Field Studies

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 need.

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