In your life, have you watched a commercial or a news report and heard the narrator or reporter mention something along the lines of, “Consumer Reports rates,” or “Consumer Reports says?”
You may not have thought much about it at the time, but a Consumer Reports rating or review is very important in our daily lives.
Since 1936, Consumer Reports has been researching, testing and reviewing all types of products and services in an effort to provide consumers with helpful information and assistance in which brands, products and services are quality, effective, useful, tasty, safe and more when it comes to making household purchasing decisions.
The organization is a nonprofit and accepts no advertising funding. It runs primarily on the donations from hundreds of thousands of donors. When it comes to testing, Consumer Reports buys all products itself like a normal consumer would. The organization does not test samples.
Consumer Reports has 63 state-of-the-art testing labs around the country and employs over 130 researchers, scientists, engineers and testing experts. It spends around $30 million on testing and reviewing well over 8,500 products and services annually.
This is all fine and dandy, but what does this have to do with opinions and market research? Well, Consumer Reports conducts surveys and uses the survey data to help create their final ratings and reviews. This is an example of how when you share your opinions via market research as a consumer, you can truly influence companies, brands, products and services with your thoughts.
What Types of Surveys Does Consumer Reports Conduct?
Consumer Reports primarily conducts two types of surveys: product owner surveys and national surveys.
Product Owner Surveys
For Product Owner Surveys, Consumer Reports polls consumers across the country and Consumer Reports survey-taking members for their opinions only on the products they own. By asking consumers questions on only the products they own, the organization is ensuring people are not providing opinions on things in which they are not familiar.
Product owner surveys are typically distributed online via email invitations every quarter. In a typical year, around three million Consumer Reports members participate in these surveys. Not all Consumer Reports survey-takers are eligible to participate in these surveys every quarter, though nearly everyone is eligible for the Spring survey. That being said, the Winter, Summer and Fall surveys are sent to a random sample of eligible members.
Each quarterly survey that is sent out focuses on a different set of up to ten product categories to ensure survey-takers are not overwhelmed by the length of the survey; there are over 40 product categories in the Consumer Reports database at a given time.
Examples of questions that can be asked in product owner surveys to eligible survey panelists include:
- How long have you owned the product?
- How often do you use the product?
- Has the product broken or stopped working as well as it should since you have owned the product?
- What problems has the product had since you owned it?
- Would you recommend the product to other consumers?
- What do you like or not like about the product? (This is typically an open-ended question.)
- Can you describe the details of any issues you may have had with the product? (This is typically an open-ended question as well.)
An important thing to note about product owner surveys is the survey-takers are not given any type of incentive for completing surveys.
Consumer Reports’ national surveys are conducted around 12 times per year (around once per month), though this varies based on timely consumer issues or special topics that need addressing in the country.
These national surveys are representative omnibus surveys that are committed to understanding and measuring the full range of experiences and issues faced by American consumers. The surveys track consumers’ attitudes, perceptions and behaviors over time and differ greatly from product owner surveys.
The national surveys can help Consumer Reports identify diversity in consumer experiences based upon key demographics like age, gender, income, race and more.
An expert national survey team conducts Consumer Reports’ national surveys. You can also be confident that the expert team is conducting surveys ethically and responsibly because Consumer Reports is a proud member of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and the survey team adheres to the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers’ Code of Ethics.
Types of Products Consumer Reports Rates and Reviews
There are usually over 8,500 products and services in over 40 categories rated and reviewed by Consumer Reports every year. Some of the major product categories Consumer Reports dives into include appliances and home products, cars, electronics, food, and health products.
Everything about Consumer Reports’ rating-and-review process is unique, but there are some aspects that stand out more than others.
For example, Consumer Reports has the longest (327 miles across), most-sophisticated car testing center that is solely devoted to consumer interest anywhere in the world, let alone the country. It is located in rural Connecticut. Consumer Reports buys and tests around 50 vehicles per year there and rack up more than 500,000 miles in drive time. Consumer Reports also tests and reviews car accessories such as child safety seats and tires.
Over 850 electronic products are tested and reviewed by Consumer Reports every year that stretch across 12 categories. These products can include TVs, cell phones, computers, digital cameras and more.
Consumer Reports also tests and reviews products like exercise equipment (ellipitcals, treadmills, pedometers, etc.), home medical devices (blood pressure monitors, blood-glucose meters, thermometers, etc.), personal care items (sunscreens, moisturizers, electric shavers, electric toothbrushes, etc.), drugs (prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines), and even health insurance plans (HMOs, PPOs, Medicare Advantage plans, etc.).
While Consumer Reports does much of its product testing, reviewing and rating in-house, it also depends on additional market research in the forms of product owner surveys and national surveys to find out the opinions of consumers just like you from all around the country to help publish the most accurate and helpful consumer reviews as possible.