This report presents an analysis of responses obtained from visitors to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) outdoor farmers market at 12th and Independence Avenue, SW, in Washington, D.C. during two market days, September 10 and 17, 2010. The Rapid Market Assessment, also known as the dot survey, was carried out to assess the composition and shopping habits of the market’s customer base so the managers of the market could better understand:
- Who attends the market
- What services and amenities customers most enjoy at the market
- What impact the market’s operation has had on their customers’ purchasing patterns and consumption decisions
Personnel from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Farmers Market and Direct Marketing Research Branch used the dot survey approach to conduct consumer research at the farmers market. The dot survey technique is a “self-service” research approach that asks a limited number of questions displayed on easels in the market.
Individual questions are placed on poster boards, making it easy for consumers to indicate their responses with round, colorful, self-sticking dots. We found using the dot survey technique to be a quick, simple, and effective way to engage consumer participation and collect market data. The dot survey was developed by Larry Lev, Linda Brewer, and Gary Stephenson of Oregon State University. It is among the most popular techniques for gauging consumer behavior at farmers markets. Among other market associations, it has been used by the Michigan Farmers Market, New Mexico Farmers Market, and North Dakota Farmers Market Association. Not only was the dot survey fun for the respondents, but we were also able to solicit a great deal of participation from market visitors, which increased the number of responses and contributed to the overall market atmosphere.