The Beauty and the Beast:�Using Concept Testing Focus Groups

Concept testing is a method used by market researchers to help predict how a new or improved concept, usually a product, will do in the market.�The beauty of using concept testing focus groups is that, with a minimal investment in market research, concept testing can help avoid costly mistakes. These same focus groups, however, can become a beast when they are not conducted and interpreted correctly. Also, there is the risk of terminating a good concept too soon.

Focus groups can help with concept testing and development endeavors by

  • Helping you understand the current environment for the potential concept,

  • Giving you a better understanding of how consumers view the concept, and

  • Addressing how consumers refer to the concept and how they feel about the product.�

To effectively conduct a concept testing focus group, the moderator, first of all, must convey the point that he or she is there to get the group�s opinions about the concept. It is essential to let participants know it is okay to have different opinions, even opinions that are not popular. That is, it is important to make everyone participating in the group feel comfortable and feel it is okay to express diverse opinions. The moderator should steer the group to look at concepts being tested from different points of view, including pointing out positive and potentially negative aspects of the concepts. It is particularly important to navigate through concepts that have strong positives or strong negative features that can take over the group.

Also, how the concept statement is presented to the group will impact the focus group results.�When presenting concepts to the groups, the concept should not sound or read like a sales and marketing pitch, rather a description of what the product can help resolve, generally followed by a product description.�In addition, as each focus group is conducted, revisions of how the concept is presented to the group can be reintroduced to new focus groups.�Above all, it is important to run a series of groups rather than one or two groups; this should help with concept refinement issues and take into account group dynamics and geographic differences.

There are some drawbacks in conducting concept testing:

  • Many times consumers feel as though they cannot evaluate a concept because they have a difficult time predicting how they will behave.

  • Some consumers have a difficult time visualizing the concept, especially if the concept is a new idea.

  • Before conducting focus groups, it is important to understand who your market segment is. If the focus group is conducted among a mismatched group, more than likely you will have false results. �

  • How the concept is actually presented to the group can impact the results of the test.

  • One also needs to take into account that the opinions expressed by those in the groups should not be taken as the holy grail, rather as an opinion that will help develop a set of well-rounded insights.

Many of these pitfalls, however, can be addressed by conducting multiple focus groups, revising concepts and hiring a knowledgeable focus group moderator.

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