How to Perfect an In-Home Use Test with Survey Research

An in-home use test is a critical form of market research, particularly for product testing, product development teams and businesses that have yet to launch a product to market. 

While market research may appear non-experimental outwardly, there are several kinds of testing necessary to conduct, such as experimental research and in product testing specifically, customer development. 

An in-home use test complements the experimental aspect of market research and allows businesses to understand the viability of their product from their customers themselves

This article expounds upon the in-home use test and illustrates how survey research can perfect it so that you fulfill your market research techniques.  

Defining the In-Home Use Test

This kind of research is a critical method in product testing, in which businesses measure the performance of products and their effects on customer satisfaction. 

Also called the home usage test or in-home user test and abbreviated as the HUT or IHUT, this form of market research refers to the testing of a new product by way of sending it to a customer’s home rather than sending the customer to a facility to try the product. 

This way, businesses can understand how customers will use their products as they normally would — in their natural home environments

Rather than using the products in an altered environment such as a testing facility, users test the product as they would in their everyday lives. This method removes any biases that occur in unnatural settings and controlled environments.

Thus, market researchers and businesses can understand exactly how their target market interacts with their products before they officially launch new products to the general public.  

After using the product(s), the customers are sent surveys to share their opinions and experiences with the new product(s).

When to Use an In-Home Use Test

There are several situations in which using an IHUT is a necessity. They often tie into the need of assuring the success of a product, as opposed to being used with other campaigns, such as branding or advertising. 

The most utilitarian purpose of using the home usage test in your market research is to gain honest customer feedback on a product before it gets launched

Market researchers can also stand to use it for different purposes, which include the following:

  1. Innovation experiments: refining or updating an existing product.
  2. Early product development: when a new product idea is not fully fleshed out, sending testers an early version. This allows product developers to decide whether the product is worth continuing to build.
  3. Gauging a Commonly Used Product: Some products are used every day; researchers can conduct an IHUT on commonly used products to understand their utility, appeal and limitations. 
  4. Recording customer satisfaction over time: Some customers become more satisfied with a product they typically use over time, while others’ satisfaction may be in decline. Then there are those that don’t waver in their satisfaction levels with a product at all.
  5. Buying intent and buying pains: Market researchers can learn if using a product over time has any sway in their intent to buy, along with their buying pains. 

How to Conduct an In-Home Use Test

The following is a comprehensive set of instructions that explain how to conduct an in-home use test. The IHUT involves a process that market researchers can streamline in order to get the quickest results. 

This is to say that you do not need to take part in all of the steps outlined below. You may have already performed some of them as part of the encompassing market research process. 

  1. Determine your target market. This can be done through several market research techniques, including secondary and primary research. 
    1. You must use the correct target market sample when conducting any form of market research.
    2. You may also conduct market segmentation to further split your target market into smaller segments.
  2. Deliberate whether you need to perform customer development. If so, find the appropriate step in this process to begin sending out an in-home use test to customers.
  3. If you have several untested products, prioritize the one which needs product testing most urgently. 
    1. It is beneficial to practice product intuition before sending a product out for IHUT. For example, you ought to infer which product will perform or be of best use to your customers based on past experience or research.   
  4. Choose the number of HUT testers you will need to try your product. 
    1. The ideal number is between 10 -100 participants.
  5. Ascertain the length of the IHUT study; this can involve testing your product for several days- months, depending on your market research needs.
  6. Obtain your HUT testers by way of recruiting survey panels or via an online survey tool.
    1. You can also reach out to known customers by way of their contact information. For example, if they made electronic purchases, your business then has access to their names and email addresses. This is true in other situations, such as interacting with an online chat and providing contact information.
  7. Offer an incentive to your desired testers to ensure that they partake in your in-home user test.
  8. Deploy your products to the IHUT participants.
    1. Include instructions on how you require their participation in the IHUT. Remember to make mention of how they are to return the items (if they should) and whether they should take notes of their experience.
  9. Follow up with your participants if need be, particularly if you’re running a long study.
  10. Survey your participants by way of mail-in surveys you can send with their products, phone calls or post-HUT online surveys.
  11. Analyze your findings when you’ve garnered feedback from all the participants in the study.
  12. Report the viability of the product and determine if it is ready for launch.
    1. This involves other considerations, such as: 
      1. whether it needs more testing on other segments of your target market
      2. if a similar product needs testing to be used in comparison
      3. or if you should pull the plug on the product entirely

The IHUT Role in Customer Development

As aforementioned, customer development is a step in the IHUT process. However, given that customer development consists of its own framework and methodology, it can also be said to envelop the in-home use test.

As such, the IHUT can be viewed as a step of the customer development process, namely the first step of customer development, that of customer discovery. This step is predicated on understanding customers and their needs, with a focus on the kinds that your company may fulfill.  

It involves testing two hypotheses that relate back to the product:

  1. The problem hypothesis: your understanding of customer pain points
  2. The product hypothesis: your solution to these pain points

The HUT can also be applied as part of Step 2 of customer development, that of customer validation. It is centered on gaining validation via selling your product, after your target market approves of it from Step 1.

This is to say that although not its primary use case, the IHUT approach can be used in tandem with a product already in the market. Deploying it alongside an existing product is actually useful for three of the points aforesaid in the above section on when to use the in-home use test.

These include gauging a commonly used product, recording satisfaction over time and delving into buying intent and pain points. 

As such, the IHUT approach is useful to leverage alongside the customer development process.

Complementing Your In-Home Use Test with Surveys

The in-home usage test is not a standalone practice as it involves more than just sending out products. The core of this test is obtaining customer feedback on a particular product. There are several routes you can take to study customer opinions of an IHUT product.

You can call them directly and have a discussion on their findings. You can also send them surveys along with the products. Surveys allow you to ask virtually any product-related question.

For quicker insights, it is best to deploy electronic surveys, some of which may facilitate various aspects of survey research, depending on the platform you use. These include using advanced skip logic to route your respondents to the appropriate answers based on their answer to a previous question.

If you are running an IHUT alongside an already existing product, you ought to use a strong online survey platform, which can distribute your surveys to the masses and allow you to dictate exactly who gets to take part in them. This way, you are ensuring that only your target market will take the surveys.

Taking this approach also enables you to assess the percentage of your target market that is aware of your product. 

Perfecting Your In-Home Use Test with Survey Research

Closing off, an in-home usage test (IHUT) is a valuable market research method. While it is primarily used for testing new products before they are officially launched, such a test can be deployed in all stages of product development.

Survey research perfect IHUTs, in that this is the foremost method of gaining customer feedback and insights. To reap the most valuable insights, you ought to conduct regular surveys on your target market. 

Running continuous surveys is an adequate means for gaining a host of customer and business insights, along with a range of market research. This is because you can field surveys for virtually any marketing campaign.

Thus, running surveys gives you continuous insights that not only complement your in-home use test, but perfect it as well. But they must be administered carefully. 

To do so, you need to invest in a robust online survey tool, the kind that brings agile data from your target market and allows you to distill your target market down to the smallest segment.