Sunday, September 15, 2013

Give Your End Users Homework Before the Interview.

We are looking at a completely new category of products - one that intuitively seems in dire need of innovation.

I'm excited about the insights we have captured, many of which seem to be the result of giving our research participants homework 1-2 weeks in advance of interviewing.

I wanted to share a little bit of detail on this for those who do end user research.

Most often, our process for identifying opportunities to innovate looks a little like this:
  1. inspiration - an idea, a new technology, connecting a trend to a new category, etc..
  2. a little secondary research to assess unmet need, competitive landscape, or technical solutions,
  3. qualitative research - usually in-depth interviews, shop-alongs and hands-on demonstrations.
This time however, we added in some up-front end user homework. We sent each research participant a box of 10 different products and asked them to spend just a half an hour opening the packages, looking at the products and using them in their home, if and where appropriate. The category is broad, so there was a wide variety. We also let them know in advance what we would ask them.

This radically changed the results; the insights were richer because people had spent time thinking about the products we sent and using them. And, while this was a foreign category for us, we were quickly able to understand consumer perceptions and attitudes related to current offerings.

Interview after interview, we arrived to people's homes to find our box of homework opened, products unpackaged, notebooks with pages of answers to our questions, and participants excited to walk us around their home and show how and where they used what we sent. Many times we learned that the homework had been a family activity or shared among roommates.

I saw a difference in people's comments - we were able to probe more. Perhaps because they had time to consider the products, but they were also highly engaged after spending time - far more than we requested - doing the homework.

If you work on product innovation or product development - I highly recommend adding homework to your research method next time. And if you are not yet doing end user research in-house, I highly recommend that you do. It's easier than it seems and it makes finding the opportunities to innovate much easier, without having to spend a lot on consultants.

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