How Does an IHUT Project Work? | Market Research Company

IHUTs or in-home usage tests are a unique and relevant way to capture in-the-moment feedback from users. These types of projects carry unique benefits because the consumer uses the product in his or her natural setting or environment. When testing products in a focus group room with a one-way mirror, the atmosphere is artificial. One could argue significant bias may impact results as participants may feel pressured by other people in the group, the moderator, etc.

For IHUTs the consumer uses the product in his or her home. Whether it's on the couch, in the bathroom, or in the kitchen. Depending on the type of study, interviewers may accompany consumers as they use the product live to ask interactive questions throughout the process. This almost mimics a shop-along, as interviewers follow grocery shoppers around a store asking questions as they move along.

Other more basic forms of IHUTs have the consumer test the product and then either fill out a form and mail it back to the IHUT market research company or fill out a form online and submit their feedback. Both choices offer benefits but the main goal of an IHUT is to have respondents complete their evaluation quickly after usage. The data quality and accuracy is much better than sending an online survey out weeks or months after an experience occurred.

What is an example of an IHUT project?

Usage of makeup is a good example of a product that needs to be tested using IHUTs. Having women apply makeup in a focus group room or interview room with a moderator and group of strangers staring at them through a one-way mirror is something that only appears in the TV show Mad Men from the 1960s. Several advantages exist with women using and then rating this in-home. It's a natural setting and environment

Since IHUTs is a rather unique methodology, many organizations may not be familiar with the set up and structure. This article will answer how a typical IHUT market research project works from start to finish.

How Does an IHUT Project Work? | Market Research Company

Kickoff and Setup

If you read our blog you know, all good market research starts with a kickoff meeting. The kickoff meeting helps the IHUT market research company understand your needs from the market research, desired outcomes, and expectations. Understanding these simple objectives can make a major impact on aligning the project and setting it on the right path.

Part of the setup involves creating a project workplan. The project workplan highlights keys tasks, dates of deliverables, and responsible parties. This makes sure everyone stays on-task and on-target as the project moves along. The project workplan becomes a living document and is updated throughout.


After the kickoff, the first step in an IHUT project is to focus on who your testing audience is? Is it males aged 35 to 54, single women aged 21 to 34, or empty nest couples aged 55+? Understanding the target market is critical to a strong recruit.

As part of the IHUT project, the market research company will put together a draft recruitment screener. This screener qualifies participants for the study, gives them the instructions for the IHUT, and provides them with a contact for questions or follow-up. You'll also have to determine an appropriate stipend based on the amount of time and effort for the IHUT.

Interestingly enough, paying out higher rewards can actually result in lower project costs. Paying out higher stipends results in quicker recruitment and less project management costs. Something to keep in mind if you ask your vendor to lower honorariums from $150 to $100. The cost of recruitment may actually go up because it will take additional time to secure participation.

Evaluation Form Design

This is the most crucial piece of the IHUT project. It's the evaluation form or survey the respondents fill out after they have used the product during the test period. It can be filled out once if they are testing 1 product or 3 times if they are using competitive products as well.

A few options exist here for methodologies:

Some IHUT market research companies will send a paper form or diary to fill out. This comes packaged in with the kit when the products are mailed to households. Respondents simply answer the survey and mail it back to the market research company which includes pre-paid postage.

Another option is to include a static survey or form link online for respondents to visit on their computer, tablet or mobile device. This e-form supports in-the-moment market research. To revert back to the makeup example, how great would it be to receive instant feedback after usage from respondents on a mobile device, right after the makeup is applied in front of the bathroom mirror? You cannot get more in-the-moment than that.

A final common option IHUT firms use is emailing surveys to respondents after the test period is completed. Let's say the company mails 5 products that arrive on Monday. The instructions state each product must be used during dinner preparation from Monday through Friday. Therefore, the market research firm knows the survey invitation should be sent each night at 8:00 PM to obtain follow-up ratings.

Some marketing research firms may send just one survey on Friday night at 8:00 PM asking the respondent to rate all products. However, this much defeats the in-the-moment advantage of IHUTs. If a respondent is using 5 different products over the course of a week, it will be difficult to remember specifics from the products used on Monday, Tuesday, or even Wednesday. If this is a route you take, make sure you ask respondents to keep a journal each day with notes.

Kit Development and Mailings

This is probably the most time-intensive portion of your market research IHUT project. The kit development and mailing involves packaging the products for testing, including an introductory letter, FAQs, instructions, and contact information. As the marketing research firm, you want this kit to be as organized as possible so it passes the credibility test when received.

Sloppy assembled kits = sloppy respondent engagement and feedback. Take the time to nicely assemble and package your products for your IHUTs, it will pay off with higher response rates and better quality data.

It is important to note that if you are testing multiple products in your IHUT, make sure you randomize sequence of usage. As you are kitting and mailing packets, your instructions should clearly identify the sequence the respondent should use the product: B, C, A or B, A, C. This should be mixed-up throughout the kits to ensure as little first-use and last-use bias as possible.

Follow-up and Reminders

As is the case with any market research, particularly qualitative, reminders and follow-up is necessary. Let's admit it, for those who haven't done it before testing products at home and getting paid sounds too good to be true. It sounds like a scam. Respondents are skeptical. They ask or at least think: "What's the catch?"

No matter how you slice it, these feelings and attitudes are bad for market research. Especially bad for IHUTs when you spend all of this money to mail packages and then respondents receive it and quit because they're afraid they are getting scammed. As a market research company you need to put yourself in their shoes and think big picture.

It's to your advantage to have everything organized, answer questions before they are asked, and reach out personally to talk to respondents. Having a real person to speak with on the phone who can put the respondent at ease is critical. At Drive Research we like to place calls at 3 different touch-points during the IHUT process:

1) Introduction Call: Arguably the most important call is this one. This comes after the respondent likely qualifies through an online recruitment questionnaire. During the online experience they had no contact with a live person so they are probably left wondering, is this for real? Having a customer service person follow-up and confirm interest, answer any questions, and explain next steps will undoubtedly improve participation rates.

2) Mid-IHUT Call: This is a check-in call. Half of the reason for doing this is to make sure the respondent doesn't have any questions and everything is going smoothly. The other half is to make sure respondents are actually participating. If not, you'll need to back-fill with some additional respondents and additional kit mailings. This is not outside of the norm. Depending on the effort and timeframe of IHUTs you may experience a significant drop-out rate (30% or more.)

3) Follow-up Call: This is the final call to check-in on respondents. Ideally they have already submitted their final survey or feedback and this essentially becomes a thank you call. In some instances you'll use this call to remind participants to wrap-up the project and have their form mailed or submitted by a specific date and time in order to receive their honorarium.

Rewards Fulfillment

Once the fieldwork is completed, you'll need to mail out rewards immediately. These are sent to all testers who completed their obligations. Especially if the respondent spent considerable time on the IHUT project (days, weeks, etc.) They'll likely have no patience waiting 3 or 4 months for payment which can create a social media firestorm for your market research company.

Don't sit on rewards owed to respondents.

Analysis and Reporting

For the analysis, this should not be the first time you are looking at the data. You should build-in regular quality checks as respondents submit their cases to ensure you are getting the feedback and response you need to create a strong report. If you identify any issues they should be handled mid-stream. At this point when fieldwork is completed, it will be too late to change the process.

The report is the best part of the IHUT project or any market research project as far as we're concerned. The market research report produced by Drive Research includes an executive summary of themes, infographics, recommendations, and an appendix filled with additional detail on IHUT cases and data. The executive summary and infographics serve as the recap while the appendix serves all of the details if the readers wants it. Many of our clients love the specifics.

The report is the only true tangible deliverable in a service-based market research business. It's the one deliverable that will stand the test of time and be revisited after the project is complete. It's the all encompassing review of the project, the results, including recommendations to drive strategy and action items.

Need Assistance with your IHUT Market Research?

Our company can manage all aspects of your IHUT market research for your organization. We can set up and structure recruitment, program and design evaluation forms, manage kit assembly and mailings, follow-up with respondents, and handle analysis and reporting. We are a full-service IHUT market research firm.

Drive Research is a market research company located in Upstate, NY.

Questions about your next IHUT project?

Call us at 315-303-2040 or email us at

In-Home Usage Tests