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In-home Use Tests are Exploding in Popularity, and Here’s the 5 Reasons Why



Product developers and researchers are constantly thinking about the best ways to test product. CLTs (central location tests) and IHUTs (in home usage tests) each have their time and place: smaller-scale CLTs for early in the innovation process, larger-scale IHUTs as 'gold standard' for scaled validation and learning. But in the past few years (and especially in the past few months), we've seen an exponential increase in the use of in-home usage tests. Why, you ask? Well, first, let’s break down what each of these tests really do.


A CLT is a research technique used by brands big and small to test products in controlled environments. Picture a group of 5-10 people in a room (pre-COVID), testing a pre-launch product for taste, packaging look and feel, and everything in between. These testers live somewhere close to the site where the product is manufactured, and they spend 1-2 hours with the R&D team. Benefits are researchers and consumers are side by side in a controlled environment, where instructions can be provided on how to use the product most effectively. And, product doesn’t need to be shipped anywhere (it’s being tested at the same place it’s manufactured).



While this level of control and logistical ease can be hugely beneficial at times, CLTs lack organic use of product and access to scaled, targeted audiences. Research participants aren’t testing products in their typical environments and routines, and we’re missing out on valuable feedback from those who may not live near a manufacturing site or aren’t willing or able to participate on-site. These drawbacks (and the significant impacts of COVID-19 on the research industry) led to a boom in IHUTs, with more product research, especially innovation-stage research, moving in-home.


IHUTs are nothing new in the research world, but right now, they’re all the rage. Here's why:


1. Real environment, real talk.

If you’re looking to get down into the nitty gritty of what your consumers actually think, you need to get down in the nitty gritty of how they live and go about their day. With IHUTs, your consumer is in a situation, using a product how they normally would, with who they normally would, in the context of their day-to-day life. This allows for more raw, direct, and representative feedback. 


2. Easy access to any consumer, anywhere.

Gone are the days of working hard to get your ideal buyer in a sterile room, answering questions about a product they are just trying for the first time. In our connected world, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to target who you want, when you want. You want an active Millennial male from LA who loves organic products? No problem. Or a curly-haired red-headed mom looking for better for you shampoo made for her (true Highlight story!)? You got it. With a tech-enabled recruiting partner, you can seamlessly tap into the right audiences, with greater detail and depth than ever before.


3. Test pretty much anything, in any stage of development.

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Looking to test something “out of the box”, or not the traditional consumer packaged good? Why shouldn’t you be able to? If Amazon can ship products of all shapes and sizes, so should your research partners. Highlight has found ways to manage not only 'easy to ship' products, but also fragile products, beverages, refrigerated, frozen, personal care, bulk products, functional products (supplements, CBD, etc), alcohol, and more. We have detailed, efficient operations and processes in place to ensure these products are delivered to your ideal consumer in great condition, ready for testing. So trust us, it’s possible. 


4. Shipping and logistics don’t have to break the bank.

Does it sound like sending product and getting feedback from each of your target buyers is going to be insanely pricey? Good news! It doesn’t have to be. Tech-enabled partners make IHUTs more affordable, streamlined, and turnkey than ever. You can conduct research in-home for the same or even lower prices than traditional CLTs, while getting even more organic and scaled results. It is a win-win.


5. And, it doesn’t have to take forever.

IHUTs are not the slow process that they used to be. You can get your project started and fully completed within weeks. Here at Highlight, we provide our clients with a live dashboard of data flowing in our online portal platform, mere days after research kicks off. Instant access to instants is huge for R&D teams - no more combing through pages of CLT notes. We’ve verified, it’s possible for an efficient IHUT to run on a timeline of days, not weeks, and definitely not months! 

In a world of rapid iteration and test and learn, we are big fans of the IHUT model. We hope you are now, too.