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How to Write Effective Concept Testing Survey Questions

Savannah Trotter • 7 Jun 2024

Your concept tests are only as good as the questions you include. When done correctly, concept testing offers invaluable data on consumer preferences, market readiness, and product viability.

In this piece, we will look at the various question types you can use in your concept test, their purpose, and how to use them strategically—ultimately helping you to write clear and unbiased concept testing survey questions.


Why It's Important to Write Great Survey Questions

It's no surprise that at the heart of effective concept testing lies the art and science of asking the right questions, in the right format, using the right phrasing.

Great concept testing survey questions will give you the insights you need to select, validate, and perfect product, marketing, advertising, or branding concepts. By posing insightful and relevant questions, you can gain insights that can drive strategy, mitigate risks, and maximize your chances of success in the marketplace.

Whether exploring consumer sentiment, identifying key attributes, or understanding market dynamics, the quality of your survey questions is the foundation of your survey. So, how do you write great survey questions for your concept tests? There are a few elements to consider. We'll dive into them below. 


Types of Concept Testing Survey Questions

Before you begin drafting, it's important to understand the different types of survey questions that can be included in a concept test, and what their purpose is: 


Screening Questions: Ensuring Relevance

The first step in composing a concept test starts with screening questions that ensure the survey captures responses from individuals who align with the target demographic and possess relevant behaviors and preferences.

While screening questions might seem simple, make no mistake, they are important to get right.

Using the right questions to qualify the relevant and disqualify the irrelevant respondents automatically, you can ensure your sample accurately represents your target market, enhancing the validity of your findings.

Example screening question topics for concept tests:

checkmark bullet-point imageDemographics
checkmark bullet-point imagePurchasing habits
checkmark bullet-point imageBrand affinity
checkmark bullet-point imageProduct usage patterns

By strategically incorporating screening questions at the beginning of your concept testing survey, you can refine your sample pool and extract insights that reflect your target audience's true sentiments and behaviors.


Concept Evaluation and Validation Questions: Gauging Consumer Sentiment

Once the screening process is complete, you can focus on concept evaluation and validation. These questions will provide a comprehensive understanding of how consumers perceive and interact with a product concept, shedding light on its appeal, viability, and potential for market success.

They typically include scale questions or maxdiff experiments that assess factors like:

checkmark bullet-point imageLikeability
checkmark bullet-point imageUniqueness
checkmark bullet-point imageMemorability
checkmark bullet-point imageRelevance
checkmark bullet-point imagePurchase Intent

By systematically examining consumer sentiments and preferences, you can iteratively refine product concepts, address potential pain points, and optimize market positioning for maximum impact and resonance.


Market Research Questions: Broadening Insights

In addition to evaluating specific concepts, concept testing surveys present an opportunity to glean broader market insights that transcend individual offerings.

Try asking market questions to better understand consumer behavior, competitive dynamics, industry trends, and emerging opportunities. These questions provide a holistic view of the market landscape, empowering businesses to make informed decisions that drive sustainable growth and competitive advantage.

Example market research topics to include in your concept testing survey: 

checkmark bullet-point imageBrand preferences
checkmark bullet-point imageCompetitor perceptions
checkmark bullet-point imageCategory purchasing habits
checkmark bullet-point imageEmerging trends

Adding these questions to your concept tests allows you to practically utilize your studies as strategic tools for market intelligence.


Survey Question Formats to Use in Concept Testing

Now that you know the various types of concept testing survey questions you can use, we'll cover some popular question formats that are used to maximize data accuracy, reliability, and validity. 


Likert Scale Questions: Quantifying Sentiment

Likert scale questions give respondents a structured scale of options to quantify their opinions, attitudes, or feelings toward a concept. These types of questions offer a balance between simplicity and granularity, allowing respondents to express nuanced opinions while streamlining the

This format enables you to gauge the intensity and direction of consumer sentiment, facilitating comparative analysis, trend identification, and data-driven decision-making.

Examples of Likert scale questions include:

checkmark bullet-point image"How much do you disagree or agree with [Statement]"
checkmark bullet-point image"How likely would you be to purchase this product?"
checkmark bullet-point image"How important is [X-Attribute or Feature] when making purchasing decisions?"
checkmark bullet-point image"Based on the concept you've seen, what would you expect of the product quality?"


Rank Order Questions: Prioritizing Preferences

Ranking questions allow respondents to visually arrange their preferences among multiple options, providing valuable insights into relative importance and preference order.

This format allows you to identify key attributes, features, or concepts that resonate most strongly with consumers, guiding product development priorities and strategic decision-making. Ranking questions offer a simple yet effective technique for conducting precise comparative analysis and informing resource allocation decisions.

Example ranking questions to include in concept tests:

checkmark bullet-point image"Please rank the concept attributes by order of importance when making purchasing decisions."
checkmark bullet-point image"Please rank the concepts you viewed by preference, with one being most preferred and five being least.
checkmark bullet-point image"Please rank how this product concept compares to popular competitors in this category"

By leveraging ranking questions in concept testing surveys, you can uncover key drivers of preference, identify areas for differentiation, and optimize product offerings to align with market demand and consumer expectations.


Open-Ended Questions: Uncovering Insights

Open-ended questions invite respondents to provide qualitative feedback in their own words, offering rich contextual data about their thoughts, opinions, and experiences.

Because this format allows respondents to express themselves freely, you can use forms of Natural Language Process (like text analysis) to gather insights on sentiments and opinions.

Examples of open-ended concept testing questions include:

checkmark bullet-point image"What do you like most about this concept?"
checkmark bullet-point image"How would you describe this concept in your own words?"
checkmark bullet-point image"If you could change something about this concept, what would it be?"

Incorporating open-ended questions into concept testing surveys can capture the voice of your customer, provide qualitative insights into consumer preferences, and unearth actionable recommendations for concept refinement and enhancement.


Heat Maps: Visualizing Engagement

While often used in UX/UI research, heatmaps are an excellent tool for visualizing engagement and preference data. Adding heat maps to your concept tests, allows respondents to give you specific feedback on your concepts by clicking areas , marking the interaction as positive or negative, and leaving open-ended feedback. This helps you visualize how engaging and relevant different elements of your concepts are. 

And while images may be an obvious use case, heatmaps also work well for copy. They allow you to see which areas were the most interesting to the reader and which may need a few more rounds of editing.


Tips for Writing Better Survey Questions in Concept Tests


Use Simple and Direct Language in Your Questions

Unless your sample is highly targeted at a specific group (think Ph.D. students or IT decision-makers) you need to keep your language simple and free of jargon, undefined acronyms, or buzzwords. 

A general best practice is to write questions at your audience's level of understanding. So, if the sample for your survey is the general public, you’d want to write for a 6th-grade level of comprehension. That means keeping your vocabulary and sentence structure simple and straightforward. 


Provide Alternative Answer Choice Options

It's impossible to list every potential answer to a question. That's why you should always provide alternative answer options for multiple choice questions, like; "none of the above" and "other- please specify." 

Including these additional options gives respondents an out in situations where they would otherwise be compelled to select a choice that didn’t reflect their feelings. 


Vary Your Question Formats

Multiple-choice questions aren’t the only (or best) way to collect feedback. Adding rank order or rating scale questions and heatmap experiments can make your survey more engaging and provide interesting insights. A win-win for everyone. 

Plus, rating scale/slider questions work seamlessly with SightX’s automated persona tool- which uses Machine Learning to uncover buyer personas you might be missing. If you’re interested in this topic- check out the blog Consumer Segmentation: Maybe You Could Be Doing it Better. 


Keep Your Scales Balanced and Consistent 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll probably say it again: do NOT use even-numbered scales. Instead, stick to a 3, 5, or 7-point scale. 

Why? Because even-numbered scales do not leave room for a neutral option. And without a neutral option, truly neutral respondents can be forced to select a rating that doesn't reflect their feelings. 

You also need to make sure your scales are consistent.

 If the first scale question you ask begins at “Very Negative” and ends with “Very Positive” you will want to keep this structure throughout your entire survey. 


Don't Ask Double-Barreled Questions

When writing your survey questions, the word “and” isn’t your friend. 

For the most reliable data, you want to only ask about one metric at a time. 

For example, if you were to ask a respondent “How would you rate the performance and value of our product?” you’d be putting them in a tricky situation. Maybe they found the performance stellar but felt differently about the value. 

Instead, you would want to separate the performance and value metrics into two questions to properly evaluate each. 


Don't Write Leading Questions

Leading questions steer respondents in a specific direction with an implication that there is a correct answer. 

For example, if you wanted to get some metrics on your customer satisfaction you might include a question like “How satisfied are you with our product?” 

However, this phrasing assumes the customer was satisfied. 

Instead, you might want to rephrase the question to: “Please rate your experience below, with 1 being “not at all satisfied” and 5 being “very satisfied." 


Concept Testing with SightX

SightX is an AI-driven market research platform that makes concept testing a breeze thanks to Generative AI. While powerful enough for teams at Fortune 500 companies, our user-friendly interface makes it simple for anyone to start, optimize, and scale their own concept testing research. 

With our Generative AI consultant, Ada, you can harness the power GPT to build concept tests in seconds. And once your data is collected, Ada will analyze, summarize and report on your findings, picking out key insights in seconds and making recommendations on ways to apply the feedback to your concepts. 

Curious? Let us show you how simple it can be to collect powerful concept testing data. 


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Savannah Trotter

Savannah Trotter

Savannah is the Marketing Manager at SightX. She is our in-house expert for all things marketing and advertising.

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