What building materials are contractors buying, where are DIYers purchasing home improvement products? What factors influence their selections and preferences? Who do they turn to for recommendations before purchasing? Where do they get information?
These are the kinds of questions you need to answer to position your brand and each product for success within a highly competitive market. Answers to these questions will give you insights into who to target, what to promote, what channels to use, and how to best market to specific buyer personas, allowing you to create a holistic yet simultaneously focused strategy.
One of the best ways to gather those answers is through market research and specifically a usage and attitude study.
What is a Usage and Attitude Study?
A usage and attitude (U&A) study involves researching the usage behaviors and purchase motivations of existing and prospective customers to better understand a market and position products to appeal to consumers.
In essence, it answers the five Ws: who, what, when, where and why. For example, who are the target customers in the markets in which you operate; what are they purchasing; when is the best time to connect with them to sell your product; and where are they purchasing from? Additionally, you want to find out the “why” behind those elements—why do customers make the purchase decisions they do?
With this information, you have insight into a customer’s behavior and motivation through the entirety of the purchase process. You can then develop more appealing products, tailor your marketing messaging to your audience’s primary concerns, and affect brand switching in your favor. Over the past two years especially, there has been a high volume of brand switching associated not with the qualities of the product itself, but due instead to the procurement options available and the lead times for delivery.
How to Conduct Usage and Attitude Surveys
One of the most important elements of an effective usage and attitude survey is that it is customized to your company and your specific product.
However, there tend to be some core components of useful attitude surveys that lead to applicable insights across the building materials industry. Here is a look at the general process of conducting a U&A survey.
1. Define Your Brand Objectives
A lot of U&A research is plagued by a lack of focus that leads to overly general mega-surveys. First, you should conduct an exploration phase, define your business objectives and determine how the data collected through market research will be used. In other words, have you narrowed down which department(s) will be responsible for applying the insights to their strategies?
2. Define Your Primary Questions
Now that you know your objective, what are the main questions you need more information about? Some examples of U&A research questions include:
- What drives product preference and selection?
- What are the preferred benefits of certain construction materials, building products or technology among Pros versus DIYers?
- What is important to customers when selecting products within certain categories and when comparing sub-brands?
- How do they weigh those preferences in context of one another? For example, everybody wants a cost-effective product, but they also want something long-lasting and durable. At the end of the day, which desire wins out?
- Where are customers seeking out the information that influences their decision-making?
- What is a reasonable lead time length before a customer will consider brand switching based on availability?
3. Select a Market Research Firm
Conducting market research, such as a U&A survey, is a major undertaking. To make the process more valuable and rewarding, partner with a market research company that is well-acquainted with the building materials and construction industries, such as The Farnsworth Group. Niche expertise translates into additional value from the analysis provided after tabulation of the data is completed.
A research team that concerns itself with the ins and outs of only specific industries is equipped to provide meaningful recommendations rather than only regurgitate data. They can also save you time up front as well as bring you ideas you should consider to ensure you’re getting recommendations that will be utilized throughout your organization.
4. Develop a Survey / Discussion Guide
Consider starting with qualitative research to ensure you are asking the right questions, factors and influences when you move on to a quantitative approach. Qualitative will also help you understand the motivations and thoughts behind quantitative results.
Keep your survey and discussion guides focused and relatively short. Research shows most participants start to get fatigued or disinterested if a quantitative survey drags on past 10 or 15 minutes, and they don’t put as much effort into submitting genuine answers. That decreases the quality and validity of the data you collect. One to one conversations using discussion guides can last twice as long before respondent fatigue, because they are asking respondents to provide more robust answers.
In either case, be sure to ask the right questions in the right ways to gain maximum value from the research without losing accuracy. Make sure the survey is also available to respondents on the device they prefer so you’ll get better engagement.
5. Further Engage Respondents
When it comes to gauging consumer behaviors, you may need to incorporate other data that is measured via observation or “in the moment” actions. Think gathering insights to how shoppers compare power tool starter kit options on the shelves in Lowe's or how online shoppers click through an eCommerce platform. The key is to maintain interaction insights from your customers (and non-customers) to refine their path to purchase as much as you can control by delivering more relevant information at the right times and in the right locations.
To collect these kinds of rich insights does not require secret shoppers watching other shoppers behaviors. It can be as simple as having your respondents share videos and pictures as part of their survey submission or during their interview to gather the real-time attitudinal information you seek. Consider also what common conversations are being held between customers and direct or indirect sales teams; likewise consider the exchanges occurring between customers and big-box store associates or internal customer service representatives. Unhappy customers are eager to share what they don’t like about your product, distribution channels, and brand in general.
The company you’re working with to conduct the U&A survey for your construction materials company can work with you to develop an interactive and enriching process that takes your research to the next level.
6. Determine Actionable Steps from the Data
A U&A survey typically starts with a hypothesis surrounding attitudinal objectives. Once you’ve conducted your research, you’ll have data that either supports or contradicts the hypothesis.
Using advanced analytics, your market research firm can help you unlock the most valuable insights from the data you collected from clients. An industry specialist can provide added value by sharing fundamental industry factors impacting your customers to take you beyond your data. They can also provide historical benchmarks from similar research in your industry. This information can be used to inform your company on what to do next, to challenge assumptions, to create benchmarks, to create a snapshot of consumer attitudes before making critical business decisions, and to make your brand more competitive in your product categories.
Common answers gained from U&A Research include:
- Overall incidence of your product use among Homeowners and Pros to recommend which customer segments provide the greatest opportunity.
- Insights on who is using certain products, product categories being used to solve the same problem, how it’s being used, where it’s being used and the overall project opportunity.
- Price ranges paid for products in the category so you are able to determine potential pricing acceptance.
- Recommendations on product category sales opportunities, potential growth, and customer potential with your products.
- Insights on the most common uses of the product category and the key purchase drivers (brand, price, material, etc.) for product selection to determine what you must deliver to meet customer needs.
- Insights on brand awareness and brand use to determine your position in the market.
- Recommendations on what product and marketing strategies will help them maintain your product line so customers and gain new customers within each type.
Kicking Off a Usage and Attitude Survey
Conducting a usage and attitude survey gives your company a firm foundation of knowledge and insight to make important decisions regarding product development and market strategies, especially as consumers are trying new brands and shifting behaviors as of late.
Our team at The Farnsworth Group is well-versed in Usage & Attitude studies, having conducted over 300 U&A research projects strictly for building product, home improvement, and lawn & ranch customers. You will gain insights that allow you to assess a customer’s purchase behavior throughout the purchase process, creating a path to distinguish what really drives and motivates customers’ decisions along their journey.