Laboratory studies are a type of primary marketing research that are often used by larger consumer products companies. The downside, for small businesses, is that they cost from $50,000 to over $100,000 per test leg. On the other hand, these tests have a high degree of reliability and correlation with actual market performance when the test product, pricing, and advertising are similar to those actually used in the real market. They can save companies many millions of dollars in potentially wasted marketing spending by showing weaknesses in product, advertising, pricing, or other variables prior to real-world marketing.
In a typical laboratory study, potential test respondents are approached at a shopping mall and prescreened for type of products used and brand preference. Then they are exposed to some advertising that's being tested and are given a chance to purchase the brand among a competitive array of other products. Finally, the consumers are given some of the product to take home and use. The researcher then follows up with the test respondents to see whether they used the product, how they liked it, and whether they would or did purchase it again. Laboratory tests are generally based upon a minimum of 100 to 300 test-respondents per location, with the tests completed in a few days at a mall or other location where target respondents tend to cluster.
Small companies can conduct small-base simulated testing with local research
services or do their own research by showing target buyers advertising, placing
prototype products in homes, and following up with carefully constructed
questionnaires. However, even 100 to 300 test respondents may still not be a
statistically reliable indication of real world conditions and responses.
Smaller companies and local research services are not likely to have a broad
database of test response histories or access to sophisticated mathematical
computer modeling software. Thus, field
studies are often the method of choice for small businesses who want to test
a new business idea.