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Complete guide to Usage and Attitude (U&A) studies

What is a Usage and Attitude study?

A Usage and Attitude (U&A) study (sometimes also described as an Attitude and Usage, or A&U study), is a popular survey-based study used in market research to help you understand your market at a deep level, understand who is buying what, from where and how often, and to explore the relationship between opinions/attitudes and consumption habits. It helps you find the answers to common questions such as:

  • What exactly is my product or brand used for?
  • Do different types of customers use my product or brand in different ways?
  • Are there different patterns of typical usage for my product?
  • Do certain segments of consumers use my product more or less often?
  • Do customers use my product alone, or do they use competitor products, and which ones?

There are four main types of U&A studies that can be used to answer these questions. The exact approach you use will depend on your needs. You might take one, or a combination of some of the following approaches:

  • A category understanding approach. The goal of this type of U&A study is to learn more about the characteristics of the market as a whole. For instance, if you sell clothing online, you might want to learn more about the characteristics of the typical online fashion shopper, when they tend to shop, how often, and how (e.g., via mobile, tablet or laptop).
  • A market sizing approach. This type of U&A research is focused on understanding the penetration of various product categories into the market, as well as usage or consumption frequency. For example, even if you sell a broad range of clothing in your online shop, it might be the case that online shoppers prefer to buy certain product categories (like underwear) in a physical store, where they can try items on or get a better sense of how the fabric feels. Knowledge like this can help you with all sorts of marketing decisions, like what to stock, and what to promote, and to whom.
  • A brand understanding approach. You can employ usage and attitude research to gain insight into things like brand penetration, brand perceptions, brand equity, and brand choice drivers - vital in developing your competitive strategy.
  • A targeting approach. A usage and attitude study can also be used to derive crucial information that can be used to support customer segmentation on the basis of attitudes and behaviors, helping you with your targeting and messaging efforts. 

 When to perform a U&A study

One of the major benefits of a usage and attitude study is that it’s so versatile and can be used in a variety of different applications. Specifically, you should consider performing a U&A study if you have one of the following needs:

  •  You feel the need to better understand customers’ desires and pain points
  • You think you might be missing out on opportunities to drive additional consumption or usage
  • You’re on the verge of developing new product categories or marketing strategies
  •  You want to develop a stronger understanding of the broader competitive landscape

Objectives of a Usage and Attitude study 

Observe the latest trends in buyer behavior that drive market dynamics in your industry

Buyers are constantly changing the way they think about products and services – with implications for their buying behavior. Their attitudes and usage changes are shaped by not only how you interact with them (for instance, through your marketing campaigns), but also the actions of your competitors and broader shifts in the market environment. The Covid-19 pandemic is a great example: producers of alcoholic drinks found, for instance, that not only did sales of wine and spirits to consume at home increase, but that average spend per consumer was also on the up. When consumption patterns shift like this, or the industry suffers some kind of shock or disruption, it’s time to take stock of consumer usage and attitudes, to better inform your next steps. 

Gain a deeper understanding of your buyers and their behavior to drive adoption and purchases of your products or services

Once the customer takes your product home, the sale is over, right? Well, not quite.

Sometimes, by focusing on the supply side of business – driving the sale – we forget to consider exactly how our products fit into our customers daily lives once they take it away from the store. But, understanding customer usage at a deeper level can help make sure that your product is a great fit for the customer, and that additional needs are met, which in turn, can drive future sales.   For instance, let’s say your main product is an at home elliptical machine. Taking time to learn about customer interactions with it, like which room they keep it in, how often they work out on it, and how family members take turns to use it can provide deep insight that you can inform future product development and help you better focus your marketing campaigns. You might find, for example, that younger family members want to use the machine, but that the size is not child-friendly, prompting the development of training equipment specifically for kids. 

Measure demand for your products to refine your offerings at each step of the development process: ideation, development, go-to-market, and iteration

Another objective of U&A studies is to measure consumer demand for your products among a target audience – helping you to refine your positioning and product offerings, and putting you in the best possible position to drive sales. For instance, imagine you’re a seller of yoga mats, but you want to expand your market to reach beginners. Based on the results of a U&A study that evaluates overall demand for yoga, as well as where yoga mats are used (e.g. in the home, or taken to a studio) and how (the types of stretches performed), you might be able to develop an illustrated mat that shows beginners where to place their feet for certain, popular poses – in other words, creating an innovative product that  better meets the needs of your customers, and driving interest in your brand.

Graph of key drivers

To inform future strategies

If you’re preparing for a significant change, like launching a new product range, investing in a major advertising campaign, extending the brand, or entering a new market, a usage and attitude study is absolutely vital. It’s impossible to feel confident about whether the leap will be a successful one unless you have deep, up-to-date knowledge about your customer base, their usage patterns, and their attitudes towards your brand and others. By administering a U&A study, you can get clarity around these questions, which will help you shape and optimize your strategies.

Overall, performing a U&A research study can help you identify opportunities to expand and grow your business through an optimized brand and product strategy. Let's take a look at exactly how to enact one.

Usage and Attitude study methodology 

There are a few different ways that a usage and attitude study can be performed. However, one of the most effective ways follows the traditional sales conversion funnel model, starting with gaining a broader understanding of your market, and narrowing to focus your attention on the specific way they interact with, or perceive of your brand. Let’s take a look at each step.

Step 1: Obtain the right sample

While the data from U&A studies can be immensely valuable, many firms attempting to use them fall at the first hurdle, by failing to obtain an appropriate sample. It is crucial that the sample from which you collect your data is genuinely representative of your customer base. If, for instance, your sample is skewed towards an older audience that prefers high street shopping to online shopping, your evaluation of the attitudes and behaviors of your market is unlikely to be valid. Instead, you’ll need to carefully calibrate your audience so that it reflects your customers in terms of demographics, psychographics and behaviors. If you’re unsure how to find a sample like, we have a ready-made audience that can be refined along lines like gender, income, employment, and more.

General population

General Population (Medium Sample)

  • All Genders (Census)
  • All Ages (Full Census)
  • All Incomes
  • 500 Responses, United States (USA) - SurveyMonkey
Full-time employees

Full-Time Employees

  • All Genders (Census)
  • All Ages (Basic Census)
  • All Incomes
  • Employed Full-time
  • 250 Responses, United States (USA) - SurveyMonkey
Consumer shopper

Consumer Shoppers

  • All Genders (Census)
  • All Ages (Basic Census)
  • All Incomes
  • Primary Decision Maker in Household
  • 250 Responses, United States (USA) - SurveyMonkey

Step 2: Use unprompted recall to set a baseline

Just as a U&A study is often used to establish a baseline to inform future marketing decisions, the first part of a usage and attitude survey can help you set a reference point for further research. If you ask respondents to name the brands or products that instantly come to mind in a specified category, unprompted, you’ll get a solid idea of their awareness of your brand compared to competitors’, as well as the effectiveness of any recent marketing campaigns.

Step 3: Move to assess attitudes and usage of specific brands

Next, use the survey to explore customer attitudes towards, and usage of specific products or brands. Prompted recall is an excellent way to do this. For example, you might list a series of competing brands and then ask respondents to indicate which they are aware of, which they currently use, and which they have considered using.

Aided brand awareness: sparkling water category

Step 4: Dive into the detail

Once you’ve asked about brand knowledge and use, it’s time to get a little deeper into customers’ perceptions of your brand, and maybe even those of your competitors. For example, imagine you’ve launched a premium online clothing store. Do customers really perceive your brand as premium, or are there competing stores which are seen as even more prestigious? By asking about perceptions of your positioning, you can get a sense of how your brand is placed in the existing market, as well as its competitive strength.

Usage and Attitude survey questions

Pain points, needs and desires

Whether you’re selling an existing product or service to a known market, or developing a new product offering, it’s crucial that you have in mind a profile of your target consumer. Administering a U&A survey to capture customer needs, desires and pain points, will help you understand, at a deeper level, who your customer is, what they want, and why. You can use either closed-ended or open-ended questions to capture this kind of insight. For example, if you decide to ask open-ended questions, you might ask questions like:

  • What is the most frustrating thing about shopping for clothes online?
  •   What stops you from buying clothes online?

Or, you might ask closed-ended questions like:

  •  If you had an unlimited budget, would you spend more on clothes online, or offline? [online/offline]
  • When you buy clothes online, which of the following factors is the most important to you? [the price/ the fit/ the quality/ the ethics/ the brand]

Attitudes and usage of your brand or product

As the name might suggest, the questions in a u&a research survey should be designed to help you learn more about consumer attitudes and behavior along the customer journey. That means focusing attention onto perception of the products, how customers feel about your offerings, and how they use your products in their day to day lives. For example, consider a question as simple as:

  • How frequently do you shop online for new clothes?

The answers to this question alone can help you to segment your market on the basis of consumption behavior. You might find that you have three markets: those that shop online infrequently, those that never shop online, and those that shop online every day. Analyzing the answers in conjunction with the answers to questions about consumer experiences shopping online, or their attitudes to online shopping generally will give you deep insight that can help you ensure that the specific needs of each segment is met, and that new products or services are appropriately targeted to the right segments, and that your customers are satisfied, time after time.

Attitudes to your rivals

A U&A study is not just about assessing consumer attitudes to your own brand and product categories.  Comparison questions can yield powerful insight into your positioning relative to your competitors. For example, you might present respondents with a list of competing products and brands, and ask them to rank them from their most preferred to their least preferred. Alternatively, you might ask specific questions about the relative attributes of different products in a single category, such as:

  • Which of the following brands do you think is the best quality?
  • Which of the following brands do you think is the most reliable?
  • Which of the following brands do you think is the most ethical?

Buying and purchasing habits

Questions that capture shopping and purchasing behaviors are crucial to developing the appropriate promotional, placement and distribution strategies that we know drive sales. The types of questions that will be useful here include:

  •  Questions about the kinds of stores that your respondents visit
  • Questions about the triggers that lead them to make purchases
  •  Question about any barriers to buying that they perceive
  • Questions about their loyalty to you and any competitors

Tips for creating a Usage and Attitude study

U&As are highly valuable in providing businesses with a foundational understanding of their market and customers. However, a poorly designed U&A survey can undermine the actionability of the results. Use the following tips to make sure your U&A survey provides you with insight that you can act upon:

  • Establish an objective for the survey. You should have a clear understanding of how the data will be used once you’ve gathered it.
  • Create an interactive, engaging survey. Sometimes, respondents find it difficult to recall or describe how they use products in their day to day lives. Use rich media like images of your product or a video of your service to bring the idea to life and stimulate valid, useful responses. 

Don’t try to cram in too much. Long, boring surveys that try to capture everything in one go rarely get you the results you need. If you’re struggling to refine your survey to only the questions that really matter, one of our experts can help.

So, in summary, use a Usage and Attitude research study to develop understanding about the appeal of your products and services to your customers and to identify future market opportunities by exploring customers’ purchase, perception and usage patterns. Ready to get going?

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