Wear testing, also commonly referred to as a home usage test (HUT) or in-home user test (IHUT), is a method many consumer goods and retail brands use to get direct feedback on their products. The brands ship their products to select consumers to use in their homes. The users then test the products and offer their feedback in a post-use survey or interview.
Although wear testing can offer a lot of value to insight professionals, product teams, and marketers, this research method can be costly and time consuming to conduct.
That’s why Haggar Clothing, an innovative and growing menswear brand, conducts their wear testing by leveraging Sparq, our customer insights platform.
The Benefits of Wear Testing
Wear tests can be conducted for prototypes, more developed products, or even new versions of existing products as in Haggar’s case.
In-home tests enable product teams to de-risk decisions, speed up innovation, and reduce the risk of product failure by providing perspective on risks and problems, new features, and improvements to the product, as well as overall appeal, purchase intent, customer expectations, and satisfaction.
Wear testing can help inform:
- Endurance (particularly when wearing for sport)
- Performance (through different types of weather and seasons)
During a wear test, users can upload images and videos of themselves using the products in different scenarios. Users may be invited to send back the merchandise or meet with the designers to offer their feedback and help inform product development. They may also be featured in marketing ads to help other customers make more confident and informed purchases. Further, users’ insights may be used to inform messaging and advertising for the launch of the product.
The Challenges of Wear Testing
Wear testing can offer a lot of value. Getting direct feedback from real customers before a product is launched can be invaluable during the product development cycle.
However, as Haggar understood all too well, this market research method does come with its set of challenges.
- It can be very time consuming.
- It can be expensive to find and recruit the right people to participate. (The value of wear testing increases when the customers who are receiving the products are vetted and can be trusted to provide honest feedback.)
- It can also be expensive to mail out merchandise.
- Often, brands must further incentivize customers, which can be costly.
Why Haggar Leverages a Customer Insights Platform for Wear Testing
There is constant competition and disruption in the retail sector. Haggar had to become more customer centric to reach its goal of becoming the number one brand in casual and dress pants in its market space.
However, it was difficult for Haggar to find its audience, which was a subsegment of a population that was traditionally hard to engage. As a solution, the company invested in Vision Critical’s repeatable customer engagement model for insight.
In 2017, Davin Sanchez, Director of Consumer Insight and Analytics, and his team launched Haggar Advisors to gain direct, agile access to customers who shop its category. Haggar Advisors, comprised of roughly 3,200 category shoppers, quickly became pervasive in its impact on the business.
Not only did Davin and his team leverage the community to dive into go-to-market decisions for its programs, but they quickly realized Haggar Advisors could be a great way to recruit and engage users to wear test products.
Recruiting a cross section of richly profiled and opted-in consumers from Haggar Advisors has saved the company both time and money.
- The team was able to bypass the need to go through an expensive and slow recruiting process.
- The team was able to gain more confidence in the authenticity of feedback.
- Plus, because the community was already highly engaged, the team did not need to offer an individual incentive for participation as was the case in the past with traditional market research.
- By using community members who they already knew, the team was also able to increase the likelihood that they would complete the ask.
- Davin and his team also quickly realized the feedback they received from users was more thorough than the responses they received from other research sources. During the first wear test with the Advisors, one member even sent in a video of their entire process of interacting with the clothing including washing it.
“Insight from Haggar Advisors gives us more confidence in our decisions. We have a tendency to lean on our personal preferences, but when faced with a difficult decision, I'd rather go with what 1000s of consumers think vs what I think is better. Even if we make a mistake, at least it's based on consumer feedback. Relying on the voice of our consumers is a trusted process.”
— Davin Sanchez, Director Consumer Insight and Analytics
Having their trusted Advisors participate in their wear tests was also the best way for Haggar to ensure the samples were going to a trustworthy group of people that met their criteria, which reduced the risk and cost of mailing clothing to customers. Since Davin and his team could easily follow up with their members after longer-term wearing and washing of their clothing, they could receive long-term feedback.
Wear Testing Best Practices Haggar Swears By
Davin and his team have come up with a list of best practices for conducting wear testing.
- Screen people based on what you already know and ask additional questions if needed.
- Only invite people who are engaged already, wear the product often, and appreciate it more.
- Confirm sizes and other product specific details that can change before shipping each time.
- Some people will have a hard time giving video or photo feedback. Give clear instructions about how to get the best quality and how to send the content in. Alternatively, screen out people who can’t upload a video or photo before you ship them the product.
- Consider whether you need an additional incentive. Usually with a community, you shouldn’t need to offer an additional incentive but it depends on the ask. With a community, you could have the customer keep the clothing they tested or if you need it back you could send them other clothing pieces to keep.
- Ask for the product back after the wear testing, so your designers can see what the product looks like in person. During wear testing, some people offered to send back the pants to Haggar. Davin and his team are likely do that next time and send them back a new pair to keep as a thank you.
- Use video feedback in meetings to bring the consumer to life.
- Test products that are already in market to aid in and accelerate future product innovation.
- Manage your expectations. If you send out 30 pairs of pants, be happy with 15 videos (50% completion). You’ll never get 100%.
In the future, Davin plans to send out even more pants for wear testing. He may also send competitive pants for comparison and he plans to conduct a weekly survey during the wear test to gather more insight.
Facilitate Wear Testing Just Like Haggar
Testing your products with the people who matter most can help you de-risk product decisions, accelerate innovation, and help ensure you’re building and launching successful products. Using a customer insights platform to facilitate wear testing can help you overcome the challenges of traditional wear testing and using the best practices Haggar now swears by can help you get even more out of your in-home user tests.