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Testing at the SKU Level

SKU vs CONCEPT TESTING Why Traditional Concept Testing Doesn't Work.jpg

Why Traditional Concept Testing Doesn't Work

Details matter

Say that you have an idea for a new consumer product or service. It could be an improvement to existing one, a breakthrough new idea altogether or one that occupies a growing niche. You are excited and sure that others will be too. But how do you know if your idea is a good one? Do you know it’s good? Do you just think it’s good? Do you just think you know it’s good?

There are over 25000 new consumer products introduced every year. Almost half fail or disappoint at launch and only a few survive a few seasons. Only about 1 idea in 7 is a good idea to begin with and that one idea can get ruined by a poor execution.

The worst mistake a product manager or developer can make is to do no market research at all.

The second worst is to do incomplete or self-serving market analysis. But between the two, nearly 75% of product launches come to market anyway, usually with poor results.

The third worst move is to conduct research at the concept level.

Test the idea as an execution

Concepts are little more than ideas posing as a commercial product offering.  The idea of a seated woman with a wry smile is one thing; the Mona Lisa is something else altogether.  Product concepts vs. executions are no less dramatic in their differences and outcomes.  The execution is everything.  It could just as easily be the Mona Lisa was the concept and a stick figure drawing of a smiling woman the execution.  The point to be made is that ideas must be evaluated at the outcome level to be commercially relevant.


Details matter. Details define a product much more than the idea behind it.

Nowhere in the go-to-market value chain does anyone manufacture, distribute sell or buy a concept. It is all done at the SKU level, item-by-item. The sooner a product developer articulates an idea as it would realistically appear in the market, as a SKU, the faster and more productive will be its development and execution.

Yet traditional concept testing continues unabated and methods virtually unchanged for decades. Results continue to disappoint and little progress is made. Most concepts are fuzzy ideas at best, and typically ignore critical information concerning the product as it must appear in the real world. Incredibly, many concept tests for consumer packaged goods do not include prices, contents, nutrition facts, ingredient statements or directions for use. Results are interpreted in comparison to the results of previously conducted tests, just as shoddily composed.

In the end, the market decides which concepts succeed and which fail once expressed, by necessity, as finished SKUs.

Product managers will be wise to consider that endpoint, and test with fully articulated SKUs, to align development inputs with executional outputs from the start.

Details matter.