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User Sense

Pretesting research: what, how and why?  

Learn all you need to know about conducting pretests. We provide you with an explanation of what pretesting entails and a detailed step-by-step-guide on how to conduct your own pretests.

What is pretesting? 

Pretesting is the process of testing and evaluating new concepts such as advertisements, commercials, or other marketing materials among the target audience. The purpose of pretesting is to assess the effectiveness of the material and identify any issues before it is deployed on a large scale. 

What are the benefits of pretesting?

There are quite a few advantages to pretesting. The five main reasons why companies use this method are listed below: 

  • Discovering ambiguities. Pretesting helps identify ambiguities in marketing materials, such as advertisements or communication messages, before they are shown to the public. This ensures that the message is clear and understandable. 

  • Increase effectiveness. With the help of pretesting, it becomes clear how consumers react to the material and to what extent it matches their needs and preferences. These insights can then be used to improve the material. 

  • Consistency with brand identity. After seeing the material, consumers can be asked questions about how the material came across to them. In this way, it can be determined whether this is in line with what the company wants to portray. 

  • Cost savings. By performing pretesting, companies receive feedback on the material at an early stage. Implementing this feedback can help prevent large marketing campaigns from being launched for campaigns that don't resonate with the target audience. This can result in significant cost savings for the company. 

  • Higher customer satisfaction. Pretesting ensures that the marketing material is more in line with the needs, wants, and expectations of the target audience. This contributes to a more positive perception and can increase customer satisfaction. 

What can you test with pretesting? 

Pretesting can be used for a variety of purposes. For example: 

Testing ads or commercials 

When testing ads or commercials, the following components are often included: 

  • Content. Test the effectiveness of the ad content, including the message, the language used, and the tone of voice. 

  • Images, voice overs, or video. The visual appeal and impact of images, colours, and other graphic elements. 

  • Layout. Test different layouts and formats to determine which one is most effective at grabbing attention and getting the message across. 

  • Associations. Test what associations people have with the ads, so that you can determine to what extent they match what you want to radiate as a company. 

Product concepts 

Test concepts and prototypes of products among the target audience. The following is often included: 

  • Acceptance. Test the acceptance of new product ideas or concepts within the target audience. 

  • Features and benefits. Assess how well consumers understand and appreciate the product's features and benefits. 

  • Price perception. Examine the perception of the product's price and value. 


Test different packaging among the target audience. Among other things, include the following: 

  • Design. Test different packaging designs to identify the most attractive and eye-catching one. 

  • Information. Assess the clarity and relevance of the information on the packaging. 

  • Brand association. Research how consumers associate the packaging with the brand and the product. 

Communication materials 

Test other communication materials among the target audience before they are printed or distributed. Among other things, include the following: 

  • Key message. Test the core message to ensure it is clear and compelling. 

  • Consistency. Assess whether the message is consistent with the brand values and overall marketing strategy. 

Websites and online materials 

Getting started with a new website or app? Then you often enter UX research in the form of: 

  • Concept tests. Determine whether the digital concept you have in mind is a good fit. 

  • Prototype tests. Test a digital prototype with users among the target audience. 

Pretesting methods

Various methodologies can be used for pretesting. You can think of the following methods: 

  • Online surveys. The marketing material is made available, with participants being asked to answer questions prior to, and after seeing the material. These surveys are often conducted among a large group of respondents, so that the results can be generalized. 

  • In-depth interviews. Interviews can be conducted to gather additional insights. The marketing material is shown to the respondent, after which interview questions are asked. 

  • Focus groups. The marketing material is shown in a group setting and respondents are asked to give their opinion and discuss with one another. 

  • Eye-tracking. This involves measuring which parts of the marketing material stand out the most. Based on these insights, the marketing materials can be adjusted so that the parts that matter most stand out better. 

  • Brain scans. EEG and fMRI scans can be used to measure people's brain activity when they come into contact with the marketing material. Based on these insights, the material can be further improved. 

In the case of pretesting, as with other types of research, the final choice of a methodology depends on the available budget and combining different qualitative and quantitative methods to reach the most reliable results. 

Examples of pretesting 

Below are some examples of how pretesting is used. 

Example pretesting for retail and consumer goods 

A retailer planning to launch a new product line, can use pretesting to measure consumer adoption and responses. This can involve testing product concepts, packaging, and marketing messages. 

Example pretesting for a telecommunications company 

A telecommunications company planning to launch a new advertising campaign, may use pretesting to evaluate the effectiveness of different ad variations. This can involve testing ad content, visual elements, and call-to-action strategies. 

Example pretesting for financial services 

A bank that is planning to introduce a new mobile app, can use pretesting to evaluate the user-friendliness of their app. For this, they can use prototype tests.