Field studies are a type of experimental, primary market
research that is more accessible to small businesses. They are
generally real-world tests in a controlled group of stores or in
a single city.
There are many pros and cons to this approach. Research
experts often decry the non-representativeness of the test sites
as compared to nationwide marketing, and they dislike the lack
of control over environmental influences. There are considerable
opportunities for bias in local or regional market sites,
consumer behavior and habits, and local competitive products.
For large and small companies, the best test of a product may
often be actual market conditions. And for many small companies,
a real world test is the only experimental research
available — anything else is just too expensive.
Another complaint that professional marketers make is the
difficulty of accurately monitoring test results and then
estimating larger market acceptance upon national rollout, where
environment, consumers, sales forces, competitors, and trade
makeup may vary significantly in each regional area. However,
your small business may have no intention of ever rolling out
nationally, so a local field test may be all that you'll ever
A single retail store or small city test market can provide
significant real world feedback. It is not unusual for thrifty
entrepreneurs to design, test, package, produce initial
inventories, and test-market a new consumer retail product at a
cost of $10,000 or less.
On the other hand, larger national and multi-national
companies often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in market
research prior to launching a test market for a single product.
A large company may spend over $1 million in a single test
market for the first six months. While you may not have the
desire or the resources to do such extensive testing, the fact
that large companies are willing to invest so much money in this
type of research should convince you that a small field test of
your business idea is worth the effort, before you commit all
your funds to the project.
For more on how you can use field studies to try out new
business ideas, consider