City and regional test markets may provide the most reliable real-world feedback on new product success. However, small companies generally do not conduct formal market research field studies in a controlled group of stores, where panels of stores are matched and distribution, in-store merchandising, and advertising is done for you by the market research company for tens of thousands of dollars per test group of stores.
For larger companies, test-marketing techniques include:
- simulated market tests with target consumers in a controlled situation
- controlled market tests with a panel of actual retail stores
- computer market simulation modeling
Whether your business is small or large, the best test of a product may often be actual market conditions, despite the fact that you'll be paying a disproportionate amount of trade, sales, and marketing attention to the product test sites.