Product: In Home Use Test – iHUT – What’s it all about?

In Home Usage Testing, commonly shortened to IHUT, is a cost effective way to test your product with real consumers before moving forward with a full fledged product launch.  A variety of products are easily shipped for participants to use at home.  Their feedback is gathered in a follow-up telephone survey, online survey or even an in-person interview if needed.  This methodology is very engaging for the respondent since they get to touch and use the product while giving the client detailed feedback on what consumers are going to think once the product hits the shelf.

With iHUTS, consumers use your product at home in their own environment rather than in an artificial test environment, simply because this approach results in more realistic outcomes on product satisfaction, usage and potential improvement areas. Respondents meeting your recruitment criteria can be selected via an online panel to participate. The in-home usage period depends on product category and your specific needs and varies from one-time usage or usage over a longer period of time. After respondent selection, your products will be sent to the participants. At different times during the usage period, participants receive an invitation to fill out an online questionnaire.

Depending on the product category and your requirements, one of the questionnaires may capture the participants' first impressions and experiences with the product after the first week of usage. You can use the final questionnaire - after a couple of weeks of usage - to determine the experiences and satisfaction with the product in detail, as well as areas for improvement. The acceptor-rejector questions can be repeated to determine whether your product meets the benefits promised to consumers. Varying from stage to stage, iHUTS measure the following elements:

These include first impression, appeal and purchase intent. You can compare the results on these KPIs across different measurements in time to track the product performance Acceptor-Rejector analysis. Before and after using the product, participants can answer the key questions of an acceptor-rejector methodology to assess whether the product is meeting consumers' expectations. It also assesses the level of acceptance before and after usage. In case of a decline in acceptance, you can analyze the results to determine the cause of this decline.

Overall satisfaction as well as satisfaction on specific product features can be measured to provide first insights into potential areas of improvement. In addition, the importance of the different aspects can be measured to make sure your time and resources will be spent to optimize those elements that really matter to consumers. In case of a longer usage period and multiple questionnaires, levels of satisfaction can be measured over time.

A benefit take out with a card test tool can be measured: the product benefits are placed on cards and these are shown to consumers. For each benefit, they indicate the level to which it fits with their product experiences, simply by dragging the benefit card to the right answering category. Again, this tool can be measured over time to check any changes. The outcomes of the benefit test provide good input for the final positioning and communication of the product when launched.

With the help of another card test, the level to which your product experiences fit with the image consumers have of your brand can also be measured. This information is measured to determine to what extent your product supports and strengthens your brand values.  With questions on recommendation, your product's Recommendation Intent Score (RIS) can be calculated, providing insight into the level of advocacy among users for the product.

Various open-ended questions throughout the questionnaires allow for focus on potential areas for improvement.

The outcomes of the different tasks (over time) are all analyzed in combination. iHUTS can provide you with clear and relevant results and recommendations. You will know exactly whether or not your product is ready for full market launch, its potential in terms of acceptance, the additional improvements needed and how to best position your product.

iHUTS allow you to execute the final and most important check on your product before launch by means of real consumer-usage testing.  They offer an efficient and cost-effective way to check whether your product is ready for launch; more realistic outcomes than from a controlled test environment… thanks to its real-life setup; and inclusion of the acceptor-rejector methodology, provides you with clear insight into the level of acceptance before and after product usage.  

One of EMI’s favorite IHUTs involved a concept test for a new snack food.  EMI started by sending out a client written survey to an income targeted audience identified to be the snack’s core consumers.  Respondents gave their mailing address and contact information.  From there, EMI mailed out a full-size retail box of the current snack along with the alternative option.  Respondents were then contacted for two follow-up surveys to measure not only their satisfaction with the current snack option, but how reluctant or accepting they would be to a change in packaging, flavor and name.  EMI delivered the data, incentivized each respondent and managed any returned or non-deliverables.  As a result, the client was able to test a new product on a small scale and stick with their original snack option.

About the Author: Michael Holmes is the founder of EMI - Online Research Solutions (a 2010 Inc. Magazine recipient of "The Fastest Growing companies in the US" awards.)

For more information about EMI – Online Research Solutions please visit the company’s Web site