Concept testing involves presenting the product concept to appropriate target consumers and getting their reactions. The concepts can be presented symbolically or physically. However, the more the tested concepts resemble the final product or experience, the more dependable concept testing is. In the past, creating physical prototypes was costly and time-consuming, but computer-aided design and manufacturing programs have changed that. Today firms can design a number of prototypes via computer and then create plastic models to obtain feedback from potential consumers.8 Companies are also using virtual reality to test product concepts.
Many companies today use customer-driven engineering to design new products. Customer-driven engineering attaches high importance to incorporating customer preferences in the final design. National Semiconductor uses the Internet to enhance its customer-driven engineering by tracking what customers search for on its Web site. Sometimes, says the company's Web services manager, it is more important to know when a customer did not find a product than when he did. That helps National Semiconductor shrink the time needed to identify market niches and create new products.9
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