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CUT, HUT and CLT – what do they mean and which should I use?

By Helen Lester, Sagitta Market Research Ltd.

In previous blogs we have looked at Product Testing Research – how it has become more important than ever before (see blog ‘The importance of product testing research in our e-society’) and how to ensure multi-country product test studies are a success (see blog ‘Best Practice Guide: International product testing – how to ensure your research is a success!’). This month, we look at Consumer Use Testing (CUT) specifically and review the possibilities.

Decoding the jargon
Firstly, we need to consider a few acronyms and their associated meanings. As mentioned, CUT refers to Consumer Use Testing – or a Consumer Usage Test. CUT can be carried out in-home, at a central location (e.g. hall test) or at another venue pertaining to where the product may be used.

IHUT (often simply referred to as HUT) stands for In-Home Usage Testing (or Home Use Test), whereby the product is tested in the participant’s own home.

CLT – perhaps better known as Central Location Testing (or a Central Location Test) – is where consumers test a product in a central venue. This is often called a hall test. Participants are recruited (e.g. in the street) according to set criteria based on the characteristics of the target consumer profile (e.g. female, aged 18-25, who has a manicure at least once per month).

All the terms – CUT, IHUT, CLT – refer to, in essence, consumer use tests. In other words, the participant trials a product, evaluates it and provides feedback. The feedback may be carried out via a face-to-face pen and paper interview, online survey, telephone interview or self-completion questionnaire (including a diary).

Which option is best?
CLTs offer the opportunity for a fast turnaround of results – the fieldwork can be completed in a day, with results following the same week. Central Location Testing is also very cost-effective, as a large number of individuals can be interviewed in one day. If clients are looking to shortlist a number of products to pursue, or assess how a product might be accepted in the marketplace, CLTs are a useful methodology.

However, HUTs provide important benefits over CLTs, in that the consumer uses the product in its natural environment – namely, the real life setting of their home. This arguably produces more faithful evaluations in respect of product assessments and product satisfaction. In addition, as In-Home Usage Testing affords the possibility of a longer test period (e.g. a week or even weeks) than Central Location Testing typically provides, participants have the time to really experience the product and evaluate it in-depth through the use of daily self-completion diaries and follow-up evaluation questionnaires administered by an interviewer. HUTs also provide more time for reflection – for example regarding product development suggestions. In-Home Usage Testing provides the client with an opportunity to measure a consumer’s first impression of a product and compare this to the subsequent experiences of it during the test period (which typically lasts at least a week). These measures can then be compared to the consumer’s overall impression at the end of the test period – culminating in an “accept” or “reject” conclusion (which can also be compared to a similar measurement taken pre-trial). HUTs are therefore an excellent way of testing a product before it is launched, as they provide in-depth insights and useful suggestions about ways in which the product may be improved.

So, both HUTs and CLTs have their own benefits and merits. It really comes down to the stage your product development is at, how quickly you need the results and what budget you have. Sagitta has extensive experience of both types of product testing. Call us to discuss your requirements and we can advise which option may suit you best.