Whether you call them iHUTs, HUTs, In-Home Usage tests, Home Use Tests, or even In-Home User tests, this methodology is very popular with the marketing research community. And for a good reason. Understanding and testing how consumers use a product in their home (or, in some cases, a home-like setting) can help manufacturers make final changes to the product, the packaging, and even the instructions, before launching the product to the market. However, iHUTs are challenging to execute correctly with many moving pieces. Your data collection partner must have an intense commitment to overseeing and managing every detail of the process.
iHUT Process and Risks
Here are the process stages – and what you need to watch out for in each step.
1. Screeners and Recruiting. You always want high-quality respondents who will engage in the marketing research process and give candid and honest responses. However, for iHUTs, you also need respondents who will thoroughly read what you send them, follow directions to the letter, and respect the project’s timing.
2. Assembling the Product Samples. Whether done by the data collection partner or the research client, you must acquire sufficient products, appropriately labeled, to ensure that respondents can consistently use the product to complete the test successfully. That includes product samples that may require special handling, such as fragile and frozen products.
3. Packing and Shipping. The products must be packaged and shipped to protect the product, making sure every respondent gets the right product, with identical product quality, at the same time, cost-effectively.
4. Test Execution. It takes unique skill to get hundreds of respondents miles apart in their own homes to perfectly execute the product test. There may be a specific sequence of product use, the timing of product use may be specified, and certainly the usage method will be regulated.
5. Data Collection. iHUTs often have multiple opportunities for data collection: before, during, and after product usage. Additionally, they will probably use different modes: online surveys, diaries (possibly by video), and phone interviews. Ensuring that all respondents complete all of the data collection efforts at the appropriate time is challenging for the data collection partner.
6. Respondent Communication. The data collection partner’s communication with respondents, starting with recruitment and continuing throughout the test, keeps respondents committed to the research process.
8. Incentive Fulfillment. Good respondents deserve good post-iHut handling as well. Part of the data collection partner’s commitment to respondents is to provide fast, fair, and user-friendly incentive payment options.
The Crazy World of Product Testing
Product testing can generate some pretty crazy situations! For example, one frozen food manufacturer wanted to conduct an iHUT product test with 250 respondents. However, because the product was frozen, it had to happen fast to ensure product quality for the respondent. We used dry ice to keep the test product frozen throughout the packaging and shipped it fast to preserve the product. Ultimately, we recruited the respondents and got the product shipped to them over just two days.
In another challenging IHUT project, the client needed 2400 respondents nationwide, and each respondent tested one of many products. With such a large sample and many test products, maintaining control over who received what product was critical to data integrity. Further, the project ran over a 30-day test period, so we had to keep respondents interested and engaged over the complete test.
How to Choose the Ideal iHUT Partner
When you are looking for a research partner to conduct an iHUT project, you need to look for several characteristics and capabilities.
- First, look for a firm experienced in completing iHUTs.
- Find a data collection partner who is obsessive about managing the details.
- Your iHUT partner should have streamlined processes and protocols to process large amounts of product, respondents, and data.
- Having an opt-in database of high-quality respondents will find and engage the respondents you need quickly for your project.
- An iHUT data collection partner who has negotiated favorable shipping rates will save you time and money.
- Make sure your iHUT partner is a problem solver and a true partner for project success.
While iHUTs are challenging research projects for any firm, choosing the right research partner can increase the probability of getting accurate and timely insight to guide your marketing and product development.
Reckner has been sweating the iHUT details for over 30 years! Contact us today to see how we can make your next iHUT project more successful – and much easier for you!