Top Tips for Needs Identification and Idea Screening

Published Jun 10, 2021

Debbie Senior, VP, Product Automation

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We all know that too many newly launched products fail. However, with cost-effective, quick turnaround online testing now available earlier in the product lifecycle, brands can increase product potential by better understanding market/consumer needs from the outset.

By identifying the most important needs and possible market gaps and turning these into stronger ideas, brands can use this insight to develop product and service concepts that have a better fit and chance of success.

Here are our top tips for conducting online surveys of this type.


  1. Usually, there will be a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Qualitative exploration will uncover the most important needs and market/product gaps and enable co-creation on ideas that meet those needs, before testing quantitatively to see which have the biggest potential. Both can be done online, saving time and cost.

  3. ​The needs and ideas generated in the qualitative phase and tested quantitatively should be enhanced by an internal perspective i.e. adding items created by your internal product and innovation teams.

  5. At such an early stage in the product lifecycle, we suggest targeting a broad survey audience to get the widest view of potential needs or ideas. Consider including both category and non-category users (although you probably want to exclude outright category rejectors). If you capture subpopulation context you can always validate what your core audience thinks vs the wider market.

  7. In quantitative testing, the number of different needs or ideas is larger than for concept or pack testing. Think of it as a large funnel where you are taking a wide range of items at the outset and narrowing it down to those most likely to succeed and weeding out the rest. Between 15 and 25 is a typical number but it can be much higher.

  9. For practical and cost efficiency reasons a sequential monadic survey approach is the most appropriate i.e. one where a respondent sees and rates several needs/ideas per survey. However, to avoid fatigue and ensure quality we suggest a maximum of 5 per respondent. The order they are shown should be randomized across the sample. In the Toluna Start platform, this is done automatically for you through our Random Assignment feature. We recommend a minimum of 100 completed interviews per need/idea.​

  11. When testing needs these are most likely to be text statements. A simple example of an unmet need is ‘I would like to eat cereal on the go but cereal bars aren’t healthy and have too much sugar.’ Ideas could be text statements and/or images. A simple example related to the need statement could be ‘A new cereal bar without added sugar but sweetened by natural honey or coconut blossom sugar.’

  13. Any text statements should be short i.e. a couple of sentences maximum and written in consumer language (the qualitative phase can help with this). Images should be of high-resolution quality. To avoid biased and incomparable results, the use of stimulus type should be consistent per survey given visual images will typically rate higher than text.

  15. At this stage in the lifecycle, you don’t need to include many key metrics within your survey as you’re looking for a go/no go result rather than a lot of nuances. In our view key success factors for any need or idea will be if they are relevant, they fit with your brand, and are different. Relevance indicates the important level and therefore acts as a proxy for potential future interest and purchase intention. If a need/idea isn’t felt to be associated with your brand, then it indicates the credibility isn’t there or the positioning isn’t right. Brands and products operate in such highly competitive markets with lots of consumer choice, so having a need or idea that is unique from the competition is the absolute ideal, but this doesn’t happen every day. So at least standing out in some way from the rest and/or tapping into a trend is critical. The strongest ideas are also the most liked and believable.

  17. Some need/idea testing surveys use a max-diff approach. Whilst this is a technique we apply in other situations; we feel it isn’t appropriate here given it only allows for one metric to be applied otherwise it becomes an impossible respondent task. We feel that a short, combined set of metrics delivers stronger and clearer insight for this survey type.

  19. It is highly likely that your survey results will highlight the strongest needs/ideas that are ready to develop further. In the event that it isn’t clear then online qualitative forums are a useful route to find out why and fine-tune options further. This might apply to items you/your team thought would do better than they did or those that are innovative but need reworking to reach their full potential.

  21. Early days needs/idea testing enables you to bring your internal stakeholders in closer contact with consumers to impact stronger decision making. During online qualitative forums and chat groups, they can observe, prompt, and take action on, consumer feedback in real-time. Quantitative insights, also in real-time/speedily delivered, should provide a clear ranking, and be easily sharable.
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