Dipstick testing: Quick and affordable insights

by | Aug 21, 2023 | Customer Experience

Hit the market research bullseye

Ever played darts in the dark? We don’t recommend it – you can’t see anything. Now, imagine if you could switch on the lights, check where your dart has landed, adjust your aim, and throw again.

This is just a metaphor. It doesn’t matter if you can barely throw darts in a well-lit room.

Now, in this scenario, dipstick testing is the light, the dartboard is the customer experience (CX), and the dart is the client satisfaction technique.

Do you know what would make this game even more challenging? Throwing the darts blindfolded. You may think, “Why on earth would you complicate it further if it’s already dark in the room?”

Good question. Let’s answer with a question: Why would you complicate CX further by making decisions without understanding your customers’ changing expectations? If there’s a light that could help you set your target, why blindfold yourself?


What is dipstick testing?

Customer preferences fluctuate faster than a rabbit in a greyhound race, so you must constantly test and re-test their needs.

Dipstick testing is a form of qualitative research in which you ask a small sample of potential and existing customers a few questions about a specific topic. The questions can be open-ended or close-ended, and the sample size can vary from 5 to 50 people, depending on the scope and complexity of the topic.

Sidebar: You aren’t doing this to get statistically significant results but rather to derive directional insight to help you make better decisions.

Like light illuminates your CX dartboard, dipstick testing is a rapid, low-cost research technique offering instant insights into customer sentiments and preferences.

It’ll help you answer questions like:

  • How do customers perceive your brand, product, or service?
  • What are the main benefits or value propositions customers want?
  • What are the main pain points or challenges customers face?
  • How do customers compare your offering to competitors or alternatives?
  • What are the main features or improvements customers want or expect?
  • How likely are customers to buy, recommend, or repeat a purchase?


How to conduct dipstick tests

Standard dipstick test methods include:

  • Online surveys: Online tools like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, or Typeform allow you to create and distribute surveys using email lists, social media platforms, or communities. They’re convenient, fast, and cost-effective but often have low response rates, biased responses, or incomplete data.
  • Phone interviews: Use online directories, referrals, or cold calls to reach respondents and make the interviewing process more personal, interactive, and flexible. However, conducting and analysing these interviews may take time, effort, skills, and motivation.
  • In-person interviews: Face-to-face interactions at physical locations, events, or incentives are the most engaging, immersive, and insightful method of dipstick testing, but they may be the most expensive, time-consuming, and challenging to organise and conduct.

Does keeping pace with market shifts feel like a game of whack-a-mole? Here’s how to turn it into a game of darts (in which your chances of hitting the bullseye are greater):

      What’s the goal? Have a clear idea of what you want to learn from your dipstick test. What is the main question or hypothesis you want to test? What are the sub-questions or assumptions you want to validate? How will you use the insights from the test to improve your business?
      Come up with questions: Develop questions that are relevant, clear, concise, and unbiased. Avoid leading, loaded, or ambiguous questions that influence or confuse respondents. And keep the questions short – you’re not playing Cluedo.
      Select your jury: Choose participants representing your target audience as much as possible. Consider demographics, psychographics, behaviour patterns, and purchase history, and make sure the group size is large enough to get meaningful data but small enough to manage.
      Do the test: Respect the participants’ privacy and consent. Introduce yourself, explain the purpose and duration, and ask the questions in a friendly and conversational manner. And remember to listen actively, record, and document the responses.
      Analyse the results: Look for patterns, themes, insights, and implications from the responses to compare and contrast different perspectives and opinions. Then, identify any gaps, limitations, or biases in your data.


Why use dipstick testing?

The beauty of dipstick testing, just like a well-lit dartboard, is that it lets you adjust your aim as customer needs evolve. Got a new product feature? Dipstick test. Unsure about a new branding direction? Dipstick test.

To be a good dart player, you must analyse your throws and continuously tweak your aim – otherwise you’re just practising bad throws. This continual cycle of test-evaluate-adjust ensures you stay in tune with your target audience.

Throwing darts in the dark is exhilarating, sure, but it won’t get you anywhere if you don’t switch on the lights, see where you stand, and make the necessary adjustments. Who knows? You may hit a bullseye next time.

Not into darts or dipstick testing? Fortunately, we’ve mastered it – with and without a well-lit room. Chat with InteractRDT; we’ll help you hit the target.