How to write concept testing survey questions that get real insights

A concept testing survey is only as good as the questions it asks. Here’s how to write effective concept testing survey questions with examples.

What are concept testing survey questions and why are they important?

Concept testing is a crucial part of the product development process. It’s where you find out from real consumers and potential customers, before you enter the market, whether your product has the potential to become a success. 

The failure rate for new products is often quoted as at least 8 out of 10. That’s a heck of a lot of products launched without a proper understanding of how they fit into the market. The goal of concept testing is to establish product market fit for the product or service you’re dreaming up. 

It’s therefore super important to ask the right questions during your concept testing and new product development, and to make sure concept testing doesn’t end up costing you more money than you make. While you might have several opportunities to test your concepts with your audience – you should always view consumer research as a continuous task – making sure the questions you ask are going to give you valuable insights is key. 

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Getting started, choose metrics that reflect your goal

You have your concept – check!

You know that you’re going to do some concept testing to find out if it has legs – check!

Next step is to figure out what metrics you’re going to measure for your concept testing. 

Each different type of concept testing comes with its own subset of suitable goals – your surveys should aim to satisfy these goals with answers from consumers. 

It’s important to ask questions during your concept testing that will give you genuinely useful insight into how consumers feel about your concept. For example, let’s say your concept is a new type of vacuum cleaner. If you were to ask during your concept testing about what colour carpet consumers have, that’ll give you no insight into how those consumers feel about the product you’re offering, what their shopping behaviours are like or how likely they are to buy with your brand. 

Goals you might want to reach through your concept testing could include: 

  • Quantifying how likely this product is to be purchased by the existing/newly identified market.
  • Determining how well this product will stand out among competitors’ products on shop shelves.
  • Discovering which feature would most likely encourage current customers to renew their membership, subscription or purchase with you. 

Achieving these goals, and any others you’ve been working on, will give you super useful data on consumers’ attitudes and behaviours towards your product. But it’s important to remember the scope of your survey project must remain realistic. If you’re testing and iterating at each stage of your product development process, this’ll allow for smaller, more focused research that is ultimately more useful to you.

Know your target audience and group respondents

Who you survey is just as important as what you ask. It’d be little use surveying people under 20 years old about their usage and opinions of your vacuum cleaner – while there must be some youngsters who do housework, they’re probably not your target market. 

Through tools like Attest you can define your concept testing audience based on a range of demographic, geographic and behavioural characteristics. 

When you’re selecting the audience for your concept testing, you should think about factors like: what level of awareness might they have about your product and brand; are they based in a location where they can easily get hold of your product?

But remember that while it’s ideal to focus your audience selection somewhat, you don’t want to unintentionally exclude sectors of the market that might actually be interested in your product. It’s much better practice to gather a wide range of views, and you can then begin narrowing your research later if you need to, or cut your data in analysis using different segmented groups. 

Understanding your target customers’ knowledge and experience is a key part of setting up your concept testing

Using the 5-Point Likert Scale

The 5-point Likert Scale is a classic feature of market research. Since being conceived in 1932, it’s become a staple of market research globally, allowing brands to get a full but uncomplicated picture of consumers’ opinions.

As you might have guessed, the 5-point Likert Scale consists of 5 options and is designed to give you a measurable indication of consumers’ attitudes. It often takes the following form:

  • How much do you agree or disagree with [X]?
    • Strongly agree
    • Agree
    • Neither agree or disagree
    • Disagree
    • Strongly disagree

What’s great about the Likert Scale is that it not only tells you whether consumers love or hate your product, it also covers the people who are neutral – those are the people who would tend towards ‘neither agree or disagree’. Understanding consumers neutrality or passivity is an important part of market research.

You can use the Likert Scale for a range of factors. Above we’ve given an example of when it can be used to measure the level of agreement with a particular statement. Here are some other ways you can use it:

  • Importance
    • Very important
    • Important
    • Moderately important
    • Slightly important
    • Not important
  • Quality
    • Excellent
    • Good
    • Fair
    • Poor
    • Very poor
  • Frequency
    • Always
    • Often
    • Sometimes
    • Rarely 
    • Never

Types of Concept testing questions and examples

There are some key types of questions that brands often use in their concept testing processes. Here are some useful examples and tips…

Screening questions

In addition to choosing a target audience that reflects your needs, you can also use screening questions to make sure the respondents who complete the survey are the most relevant to your brand.

Screening questions, often called qualifying questions, usually come at the start of a survey. You’ll set up a screening question and specify which answer or answers will move respondents on to the rest of the survey, or end it for them there and then. 

While selecting your audience allows you to choose based on specific demographic factors, screening questions allow you to filter respondents based on more niche or qualitative factors. For example, you might ask a screening question like this:

  • Which of these statements applies to you?
    • I do the vacuuming in my home
    • I do not do the vacuuming in my home

In this example you want to hear from people who do the vacuuming in their home, so you’d select ‘I do the vacuuming’ as the response that allows people to complete the survey, and you’d end the survey there for people who choose ‘I do not do the vacuuming’.

Screening questions will help you whittle your respondents down to the ones you really want to target

Concept validation questions

With concept validation questions you’ll get to the nub of what consumers think about your concept. Quite simply, it’s through these questions that your product or service will receive validation or rejection from consumers. 

Of course, it’s not usually as clear cut as that. While you might want consumers to be blown away by your concept – indeed they might be – you should prepare yourself for a more muted and honest response. 

And that’s fine! It’s through concept testing that you gain a true understanding of how your concept is received by consumers, so the truth will always be more useful to you in the long term – it’ll set you up for a successful product launch.

Factors you should try to cover through your concept validation questions are your product’s appeal, its relevance and how useful it’ll be to consumers.

Here are some examples of concept validation questions:

  • To what extent do you like or dislike this product?
  • How appealing are the following features?
  • Which of the following attributes is most important to you?
  • How well do the following statements describe the product?

Purchase intent questions

Purchase intent questions do what they say on the tin – they ask how likely a consumer is to purchase your product or service. 

This is one of the simpler questions in the concept testing process. It often uses the Likert 5-point scale as a way to determine people’s likelihood to buy. Your purchase intent question could be something like:

  • How likely would you be to purchase [this product]?
    • Would definitely buy
    • Would probably buy
    • Might or might not buy
    • Probably won’t buy
    • Definitely won’t buy

It can also be super useful to ask some ‘why’ questions at this stage (and throughout your concept testing process). With these you’ll get an even deeper understanding of consumers’ attitudes towards your product.

Using purchase intent questions you’ll gain insight into consumers’ likelihood to buy your products

Market research questions

Concept testing is your opportunity to get a true picture of the market as it stands, and where you might be able to maximise your product’s success. 

Many brands use their concept testing and new product development processes to ask consumers a range of questions about how they shop, who they shop with, how much they tend to spend and what their opinions of the current market offerings are. 

Some market research questions you could ask through your concept testing include:

  • Which of the following have you purchased in the last 12 months?
  • Which brands would you consider next time you purchase?
  • What is your opinion of [Competitor Brand’s product]?
  • How much do you tend to spend on [Competitor Brand’s product]?

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Open-ended questions

It’s super important in consumer research not to sway your respondents one way or another when asking a question. 

The best way to get an honest response to your question is to ask open-ended questions. These are questions for which you don’t provide a list of answers; instead you include a text field and ask your respondents to type in their responses.

The benefits of this include:

  • You’ll get even more insight into consumers’ mindsets – you’re asking for unprompted thoughts and this gives space for your respondents to be really honest with you. 
  • Because of this (and in addition to other types of questions) you’ll gain even more knowledge about your product and how it resonates with consumers. 

Remember though that with open-ended questions such as these, the larger your audience, the more difficult it’ll be to analyse the results and draw out nuggets of golden insight. It can also be difficult to quantify the responses against any numerical scale, so it often only makes sense in certain places. 

Some examples of open-ended questions you could ask in your concept testing research are:

  • What do you like about this idea/product?
  • What do you dislike about this idea/product?
  • What other products does this idea/product remind you of?
  • How would you improve this idea/product?

Test your concepts side-by-side

A really useful way to find out if consumers dig your concept is to present multiple options to see which one people prefer. 

You can do this when you’re unsure which idea or feature to move forward with. Or you might even have a good idea of what you think consumers will like – asking them to compare it with another option can give you the validation and peace of mind you need to pursue the concept, or it’ll tell you that you might need to go back to the drawing board. 

Whether your concept gets the thumbs up or receives some negative feedback, the fact that you’ve tested it alongside other similar concepts really helps to add more dimensions and clarity to your concept testing process.

Creating your concept testing survey

Once you’ve got your concepts settled and you know who you want to ask about them, you’re ready to start drafting your concept testing survey. It’s a really good idea to work with your colleagues to craft the perfect survey – they’ll often spot opportunities or errors that you might miss, and their different perspectives will be invaluable. 

Making sure your survey has been reviewed by your Marketing, Product and Commercial teams is a surefire way to get a comprehensive, useful piece of consumer research. 

At Attest we provide easy-to-use templates for concept testing surveys. Check out the template and get started on your consumer research journey today!

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Marcus Evans

Content Marketing Manager 

See all articles by Marcus