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An illustration of someone validating a concept

How to validate product concepts

16th June 2022

Within the context of product innovation, insight plays an important role in shaping and prioritising new ideas when entering a problem space.

Product innovation is all about creating something new that generates value for the business and its customers. Proving out ideas early and throughout the product development lifecycle is beneficial and helps reduce risk. This article outlines the value and best practices of concept validation.

Why bother proving out ideas for products?

Creating a new product can be exciting, but also challenging since launching a successful product requires considerations that centre around:

  • Business viability: is it a viable solution? Does it create value to the organisation?
  • Technical feasibility: how could it be achieved? Do the capabilities exist right now and how could it scale in the long-term? Is the system architecture designed in alignment with the user experience?
  • Customer desirability: do customers need it (not just want it)? Would they practically use it over an alternative?

If one or even two product considerations are missing, the value add to the customer or business is likely to fall short elsewhere. For instance, a new solution may be technically possible to develop, however the technology may not be readily available in all the proposed markets, therefore limiting customer reach and business value.

Why articulating ideas clearly matters

When creating something new and presenting the idea to stakeholders and customers, typically two things are articulated: the product value proposition, and the concept.

A product value proposition is the product’s elevator pitch, which articulates the business need, users’ problems, wants, needs and expectations in accordance with the solution being provided. They can be used with users, stakeholders, and potential investors.

There are many ways to structure a product value proposition statement, and a good one includes information about the: Users (who are your target users?), the problem (what is the problem being addressed?), the solution (how will the product solve the problem?), and images to reinforce the branding and content.

An illustration representing concept validation with the words "Make cleaning easier for you with CL33N-R and get more done. CL33R-N's intelligent prediction of your routine will keep your space clean and organised, especially on busy and stressful days"

A concept is a visual representation of an idea. Concepts can be presented in different formats using a mix of text, graphics, video, and audio. Formats may include a simple description, storyboards, sketches, a prototype and an explainer video.

An illustration of a person looking at prototypes through a magnifying glass

Being able to clearly articulate a new idea is crucial to gathering the right type of feedback.

What if a new idea is not explained very well?

If the idea for a product isn’t explained well e.g., the problem and context of use is not articulated, feedback from users may not be relevant. Likewise, if a business cannot explain their proposed solution to investors or internal stakeholders, there is little chance they will buy into it.

An illustration of two people talking to represent concept validation
Key considerations when planning a concept validation study

When validating a new idea, it’s not about creating innovation theatre, it’s about designing a concept test that enables you to test a hypothesis or a set of assumptions about your idea. By way of testing, learning and iterating, risk is reduced around the bet you are making and the likelihood of success increased.

So, what’s important when validating concepts? Well two main things:

  • Simplifying the product proposition – make it easy to understand and tailor it to the audience, seeking input from internal stakeholders and target customers to validate the ideas.
  • Asking the right questions - the types of exploratory questions covered during concept validation research typically include open-ended ones and Likert rating scales to gauge the extent to which the idea is viable, feasible and desirable, e.g.:
  • How valuable is it? In what way?
  • What would you add, remove, or change?
  • How appealing is it? Would you use it in practice? Where?
  • Would you be interested in buying it, and at which price? 

Some internal questions to teams may include:

  • Is this technically feasible?
  • Is technology available to support it?
  • Is it futureproof?
  • Will it be relevant in 5+ years?

Notice none of the questions address the usability of the concept, since the early stages of product development are very much about product-market fit. It’s also important to note that assessing the product-market fit is not a static process. Markets change, as do behaviours, attitudes as well as the technology.

The outputs from concept validation exercises result in qualitative data such as reactions and preferences, as well as the contribution of new ideas. These insights can be used to; further validate hypotheses and assumptions, dismiss, and converge ideas, capture additional thoughts to evolve the original solution, prioritise existing ideas and areas of focus for further development as well as to support decision making (e.g., the investment of time, money, and resources into creating a minimum viable product).

Why concept validation matters

Concept validation is the process of gathering data-driven evidence around new ideas. Experimentation (continuous testing and learning) enables for quick, well-informed ideas to develop. Proving out concepts for products initially and throughout the design and build process reduces risk and speeds up delivery when creating a value-adding product offerings in the market that reduces overall costs to businesses.

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