Removing Bias from New Product Concept Testing
Entrepreneurs and new product development teams will often use research methods to test out multiple product concepts at early stages. While early-stage qualitative and quantitative research methods like monadic concept testing and product co-creation studies are helpful in decision-making, the results of such studies are imprecise and subject to multiple respondent biases.
A testable product concept is a clearly illustrated and articulated idea that follows a specific format. The concept illustration provides minimal details to express the product concept such that a customer can understand, believe in, and evaluate your presentation with clarity. The concept description is persuasion-neutral, but describes the solution, benefit, and reasons why the concept is believable.
Bias is introduced to testable product concept illustration in a variety of ways:
Brand: A strong company brand can sway respondents positively or negatively, depending on whether they have "permission" to play in a solution-space. Product concepts should be brand-free for the initial evaluation, then brand association strength can be evaluated in follow-up questions.
Persuasion: Overselling the product concept makes it LESS believable. Descriptions of the product should be persuasion-neutral, use active voice, and clearly articulate the solution and benefit being offered.
Context: Each product concept should use the same illustration style across the study. When evaluating a series of concepts, respondents will pick up on subtle changes to the context and color choices that may influence their feedback. Avoid using superfluous context cues such as furniture or room staging that do not directly contribute to the concept in question. Concept reviewers may latch onto the context cues - positively or negatively - and bias their feedback accordingly.
Objectively presenting an idea without sounding like a salesman is no small feat, but it is a crucial step to establishing trust between yourself and those who are being presented to. It was mentioned recently in a Trig article on public speaking that it benefits your ease of mind to remember that the audience wants you to succeed. A crucial consideration into giving your best possible showing is to ensure that no one else is getting special attention that others aren't. We all have concepts we are biased towards, that we want to be chosen over others. That's only natural, of course! However, the goal is to select the ideas which will best serve the needs of the customer, not our own egos.
Is one concept model illustrated with way more care and detail than another? Does it have a considerably greater number of sketches? Even a really bad idea can look better than worthier competitors if given enough attention towards cultivating a high end presentation experience. When presenting concepts in person, does your personal excitement clearly come across on some ideas and not others? Be aware that the client can pick up on even subtle changes in tone and posture. Try not to give away the secret of your affinities. Your audience deserves a chance to have an unbiased selection process, as they may be working with information that you don't have yet about their business, which could highly change the outcome of adopting any specific design. You never know what pieces you may be missing to the information puzzle.