Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative. End-Market Research Mix

Once secondary sources of data have been exhausted, it is time to develop a primary market research plan. The first and most important element of the research plan is to define the goal of the research or the burden of proof. Once the goal is set and the information required is known, a research plan comprised of surveys, interviews, and focus groups can be developed to get the data required to make an informed choice. An overview of these tools is below.

Tool Description Advantages Disadvantages
Interviews One-on-one structured or semi-structured conversations with potential buyers or industry experts
  • Excellent for in-depth testing of research hypotheses and insights into the psyche of buyers
  • Access to qualitative data
  • Ability to explore and probe responses
  • Expensive and time consuming
  • Respondents may be reluctant to share personal beliefs and information
  • Possibility of interviewer bias
  • Rarely yields useful quantitative data
Focus Groups Small, structured group meeting consisting of 5 to 20 participants from a target market segment or a cross-section of a value chain
  • Ideal for ascertaining interest in abstract or new concepts
  • Excellent for pre-testing ideas
  • Generation of new research hypotheses
  • Exploration of new and unrelated topics as they arise
  • Small group bias
  • Trained moderators required.
  • Data not sufficient to make major decisions
  • Reluctance to share personal beliefs in group setting
Surveys Closed research instrument designed to test attitudes and perceptions on current product offerings or clearly defined future offerings. Can include quantitative and qualitative data
  • Quantitative data provides rigorous foundation for other qualitative methods
  • Data easy to tabulate and generalize from assuming high enough sample size
  • Depending on distribution channel, relatively inexpensive
  • Good for sensitive issues
  • Limited ability to probe responses, so questions need to be simple
  • Difficult and/or expensive to achieve statistical significance. This can be overcome with Internet/email distribution
Observation In-store (or at the point of sale) observation of customers using or considering the purchase of a product
  • Inexpensive if observation is “blind”
  • Access to real life data
  • Difficult to ascertain motivations behind behavior