Usage and attitude studies are one of the cornerstones of information about customers. They go by a variety of names, including Usage and Attitude studies (U&A), Attitude and Usage studies (A&U), or Awareness, Attitude and Usage studies (AA&U). Sometimes they are just called “Customer Research.”
Dr. Bruce Isaacson
No matter what acronyms we use, U&As are one of the most important elements of marketplace intelligence you can gather. They provide information on:
- Brands: U&As provide a dashboard to tell you how your brand is used and perceived, and how it compares to the competition.
- Customers: U&As indicate the behaviors and attitudes of your customers in the marketplace, so that you can tailor products and services to them.
- Communications: U&As can also monitor key elements of marketplace communications, such as ad awareness.
- Changes over time: When done over time, U&As can serve as tracking studies to monitor changes in brands, customers, and marketplaces.
In our experience, a U&A study provides the most relevant and actionable information when attention is paid up front, before any data is collected, to certain elements within the questionnaire. If you are contemplating a Usage & Attitude study, or contemplating improving your U&A study, here are eight ways to improve your survey questionnaire:
- Survey the right people: The first, and most important, decision for any U&A study is who to survey. Your sample will include users of your brand, product, or category, but how about frequent users, lapsed users, or non-users? Also, it may be useful to make sure you have sufficient interviews with users of key competitive brands as well.
- Gather key measures for brands, products, and companies: Important elements of most U&A studies are key measures of the position and progress of brands, products, and companies. Most studies ask respondents which brands they have purchased over a specific period of time; limit this period to the timeframes that are most useful. It may be enough to ask which brands are purchased on a regular basis and which brand is purchased most often. If there’s been a lot of activity in the category, such as new brands entering the category or brands losing share, you may want to ask what brands consumers have recently begun or stopped using. We typically do not recommend asking consumers which brands they have ever bought unless the focus is on a brand that is relatively new or a small brand.
- Expect noise in ad awareness measures: Measures of advertising awareness can be the most helpful and most frustrating elements of U&A studies. Customers may struggle to remember which brand they saw advertised, and be surprisingly inaccurate in remembering which media they saw that brand or product advertising.
- Describe product and brand usage: Data on product or brand usage are typically some of the most helpful elements of any U&A, and there are a lot of ways to gather this type of data. For example, you can ask about when a product is used, the ways in which it is used, who uses it, what other products it is used with, how it is used with those other products, and where it is used. It may surprise you to learn some of the ways your product is used.
- Obtain brand and product ratings from customers and non-customers: Many U&A studies make the mistake of only asking customers or recent users to rate their products and brands. It is often more important to survey those who do not use a particular product, or have not used it recently, to find out why. Even if non-customers or non-users have limited knowledge of a brand, their perceptions may help you understand why they are not buying your brand and what is appealing about another brand. Just make sure that you do not ask non-users to provide ratings that they cannot evaluate because they have not had experience with your product.
- Develop importance scales: Many U&A studies ask consumers to rate brands, products, or companies. This type of information is most useful when it is combined with importance ratings, which indicate the factors that are most important to consumers. It is interesting to know how your product or service performs on a particular attribute, but it is much more actionable to know whether that attribute is important to consumers.
- Remember the purchase process: If the goal of your U&A study is to increase sales, then it will be important to understand how customers and non-customers buy. In a previous post, What Your Tracking Study Should Measure About Your Customers, we described the things you need to know about how your customers buy. Measuring the stages in the purchase process – awareness, information gathering, purchase, and intent to repurchase, can help you tailor your products, services, and marketing strategy to meet customer needs and buying habits.
- When tracking, consistency is key: If your U&A study will serve as a tracking study, it is important to maintain consistency from wave to wave. Small changes in the order or phrasing of questions can have considerable impact on the data you are gathering. Keep changes to a minimum, and consider having a few questions at the end of your tracking questionnaire that you can vary from study to study to address ad hoc issues.
Dr. Bruce Isaacson
MMR Strategy Group
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