CLT, HUT, iHUT, etc.: What’s Right For You?

CLT, HUT, iHUT, etc. : What Are These and What’s Right For You?

The world of product testing has generated many acronyms. A simple Google search reveals the following:

  • CLT – central location test
  • HUT – home use test
  • iHUT – in-home use test

And then, to further complicate the matter, some sources say that the “U” in these acronyms stands for use, some say usage, and still, others say user. So, what is it?

The difference is minimal. Product testing happens in the consumer’s home or at a specially-designed testing location call a CLT facility (central location test facility).

Which is the best choice for your project? It depends, of course! Here are factors you should consider in choosing between CLTs and iHUTs:

  1. How much time do you have? CLTs offer faster data collection because fieldwork can often be completed in a day or two, with results available soon thereafter. CLTs are a useful methodology if clients are looking to shortlist a number of products (a good rule of thumb is to not ship more than two product in an iHUT) or assess how a product might be accepted in the marketplace. iHUTs, on the other hand, are more feasible if you want the consumer to use the product over a more extended period. For example, if you are testing hair dye with women, you probably want to let them see how it grows out for a few weeks.
  2. Do you need geographic representation? If you choose CLTs, you are limited to a few geographic locations. That is not the case with iHUTs, as researchers can send test materials to consumers’ homes anywhere in the USA.
  3. Should the consumer use the product in their natural setting? There is another advantage to iHUTs in that the consumer uses the product in the location where they would typically consume it. They test the shampoo in their shower. They make the cake from a mix using their bowl and favorite spatula. This may produce more accurate evaluations of the product and their feelings about the user experience
  4. What’s the structure of the test? Do you need participants to compare products? Do you want to give them time to reflect on the product’s impact over time? Depending on the product you are testing, you may choose an iHUT over a CLT – or vice versa! Think about the evaluation process (e.g., diary and/or survey) that will best suit your need before making your choice.
  5. Do you need to reach a broader audience? If you are interested in knowing how your respondents’ families reacted to the product – or the outcome of the product – you won’t get that in a CLT. If you want your respondents to make something and then serve it to their families, they can only do that at home. So, if you want to reach a broader audience who might influence your respondent’s evaluation of the product, iHUTs are the way to go.
  6. Can you afford to ship your test product? Some products are too large, too expensive, have shipping restrictions or are too difficult to ship to sufficient respondents to use the iHUT methodology. For example, cars, home appliances (e.g., ovens, dishwashers), high-end electronics, or very fragile or non-shelf stable products may test better in a CLT setting.
  7. Are your target respondents challenging to recruit? Can your respondents easily travel to a CLT? Is your sample very low incidence in the general population? Elderly respondents, people caring for small children, or low-income respondents may find it difficult to travel to a CLT, so iHUTs may be a better solution.
  8. Is your test product highly confidential and proprietary? Using a CLT allows companies to keep their test products more confidential  than shipping them out to respondents for an iHUT. If you need to control access to prevent information from getting out to the general public (or your competitors), use the CLT methodology.
  9. Do you need precise control over product usage? If you are testing a product that requires a lot of instruction and oversight of the respondents, you might not be able to provide that effectively in the iHUT setting. CLTs can provide a researcher trained to use and demonstrate the product professionally and without bias. However, if you want to learn about how consumers use your product in real life, let them have a go at it in their own homes.

Product testing allows marketers to test their products while they are in development and before they launch to the market. Product tests identify ways to optimize product formulation and design, packaging, and instructions for use. Choosing between in-home testing and testing at a central facility is not black or white. CLTs or iHUTs? It depends on your product, your respondents, and what you want to learn.

Put Reckner Facilities’ 30 years of product testing experience to work for you! Contact us to talk about your product testing challenges.