In-Home Usage Tests, or iHUTs, are a dynamic consumer market research method that offers unparalleled insights into product interactions within participants’ natural environments.

They provide a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between controlled settings and real-life scenarios, allowing companies to observe how their products integrate seamlessly into consumers’ everyday lives.

What Is an In-Home Usage Test (iHUT)?

An In-Home Usage Test, commonly referred to as an iHUT, is a consumer market research methodology that asks people to use and review products at home, in a natural setting, or targeted environment to provide insights about their likes, dislikes, and opinions about the product.

The In-Home Usage Test methodology differs from others where participants are invited to a central facility to try and react to a product in an environment that may simulate the home environment but is not exactly the same as one’s own home environment.

Respondents to In-Home Usage Test studies find this research methodology very engaging because they can interact with the product (see, touch, smell, etc.) in an environment they are comfortable in. These types of studies can capture valuable information before a product launch or during other stages of development, as well as insights into how consumers will use the products in their daily lives.

How Does In-Home Usage Testing Work?

An In-Home Usage Test (IHUT) usually involves the following steps:

Participant Selection: A group of participants is carefully chosen to represent the target audience for the product or service. These participants are typically chosen based on a variety of factors such as demographics, customer status, relevant preferences, etc.

Product Distribution: Selected participants are sent the product or service that is to be tested. This could be a physical item like a new kitchen gadget, a digital service like a software application, or even a consumable product like food or beverages.

Usage Instructions: Participants receive clear instructions on how to use the product or service. These instructions might include guidelines on setup, usage procedures, and any specific tasks participants are asked to perform during the testing period.

Integration into Daily Life: Participants incorporate the product or service into their daily routines at home. They use the product as they would in real-life scenarios, providing a natural context for its usage.

Feedback Collection: Participants document their experiences, thoughts, and opinions about the product. This feedback can be collected through various methods. Participants might be asked to share insights about usability, functionality, likes, dislikes, and any challenges they encounter.

Data Analysis: Once the testing period is complete, the collected feedback is analyzed by the company’s research team. Patterns, trends, and insights are identified to gain a comprehensive understanding of how participants interacted with the product and their overall perceptions.

Refinement and Action: The insights gained from the IHUT help inform decision-making. Companies use this feedback to refine the product, address issues, and make improvements based on the participants’ real-world experiences.

Outcome: The enhanced product or service is often launched into the market with greater confidence, as it has been tested in authentic user environments. Additionally, IHUT findings can guide marketing strategies and messaging to better align with consumer needs and preferences.

iHUT Feedback Collection Methods

There are several methods to collect in-home usage test participants’ feedback. They include:

  • Online surveys
  • Diaries or journals – both online and physical
  • Feedback forms
  • Interviews
  • Group discussions
  • Online message boards
  • Video Calls
  • Phone calls

We believe that online surveys are the best methodology for gathering insights since they are quick to complete and can be cost-effective compared to other methods.

What In-Home Usage Tests Measure

In-home usage tests can help brands better understand the entire picture of a specific buyer group or market.

They provide helpful insights into a product or service many times before they are fully launched to the general consumer.

In-Home Usage Tests can be used to measure various aspects of a product or service, including:

  • Satisfaction
  • Impressions
  • Interest
  • Appeal
  • Estimated Cost / Value to Consumer
  • Purchase Intent
  • Improvements / Enhancements
  • Competitive Standing
  • Consumer Acceptance
  • Barriers / Challenges

In-Home Usage Test (iHUT) Benefits and Advantages

In-Home Usage Tests (IHUTs) offer a range of significant benefits and advantages for companies seeking to gain authentic insights into their products or services:

  • Real-Time Feedback: IHUTs provide the advantage of collecting real-time data directly from participants’ homes. Unlike traditional testing facilities, there is no delay between product usage and opinion sharing. Immediate responses to online surveys ensure more accurate and trustworthy data.
  • Multiple Feedback Options: IHUTs offer various avenues for data collection, including telephone polls, online surveys, video chats, in-person meetings, and much more. This flexibility accommodates diverse preferences and allows for tailored feedback collection methods.
  • Prototype Testing: IHUTs enable participants to engage with products in natural settings, assessing aspects such as taste, scent, ease of use, packaging appeal, and product performance. This valuable feedback informs adjustments and refinements before the product launch.
  • Market Insights: IHUTs provide a comprehensive understanding of user perceptions, including first impressions, interest, appeal, satisfaction, and purchase intent. These insights guide data-driven decisions, helping companies avoid wasteful product launches.
  • Early Market Understanding: IHUTs allow companies to gain insights into their target market’s preferences and behaviors before launching a product. Sensory aspects like appearance, feel, smell, and flavor contribute to a well-rounded understanding of market reception.
  • Product Enhancement: IHUT feedback aids in identifying flaws, validating features, and measuring customer satisfaction. This iterative process ensures that products are refined and enhanced based on user preferences.
  • Continuous Monitoring: IHUT benefits extend beyond product development stages, allowing companies to monitor products from pre-launch to post-launch. Ongoing studies enable tracking of consumer attitudes and preferences as the product evolves.
  • Participant Recruitment: IHUTs are location-independent, making participant recruitment easier and removing geographic constraints. Participants often view IHUTs as special opportunities to try new products and might receive bonuses, enhancing engagement.

IHUTs in product development provide brands with valuable feedback and insights. This leads to better decisions, improved offerings, and a stronger market presence.

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Categories In-Home Usage Tests Can Be Effective

In-home usage tests (IHUTs) can be applied to a wide range of product categories across various industries.

These tests are valuable for gaining insights into how consumers interact with products in their natural environments. Here are some product categories that commonly utilize IHUTs: 

  • Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG): Food and beverages, household cleaning products, personal care items (shampoos, soaps, lotions), and pet care products often undergo IHUTs to assess taste, usability, effectiveness, and overall satisfaction.

  • Electronics and Technology: IHUTs can test gadgets like smartphones, laptops, smart home devices, and wearable technology to evaluate user-friendliness, performance, and compatibility within users’ daily routines.
  • Home Appliances: Products like kitchen appliances (blenders, coffee makers), vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, and washing machines undergo IHUTs to gauge functionality, ease of use, and impact on daily chores.
  • Beauty and Skincare: Cosmetics, skincare products, hair styling tools, and fragrances are commonly tested through IHUTs to assess effectiveness, user experience, and visual appeal.
  • Home Furnishings: Furniture, bedding, home decor, and lighting can be evaluated in IHUTs to understand comfort, aesthetics, and suitability for different living spaces.
  • Children’s Products: Toys, baby care items, clothing, and educational tools often undergo IHUTs to determine safety, durability, entertainment value, and developmental impact.
  • Health and Wellness: IHUTs can be used for testing fitness equipment, dietary supplements, wellness products, and medical devices to assess user experiences, results, and overall satisfaction.
  • Automotive Accessories: IHUTs can be employed to evaluate car accessories such as seat covers, car cleaning products, air fresheners, and infotainment systems.
  • Clothing and Apparel: IHUTs can help assess the fit, comfort, durability, and style appeal of clothing, footwear, and accessories.
  • Outdoor and Recreation: Products like camping gear, sporting equipment, outdoor apparel, and gardening tools can be tested through IHUTs to gauge performance, durability, and user satisfaction.
  • Household Essentials: IHUTs can be applied to testing everyday items like paper products (tissues, toilet paper), cleaning tools (mops, brooms), and storage solutions.
  • Entertainment and Media: IHUTs can be used to assess media consumption experiences, such as video streaming services, books, magazines, and gaming consoles.

These are just a few examples, as the versatility of IHUTs allows them to be adapted to numerous other product categories.

IHUTs provide valuable insights that guide product development, refinement, and marketing strategies, ensuring products are well-received by their target audiences.

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EMI’s Approach to In-Home Usage Tests

EMI is pretty unique in the online market research sample industry. As a leading sample consultancy, we understand the entire sample landscape, not just a single panel. Our goal is to create a strategic blend of sample based on your project, rather than make your project fit any specific panel.

That means we are not biased toward a specific panel asset. Rather, we create strategic sample blends that best fit the goals of In-Home Usage Tests, from purchase intent and usability to satisfaction and challenges.

Over the last 20+ years, we have cultivated an unparalleled understanding of the online sample landscape. Our expertise has been nurtured not solely through collaborations with diverse panel partners across the industry but also through over a decade of dedicated research-on-research into the online sample landscape, comprehending panel distinctions and their evolution over time.

EMI has established a global network of sample providers, granting you entry to a top-tier reservoir of respondents encompassing diverse demographics, socioeconomic statuses, geographic locations, behaviors, and psychographic attributes. 

We leverage our high-quality network of panels to provide your product testers for evaluating the in-home experience of a wide variety of products and services.

Our team will create a custom strategic sample blend to recruit participants that best meet the goals of your in-home usage test, as well as handle all other facets of the project – ensuring you get the high-quality insights you and your clients need.

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