consumer response.
Though budgets are tight and some concepts may feel like a safe bet, all business decisions should go through the ringer before exposure to your target audience. Taking the time to test a small-scale version of your concept and apply the resulting consumer insights can save you from potentially fatal hits to your company’s budget, morale, and brand equity. Think of the tabletop models made of buildings before they are constructed: it just makes sense to scale down and demonstrate an idea before investing valuable time and resources into the full-scale version.
So what are some aspects of product innovation that get deprioritized as timelines get shorter and budgets get smaller? Here are just a few key questions that may be slipping through the testing cracks.
Key Question: What are consumers willing to pay, especially versus what they expect to?
Determining a product’s value is a tricky balance of market trends, production costs, economic theory, and what shoppers will actually pay. By asking consumers what they pay for similar products and what they expect to pay for yours, you can better fit your product into your target audience’s lifestyle and budget. Beyond price point, factors like bundling, warranties, and rebates all impact perceptions of value, so testing all combinations will help solidify promotion planning as well as shopper marketing strategies.
2. Modifications and Migration Paths
Key Question: Are the proposed additions or changes worth the related costs and challenges?
When modifying or upgrading a product, researching the optimal combination of features according to consumers will help reveal their inclination or reluctance to upgrade or adopt your newest offerings. By probing your qualitative research respondents for which options are necessary versus which are just “nice to haves,” your team has a better chance of releasing an upgrade that is worthy and appreciated.
3. Demos and Prototypes
Key Question: What do customers need, desire, and expect from the product?
What keeps most teams from testing a prototype is usually the cost of developing and revealing something to consumers—and competitors—that isn’t done yet. But the benefits of consumer insights while still in product development can prove substantial. Getting a demo or prototype in the hands of consumers and asking them to articulate their usage habits, purchase intent, and belief in your product could reveal hidden strengths, weaknesses, or even new uses, and even bump up a well-liked concept in the launch schedule.
4. Copy in All its Forms
Key Question: Does our brand voice appropriately align across all platforms and channels?
Many successful brands incorporate copy testing into their research plan for written content on the brand’s behalf, but some fail to test it in all the channels, platforms, and mediums through which that copy will be disseminated. Particularly with international launches and mobile campaigns, testing all the translations and interpretations of copy—including their presentation on various screens and systems—is imperative to ensuring the clarity and accuracy of your messaging.
Key Question: Is our logo design appealing, readable, and unambiguous in all situations?
Similar to the pitfalls encountered in copy testing, most brands do indeed test their logos, but not to the extent they should. Beyond asking consumers whether the logo is appealing and fits the brand, researchers should test logo imaging in action, i.e. when displayed on stickers, packaging, mobile ads, etc. Incorporating this kind of design thinking into your research plan will help avoid potential misinterpretations of your logo.
Concept testing reshapes and refines ideas so they are optimized for the greatest market performance possible. In addition to confirming the appeal and credibility of your new idea, comprehensive testing of the factors listed above will help avoid excess spending further down the road, as well as potential pitfalls in terms of positioning, promotion, distribution, and pricing. To see how the small brand Kernel Season’s leveraged agile methodologies to quickly identify winning and losing concepts, check out the case study below.