It is not easy to define the precise point at which desk research ceases to yield results and where it becomes necessary to turn to in-market research. In some cases, you may find it possible to get all the information you need about a market without ever leaving South Africa. In other instances, there may be no information available other than some vague statistics.
While desk research can often answer general questions such as: "How much...?" or "How many...?', in-market research is often necessary to answer more specific questions such as "What kind...?", "What size.?", "What colour...?", and especially "What price.?"
Preparing for in-market research
Before commencing in-market research, you should make thorough preparations in South Africa. Besides making the usual preparations for a business trip, you should:
- Determine the goals of the in-market research
- Decide on the people to be interviewed and establish where they are situated
- Arrange interviews in advance, where possible
- Prepare the necessary documentation, such as questionnaires
Duration and timing of research
Arriving at an estimate of the duration of the in-market research assignment is an important element in planning in-market research. The total length of time required to conduct field research will depend on the total number of interviews, visits, and observations needed to obtain a reasonably representative sample of the market segments under consideration.
Another important aspect is the actual timing of the research. For example, you should schedule the visit so that you do not arrive in a country when the targeted respondents have gone on holiday! If a specialised trade fair is being held, it may be a good idea for the visit to coincide with it (trade fairs provide a concentrated view of the market and offer excellent opportunities for making business contacts).
Your schedule should also not be too rigid. Once in the field, you will undoubtedly discover new leads and should allow room in the schedule for following these up.