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Is purchase intent a reliable predictor of sales?

Brands often deliberate about how to interpret product concept test results. What does it mean when purchase intent for a food product scores 65%? Does the score reflect the real purchasing behavior? Is the score reliable even though the respondent did not taste the food product? New research has discovered that purchase intent and recommendation responses are actually the most accurate predictors of real food purchase. In Elina Kytö’s doctoral dissertation (2020), she detailed how effectively different measures predict real purchases in the food sector. In her tests she used the same purchase intention measure that we utilise in Cambri: 5 scale question of willingness to buy where 5 indicates high probability and 1 low. The test set-up included 3 phases: 1. A preliminary test to examine the respondent expectations towards the products, 2. Tasting (for respondents on the tasting condition), and 3. A few weeks after the research participants in both conditions reported which products they had actually bought. In total 467 respondents participated, with 346 completing all 3 tests.

How effectively does purchase intent predict real purchases?

Acknowledging that marketing efforts and competition influence purchases, businesses often discount the results of purchase intent questions. For example, Ramanujam & Tacke (2016) suggest that the probability that respondents who answered 5 actually purchase the product is 50% and for those who answered 4 10-20%. While these general rules of thumb may sometimes be very helpful, their accuracy depends on, e.g. from whom you ask the purchase intent and on what kind of information you provide for the respondents.


Research conducted among relevant target market results in more accurate results

Kytö’s test showed that if the respondents were users of a brand or heavy users of a category, then high purchase intent likely leads to real purchase. These results highlight the importance that companies need to segment their markets, select attractive target markets and conduct their concept test also among the attractive target market.


Purchase intent is predicted better when more product information is available


In Kytö’s example, results were more accurate in conditions where the respondents were told the brand of the product as compared to test conditions where the respondents evaluated a brandless product.


Tasting is not a prerequisite for accurate result 

The test included two conditions. In the first, the respondents rated the products’ purchase intention based on brand and package picture simulating selection at normal buying situation. In the second, the respondents rated the purchase intention after tasting the product with the brand and package information. In both cases, the purchase intent was an equally effective predictor of real purchase.


What does this mean?

  • Companies (in this example food brands) should keep measuring purchase before making launch related decisions.

  • You can feel confident that the concept test KPIs that Cambri is using are reliable measures of actual purchase.

  • Segment the markets, select attractive target markets and conduct the concept test also among the attractive target market.

  • While marketing and sales messaging has to be focused, the value proposition in concept testing should include more information, such as brand name, to improve the accuracy of the results.



Kytö, E., 2020, From purchase intention to purchase behavior.


Ramanujam & Tacke, 2016, Monetizing Innovation: How smart companies design the product around the price