02.Oct.2014

Donna Van De Water
Chief Operating Officer

Concept Testing – The Right Research Tactic Makes All the Difference

On-line vs. Focus Groups?

Concept testing is very much a part of the strategic and creative process here at Lipman Hearne.  Concepts come in many forms—landing pages, ad mock-ups, a few pages from a viewbook, or a mood board, to name just a few.  Just as there are many different ways to present a concept, there are a variety of ways to test them. It takes an experienced and knowledgeable researcher to know what right combination will yield the insights needed to make the concept effective in market.

Recently, during a conversation with a client, the topic of online concept testing came up. In this case, we were talking about focus groups.  It quickly became apparent that our client had very little experience with online groups, and perhaps there are others who would like some basic background information about how they work and what to expect.

Online focus groups can take place in real time, much like in-person groups, using secure chat room-like technology.  The group size is typically small, as managing a group from a distance and ensuring quality input from participants requires significant dexterity and an ability to think on one’s feet.

The online groups can also take place asynchronously, meaning that all of the participants are not logging in at the same time and responding to the same exact question in real time. Rather, they are logging in to a secure shared bulletin board at their convenience, and going at their own pace.  These groups can be larger, more geographically diverse, and the content can be substantive.

The asynchronous approach requires careful and strategic planning. We must know what input or feedback we seek and how to craft the questions to gather the detailed input that is needed to inform final concept development.  While some moderators simply post the questions and hope for high quality responses, we always take the time to follow up and query our participants, engaging them in the conversation, following up on their responses, and digging in to understand why they are responding the way they do.  This approach actually takes more moderator time than traditional in-person focus groups.

There are many other considerations when deciding on the right research methodology—this just highlights one component.  We’ve had terrific success by being open to various approaches and keeping our skill set up to date, allowing us to be flexible and focused on what’s right for the work.  We’ve been able to refine and fine-tune our approaches by welcoming input and feedback, and learning from each and every concept test.