In-Home Use Tests (IHUTs)


Have you ever wondered how new products are refined before they hit the shelves? The answer often lies in a research process known as In-Home Use Tests or IHUTs.

This research method is critical in the product development phase, offering real-world insights into how consumers interact with a product in their daily lives. It goes beyond traditional market research by placing products directly into the hands of potential users, allowing companies to gather authentic feedback and usage data in a natural setting.

About In-Home Usage Test (IHUT) Market Research

IHUT market research provides businesses with valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences. 

This type of market research examines the behavior of users in a real situation, allowing researchers to draw conclusions about the practical relevance of a product and make corrections if the results are not as expected.

What is IHUT market research?

An IHUT is a market research technique where products are sent to selected participants to use in their own homes. This method allows companies to gather real-world feedback on how consumers interact with a product in their everyday environment. 

Conducting IHUT market research is an excellent way to better understand consumer behavior and preferences in daily life. It involves handing out a product to consumers for a specific amount of time and asking them to use it how they normally would. As a result, participants will try the product in their everyday lives with no pressure to get familiar with the product and all its features.

This approach delivers invaluable knowledge regarding consumer attitudes and their emotional connections with products. It helps businesses improve their marketing plans for maximum success in a more suitable environment than laboratory-based research methods.

Most of these tests require a specific amount of time to allow the product to be completely consumed or at least used over a normal usage cycle.  Examples of IHUT product tests can include health and beauty aids, cleaning products, tools or appliances that are used two or more times per week, or foods that may be used in different recipes or on multiple occasions.

Participants use the product over a set period and provide feedback on their experience. This feedback can include usability, effectiveness, preference, satisfaction, and any issues or problems encountered. The idea is to gather genuine reactions and experiences from typical users. This allows companies to see how the product is used in everyday life, providing insights that might not surface in a controlled setting.

Importance and benefits of IHUT market research

With IHUT market research, organizations identify potential issues and optimize their marketing campaigns for maximum impact. It offers businesses the opportunity to test products in real-world settings, allowing them to receive valuable feedback and determine potential design or functionality issues.

Industries that are leveraging this research include those producing consumer packaged goods, home appliances, electronics, and home furnishings. In these industries, testing products in real-life situations is essential to develop enhancements before launching them on the market. 

For this reason, IHUT market research leads to improved products and greater customer satisfaction – and among the specific benefits that IHUT market research brings to companies are the following:

• By identifying potential issues before a product is widely released, IHUTs significantly reduce the risk of market failure. This proactive approach saves companies from the high costs associated with recalling or rebranding a product post-launch.

• IHUT market research offers invaluable insight into consumer attitudes, which can be utilized for product design. Improvement, or even innovating based on the participants’ feedback.

• It enables decision-makers to gain a greater understanding of consumer attitudes and preferences, facilitating the generation of more effective branding and advertising campaigns.

• This type of market research allows businesses to craft a more effective market positioning strategy and, ultimately, gain greater market share.

• IHUT market research is a valuable tool to gather consumer insights. The research findings are useful to make informed product design decisions that will result in increased customer satisfaction.

• Compared to some other forms of market research, IHUTs can be more cost-effective. They provide a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data without the need for expensive focus group facilities or observation labs.

• IHUT market research may provide critical information regarding customer trends and inclinations, enabling companies to devise strategies that grant them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

• The flexibility of In-Home Use Tests makes them applicable across a wide range of industries. Whether it’s a kitchen appliance, a skincare product, or a tech gadget, IHUTs can be tailored to suit the specific testing needs of almost any product.

When to Use an In-Home Use Test

There are several situations when an IHUT is a preferred way to study a product or service.

  • The most common reason is to gain real-life feedback from consumers before a product is launched.
    • This can be done for a prototype, a more developed product, or a new version of an existing product.
    • Surveys or interviews about product usage before and/or after the in-home test can be done to gauge the extent to which expectations are met.
    • Insights and comments from users can provide input to the messaging and advertising for the launch.
  • If a product is used daily, it is possible to track the consumer’s level of satisfaction over time and assess why there may be a variation in this measurement.
  • It is further possible to learn about the product’s overall appeal, desire for modifications of any features, purchase intent, and pricing elasticity.
  • Aside from the cost of shipping products to a consumer’s home, an IHUT is more cost-effective than having people come to a less realistic environment such as a test lab.
Home Product Testing Market Research

How is an In-Home Usage Test conducted?

  • To conduct an IHUT one first needs to recruit qualified users of a product. This may be accomplished via an online screener or by phone. It is most helpful to have a sample or panel pre-established since initial cooperation is likely to be higher. Market research firms like SIS maintain such lists of individuals who have already answered basic demographic questions.
  • In some cases, little or no further incentive for participation is required since the consumer gets “value” from receiving the product for free.
  • Willing participants are told that they will be shipped a product to be used as they would normally use it and then asked a series of questions after that.
  • Ordinarily, a well-constructed, follow-up phone survey or online survey is sufficient to obtain necessary feedback about the product’s usage.
  • It may be desirable to have an interviewer make an appointment to visit the home and ask questions in person regarding where and how the product was used. Sometimes, unexpected use of the product may happen which can provoke new ideas for further product development or marketing messages.
Cosmetics IHUTs Market Research Product Testing

Opportunities and Challenges

IHUT market research offers highly valuable information for companies seeking to gain in-depth knowledge of consumer habits and preferences in real-world contexts. However, it also has some disadvantages that should be considered before conducting the study.


• By utilizing IHUT, corporations can observe their target demographic using their products within a realistic context, providing a more precise representation of consumer behavior and inclinations.

• IHUT facilitates companies to directly interact with their target demographic, acquire feedback, and cultivate relationships with them, which can lead to higher customer loyalty.

• It is a cost-effective way to acquire insights into consumer behavior and preferences, as it allows organizations to reach a broad and varied audience without having to invest in traveling or costly focus groups. By identifying issues early, businesses can also avoid the financial and reputational damage of a failed product launch.

• IHUT market research findings provide the right data for product development, marketing strategies, and consumer targeting. In consequence, companies can improve their return on investment and increase sales.

• The detailed consumer feedback from IHUTs can be used to offer customized or personalized products. Consequently, IHUTs can help businesses stay ahead of market trends.


• Recruiting participants for IHUT market research can be challenging. Companies need to locate individuals who are committed to the test and who meet the research requirements.

• Collecting reliable and correct records in real settings can be difficult as there can be many elements that affect purchaser conduct and choices. Participants may not always provide honest or accurate feedback due to social desirability bias or misunderstandings about the product and companies must employ strategies to mitigate these biases and validate the data.

• Distributing products to participants, ensuring they use them as intended, and collecting feedback can be complex and resource-intensive. This process requires careful planning and execution to ensure valid and reliable data.

• IHUT market studies can take longer to complete than different styles of market research because participants need a longer time to use the product and offer feedback.

• Unlike controlled lab settings, IHUT market research is subject to the variability of individual home environments. Different usage patterns, household dynamics, and varying conditions can impact how a product is used and perceived, making it challenging to standardize feedback.

• The data collected from IHUTs is often qualitative and can be subjective. Interpreting this data requires expertise and can be more complex than analyzing quantitative data.

• When testing unreleased products, maintaining confidentiality is a major concern. There is always a risk of information leakage, which can be detrimental, especially in highly competitive markets.

Trends in IHUT Market Research

  • With advancements in technology, there is an increased use of digital tools for tracking and analyzing consumer behavior in real-world settings. This includes wearable technology, mobile apps, and other digital tracking devices that provide real-time data about consumer behavior and preferences. 
  • There is a growing focus on sustainability in IHUT research, with an emphasis on understanding consumer attitudes and behaviors towards environmentally friendly products and packaging.
  • IHUT research is increasingly focused on understanding the customer experience to provide personalization and improve the customer experience. 
  • Companies are leveraging big data and advanced analytics to tailor their products and marketing messages to specific segments of their target audience. 
  • Video is becoming a key tool in IHUT research since it allows companies to capture consumers’ facial expressions and body language, which can provide a more complete picture of the customer experience. 
  • IHUT is being integrated with other research methods such as online surveys, focus groups, and ethnographic research, creating a more comprehensive understanding of the customer experience.
  • There’s a trend towards ensuring that IHUTs are inclusive and reflective of a diverse consumer base. This involves recruiting participants from a wide range of demographics, backgrounds, and geographical locations.

The Future of IHUT Market Research 

The future looks promising for IHUT market research and some of the trends that are emerging are:

• The Internet of Things (IoT) could be a key piece to facilitate these studies soon since it would allow obtaining data in real-time. IoT could deliver information in real-time and researchers could conclude rapidly. It would reduce costs and research time dramatically.

• Artificial intelligence could allow immediate results and analysis in greater depth. The use of this technology could allow cost savings and obtain all the necessary data on the product performance in its real environment and generate improvements in a very short time which would have an impact on its market performance.

• The proliferation of big data and sophisticated analytics is anticipated to further personalize IHUT research, enabling businesses to modify their product offerings and promotional tactics to better suit the needs of • specific segments of the intended customer base.

• Emerging technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality could be integrated into IHUTs to simulate product experiences in various scenarios.

• It is predicted that IHUT will be employed to a greater extent, not only in the consumer goods sector, but also in areas like healthcare and advanced technology.

• Data gathered from IHUTs can be leveraged to develop targeted marketing strategies, which are anticipated to gain further traction in the coming years.

• As consumer demand for personalized products continues to grow, IHUTs will become increasingly important for testing and validating customized product offerings.

• With the rising consumer consciousness about sustainability and ethics, IHUTs will increasingly incorporate these aspects. Testing consumer response to eco-friendly packaging, sustainable materials, and ethical production processes will become more prevalent.

About IHUT Market Research

After all research findings have been analyzed, one should have a sense of whether or not the product is ready to go to market. If it is not, it will quickly become evident what needs to be changed to align the product with consumer expectations and needs as well as improve its positioning in its market category.  SIS International offers Quantitative, Qualitative, and Strategy Research. We provide data, tools, strategies, reports and insights for decision-making. We conduct interviews, surveys, focus groups and many other Market Research methods and approaches. Contact us for your next Market Research project.