fbpx

How To Do eCommerce Market Research For Your Online Store

How To Do eCommerce Market Research For Your Online Store

So you’ve had a blinder of an idea for a new online store and you’re ready to jump straight in and start building your empire…..

Whoa there crazy pants! Loving the enthusiasm, but there are a few things we need to do first, including Market Research.

As part of my seven step pre-build process for creating a profitable online store (check out all Seven Things You Need To Do Before You Build And Launch An Online Store here) we are going to do a little digging into the market you want to takeover, the competitors you hope to beat, and the customers you can’t wait to introduce yourself too.

This is where Market Research comes in.

It’s one of the most important steps to make sure your business idea becomes a super profitable online store in the long run. So… pretty please don’t skip it okay.

What is E-Commerce Market Research?

If you ever wanted to be a spy or work for some secret government agency when you were growing up…. well this is about as close as you’ll come to it now you’ve set your heart on becoming an eCommerce entrepreneur.

E-commerce market research is all about checking out the competition, working out how many possible sales are out there, and getting to know your future customers better than they know themselves.

Things you don’t need to do while Market Researching

  • Jump in a taxi and shout “follow that car” to the confused driver – we aren’t real spies.
  • Dig through peoples rubbish bins – that’s just gross.
  • Spend months on this stage, procrasti-researching rather than getting it done. Smash through it now and move onwards and upwards.

In this blog post you’ll find my favourite 8 ways to do market research for an online store. This isn’t just a one-time thang, it’s well worth re-doing this research every few months to make sure your keeping up to date with your competitors and customers.

I’ve created a great guide to help you through the process, providing you with the tools and information you’ll need to build a wildly successful store.

Doing this research will also provide you with some great ideas on how you can beat the competition and improve your eCommerce business so that customers will love shopping with you over and over again.

When you’ve completed your Market Research you’ll know…

  • Who your competitors are.
  • How often customers are searching for your product and where they are looking.
  • What price the products currently sell at and if they’ll be profitable for you.
  • If there are seasonal trends you need to plan for.
  • If there are specific questions/worries/complaints customers have about the products currently on the market that you’ll need to address.
  • How well your competitor’s product, service and website work.
  • What keywords you’ll need to include in your website when you start building landing and product pages for SEO.

Why is Market Research Important?

Ummmmm, well to put it simply it’ll tell you if it’s worth going ahead with your business idea. If you discover the market is…

  • saturated (too many competitors already doing it really well)
  • small (not enough customers)
  • cheap (profit margins are too low to make real moooolar)
  • boring (you finish this research and your totally over the idea)


… then you’ll have saved yourself getting into a bad business, losing loads of money and seeing a lot of hard-work go down the drain. Honestly, the sooner you know if this is the case the better!

Right, guess we better get started!

Don’t forget to download your Pre-Build Cheatsheet here.

If you don’t fancy reading, I’ve created a matching video for you on my Youtube channel Uplevel Your Online Store (you’ll find it further down this page) or you can listen to the podcast episode on iTunes or your favourite podcast player :

7 Things You Need To Do Before You Build And Launch An Online Store

Pre-Build Cheatsheet

I’ve popped all these pre-build steps into a great cheatsheet and it’s waiting for you right now. It’ll guide you through all seven of these important steps. Don’t skip it!

Enter your name and email address below to grab your FREE copy of my Pre-Build Cheatsheet.

Yes Please!

I never spam and you can unsubscribe at any time. You can check out the privacy policy here.

KEYWORD RESEARCH

Keyword research is the process of gathering information about how often certain words and phrases are used in online searches. Researching the words used by customers searching online for your product/service/solution will help you…

  • Identify how many possible customers are out there.
  • Where those searches end up (generally a competitor’s website).
  • If there is any chance of your website organically ranking on the first page of google for those words quickly (SEO).
  • You’ll also be able to identify seasonal trends in searches which will help you plan inventory and quiet/busy selling months.
  • And what words you’ll be able to use in your website copy when you’re ready to start building your online store and writing product descriptions.

HOW TO DO KEYWORD RESEARCH FOR E-COMMERCE

There are a number of tools and methods you can use to complete keyword research, and most of them are super easy, fast and free!

Below I’ve walked you through my favourite ways to do keyword research for new e-commerce stores including…

Google Keyword Tool

Step 1: Brainstorm all the words and phrases you think a customer would use to search for your products online.

We are going to create a fictional online store that plans to sell fancy towels (yup, super random but stick with me on this!). In this first step we need to create a list of possible search terms a customer is might write in google. Here’s my list…

  1. Bath Towel
  2. Towel
  3. Bath Sheet

 
Step 2: Head over to the Google Keyword Tool, select the “Search for new keywords” option and enter the list of words you created in step 1.

Google Keyword Planner
Step 3: On the results page you’ll see the total number of searches that included the terms you listed, as well as other related keywords and how much competition each keyword currently generates.

Step 4: You’ll now need to determine if the search volume is high enough to show there are significant numbers of customers looking for your product. As you can see in our example below, over 250,000 searches for our towel keywords happen each month in the UK.

Step 5: As you scroll down that page you can see how much competition there is for that keyword.

In the image above you can see the word “towel” has a high rate of competition. This means it will be harder to show up at the top of the first page on google, and more expensive to run google shopping adverts using that word.

However as you continue down the page, Google helpfully shows you ideas for other keywords that might also suit your products and have less competition. This is where focusing on a small niche can be really helpful.

Step 6: You can download a list of these keyword ideas and keep them safe for when it’s time to build your store and write lots of copy that search engines will love.

UberSuggest

Ubersuggest is a fantastic tool to see which keywords your competitors are showing up for in Google searches. Similar to Google Keywords Tool, it also shows the search popularity and ranking difficult for each word, as well as suggesting other words you should consider using.

Step 1: Take yourself over to Ubersuggest and enter the website address for your main competitor. As an example you can see I’ve entered a towel selling competitor.

Ubersuggest

Step 2: After you press “search” you’ll be taken to a page showing all sorts of lovely information about your competitors website.

At this point we are just going to look at the keywords they are ranking for – just click the Keywords tab in the sidebar or scroll down the page.

In this section you can see a breakdown of your competitors top keywords, alongside information on how many searches that word appears in each month, how far up Googles search results your competitor appears (a low number is better), and how competitive that word is (again, low numbers win). 

Ubersuggest

Step 3: Again we are looking for terms that have a good search volume and low SEO difficulty rating.

Ubersuggest allows you to export all this useful keyword information  you’ve discovered, so download it to a safe place as you’ll be digging into them again when you’re ready to build your website. 

At this pre-build stage of keyword research we are really just looking at the monthly search volumes, making sure there is enough interest (throughout the year) in the products you’re thinking of selling.

On top of this you should make sure the competitiveness of  those keywords isn’t too high and difficult.

Remember that it’s easier to be noticed when you’re niche – in other words, just selling “towels” isn’t good enough, you need to focus on a small section of that market first, ie “super fancy guest towels”.

If you’re happy that there are enough people looking for the items you want to sell you can move on with further research. Keep your lists of possible keywords safe as you’ll need them for building your website further down the line.

TRENDS

In this section we will be looking at trends such as seasonal selling patterns, popularity spikes due to consumer preference changes, and general shifts in product popularity.

Recognising seasonal trends will help you…

  • Plan cashflow.
  • Order inventory.
  • Create content.
  • Launch new products.


In retail there are often fairly dramatic dips and spikes in sales throughout the year, and if your product is seasonal these will be even more extreme.

During your keyword research on Google Keywords Tool you probably noticed fluctuations in the amount of searches done for you product at certain times of year. Make a note of the months that dip and surge year-on-year as this will help you plan ahead.

HOW TO RESEARCH PRODUCT TRENDS

On top of seasonal/annual search/buying patterns, it is important to understand if your products is an “it-item” that could be a short-lived fashion statement, or if consumer preferences are consistently trending in an upwards direction leading to a consistent growth in sales.  

If your product is “on trend”, you’ll also have account for other businesses recognising it’s popularity and launching into the market at the same time you do.

So how do we know if interest in our product is growing or decreasing over time? Well, yet again Google have created a handy tool for this, and it’s called Google Trends. Below you’ll find a quick overview on how to use Google Trends for your eCommerce market research.

Google Trends

Step 1: Head over to Google Trends and enter the main keyword that represents your product into the search bar.

Google Trends

Step 2: Once you press enter you’ll be taken to a page with a graph showing the number of online searches that keyword appeared in over time. To see yearly patterns make sure you set the date dropdown to “2004-present”.

As you can see below, bath towels have a fairly steady rate of interest, with seasonal selling spikes during November, and dips in March and June.

Google Trends

To give you an idea of what upward and downward trending products looks like, below you’ll find graphs below for water bottle and cd player.

Google Trends

When looking at trends, don’t just focus on the product itself. Take a wider view and look at the market that product sits in. If we take the water bottle example, other trending topics that relate to the product and niche could be “wellness” or “single-use plastic”.

Step 3: Scroll past the Interest Over Time graph towards the bottom of the page. Here you will find a list of related topics and queries. 

This is a great place to discover the names of companies/competitors who are getting mentioned lot’s by the same people searching for the product, as well as questions or features customers are currently asking about.

Google Trends

As you can see above, there are a number of water bottle companies being mentioned in tandem with the product. We can also see that a related topic is “infusion” which shows that people are interested in water bottles that have that feature.

Google Trends: Related Topics & Queries
 
Users searching for your term also searched for these topics and queries. You can view by the following metrics:
 
Top: The most popular topics and queries. Scoring is on a relative scale where a value of 100 is the most commonly searched topic and a value of 50 is a topic searched half as often as the most popular term, and so on.
 
Rising: Related topics and queries with the biggest increase in search frequency since the last time period. Results marked “Breakout” had a tremendous increase, probably because these topics are new and had few (if any) prior searches.

Make a note of any trends you notice for your product or niche. You want to include any features, brands, competitors or queries that are becoming popular, as well as noting seasonal changes in popularity or general upwards/downwards movement.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media is a great place to find out what people are saying about the current products on the market and their experiences purchasing from your competitors.  

By looking into the conversations already happening you should be able to recognise popularity patterns, consumer questions and product problems you can address when launching your own e-commerce store.

Here are just some of the great questions social media market research can answer…

  • Are people on social media talking about the product you plan on selling?
  • How are they talking about it – positively, frustrated with current options?
  • How often are those products mentioned – are there trends in the conversation?
  • Do certain brands dominate the conversation around your product?
  • What questions keep coming up again and again?
  • Are there certain social media channels your product gets mentioned on more than others?
  • Is there a tone of voice often used in conversations about your product – fun, informational, youthful? 

HOW TO DO MARKET RESEARCH ON SOCIAL MEDIA

When I talk about social media I’m not just talking about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’m thinking of any place on the internet where people gather to share stories and discuss topics with each other. So you can add websites like Reddit, Quora, and Youtube, as well as niche forums and groups.

Social media is a great place to start understanding the number of conversations and mentions happening around your business idea. You’ll also be able to discover themes and topics that relate to the wider market. You can use this social media research to design better marketing that’ll speak to your target audience later down the line.

There are a few tools out there to quickly find trends across social media such as Buzzsumo and Hootsuite, however if you’re looking for a free way of doing research you’re going to need to just start searching these sites manually.

Look for hashtags, groups and trending posts that relate to your product keeping the questions I mentioned above in mind. You can also follow competitors and brands in your niche to see what topics are getting the most interest and shares for them.

SURVEYS

Asking your current network (social media followers, current customers, friends & family) their thoughts on your business idea is a great way to quickly see if there’s a profitable market for your product.

If you’re already in contact with the tribe/ideal customer your store plans on selling to, then creating a survey is a great way to gather information on…

  •  What is missing from products currently on the market.
  • What improvements to service or product would make them switch from your competitor.
  • What else interests them that could relate to your product and market. 

HOW TO CREATE A MARKET RESEARCH SURVEY

Step 1: Create a survey – You can use free tools such as Google Forms orTypeform.

If you need more people to take your survey, you can use a paid service like Google Surveys. This service allows you to target specific people to give you more in-depth insights.

Step 2: Create a range of questions.

Include a way to determine if the recipient is actually your ideal customer, as responses from someone who isn’t your target audience could skew your results.

You shouldn’t immediately throw away surveys completed by non-ideals though, as they can sometimes show a secondary market for you product that you could  look into later down the line.

You should include questions that ask about why they are happy or unhappy with current products on the market, what they think would make those products even better, and their experiences purchasing the items online in the past. Find out if they have favourite brands, and why they like them so much.

Step 3: Send your questionnaire out into the world. Post it on twitter, email it to your current contacts, share it in a relevant Facebook group… the more responses you get the better!

Step 4: Don’t forget to thank everyone who responds to your survey!

7 Things You Need To Do Before You Build And Launch An Online Store

Pre-Build Cheatsheet

I’ve popped all these pre-build steps into a great cheatsheet and it’s waiting for you right now. It’ll guide you through all seven of these important steps. Don’t skip it!

Enter your name and email address below to grab your FREE copy of my Pre-Build Cheatsheet.

Yes Please!

I never spam and you can unsubscribe at any time. You can check out the privacy policy here.

FOLLOW THE COMPETITION

It’s very hard to do something better if you don’t have hands on experience with a competitors product and service. Thankfully this may be the easiest part of this entire process.

Below are a few easy ways you can interact with your competitors and look for ways you can do things better.

  • Follow their social media accounts.
  • Signup to their email newsletter.
  • Buy and use their products.
  • Keep an eye out for their adverts popping up after you visit their online store – what do they say (screenshot them for future reference).
  •  Read their reviews – are customers complaining or happy?

OTHER MARKET RESEARCH IDEAS

We’ve gone through some really great ways to do market research for your online store. but just incase you want to go further, here are a few more ideas.

Search Engines

Google isn’t the only place to find products and information. Customers have many ways of finding products online, so you need to know where they search, how they search and what they are currently finding.

One of the biggest challenges of running an online store is getting found. Even when a customer knows your brand, if they go looking for you and one of your competitors shows up instead they’ll likely just purchase through them.

You need to be aware of how and where your customers are looking for your products, and what they currently find. Are they finding exactly what they’re looking for straight away or are they trawling the web and coming up short time and again?

The easiest way to find out is to search, as if you’re a customer, on a variety of search engines including Google, Bing, Pinterest, and Youtube.

Customer Pain Points

Your products and service will have to be better than the competition to draw customers to your online store once you launch. You need to know where the competition is currently failing. 

Look at the online reviews and social media accounts of your competitors. Find questions customers need answering time and again, see if there are any big things you will be able to address that will make your business and products stand out.

Subscribe & Review in iTunes

Are you subscribed to my podcast? If you’re not, I want to encourage you to do that today. I don’t want you to miss an episode. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the mix and if you’re not subscribed there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on those. Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Now if you’re feeling extra loving, I would be really grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too. Those reviews help other people find my podcast and they’re also fun for me to go in and read. Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what your favourite part of the podcast is. Thank you!

Links & Resources Mentioned In This Episode

  • Link Mentioned

 

I really hope this post helps you research the market for your new eCommerce business, and gets you started on the path to a profitable online store in the best way.

Trust me, doing this exercise is so valuable to your business – don’t skip it! I’d love to hear about your thoughts, questions and plans. in the comments below 🙂

Chat soon, 

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew is a British e-commerce entrepreneur and coach. She is the owner of online scented candle retailer Osmology and is passionate about helping women realise their online business goals.

Recent Posts

How To Do eCommerce Market Research For Your Online Store
7 Things You Need To Do Before You Build And Launch An Online Store
Why You Need To Create An Ideal Customer Persona for Your E-commerce Store
A Beginners Guide To The E-Commerce Customer Journey
The Easiest Way To Double Your Online Store’s Sales (For Free)

Leave a Reply

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew is a British e-commerce entrepreneur and coach. She is the owner of online scented candle retailer Osmology and is passionate about helping women realise their online business goals.

Recent Posts

Follow Me

Yes Please!

Oh Yeah!

Yes Please!

Yes Please!

Yes Please!

Yes Please!