Chapter 3 How to Conduct Online Market Research

Beatriz Estay / 6 min read


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Conducting market research for your ecommerce business ideas is not only wise, it’s essential.

Taking the time to go through this process will help you uncover whether or not there is a healthy demand around your business idea.

No matter how stellar you feel your idea is, you’ll want to spend some serious time evaluating market demand and gathering hard facts before you order 2,000 product units or sign any contracts.

In this chapter, you’ll learn to use your startup capital strategically.

When completing market research around your small business idea, there are several different methods you can use.

However, it’s always smart to use a combination of tactics and the best online business tools to be certain you have an accurate picture of your market and make the best business decision possible.

1. Conduct keyword research.

Looking for a super easy, fast and free way to get a feel for your product or business demand?

The Google Keyword Planner helps you visualize how many people are searching for your business or product idea during any given time period.

An added bonus is that this tool will provide you with various related keywords which can help you generate ideas around which words to use in your:

  • Product names,
  • Descriptions,
  • Blog posts, and
  • Website as a whole.

Conducting keyword research will tell you what consumers are searching for all over the world.

If no one is looking for what you want to sell, that’s not a good sign.

On the other hand, if thousands of searches are being done for keywords closely related to your product, you might want to take the next step sooner rather than later.

How to Use Google AdWords Keyword Planner:

  1. Log in.
  2. Go to the keyword planner tool page.
  3. Use the “Search for new keywords” option.
  4. Type in your desired keywords, each on a different line. You can also upload a list.
  5. View search volume results to target a specific, relevant keyword and group.
  6. Browse additional keyword suggestions to find new, relevant keywords to target.

Here are some of my favorite benefits of using the tool:

  • Discovering keywords that have the highest search volume with the lowest competition.
  • Browsing additional recommended or related keywords, so you can find a whole new group of terms you can also target.

Hold up, what do I mean by “target?”

These are the keywords you can pepper into your:

  • Site copy,
  • Product page copy,
  • Meta titles,
  • Meta descriptions,
  • Social media copy,
  • And more.

2. Find trends and put the big picture in perspective.

Google Trends is another cool Google tool you can use to reap market research learnings.

The added bonus of Google Trends is the ability to complete a search for a product or business idea and then view the directional search demand for that keyword throughout the past few years.

You can also compare the volume of searches between a few terms, by geographic locales, and even by how particular events affect search popularity.

This tool is especially helpful when considering a product that is tied to a newer niche. You will be able to analyze if your product niche is a fad or the start of a rising trend.

Take a Deeper Dive

This may seem obvious, but many potential entrepreneurs don’t search for market data or surveys on their industry or specific business idea before launching.

By completing just a few quick searches, you can end up with a vivid picture of the market opportunity for your idea, which will help to justify or trash your proposed product.

Here are a few ecommerce and retail industry publications to check out:

3. Utilize social media.

Utilizing social media is a great way to start understanding the volume of conversations and mentions around your business idea.

Social media also helps uncover aspects of your target market that can inform your marketing efforts later.

By probing into all of the different social media channels out there, you’ll start to identify how potential customers talk about your product or industry as a whole.

This will help you learn the language of your target customer base. The added benefit? You can leverage it later via your product descriptions, blog posts, ads, social media, and promotions.

Using the language of your target customers will help drive quality traffic to your site, build a loyal customer base, and increase conversions.

Here’s what to look for on the leading social media platforms:

  • Look into hashtags and what’s trending overall.
  • Use Instagram’s search tool the same way you did Google Trends.
  • Research what influencers are sharing — and what posts do well. What brands are dictating the narrative?
  • Hashtag and type in your product to see how many others are using that hashtag, related hashtags, and popular images.

You’ll want to use similar keywords and images on your social media accounts as well as on your webstore to engage the already active social community.

4. Build an online store and test the waters to gain momentum.

This is the big moment: dive in and open an online store.

Contrary to popular belief, you can do this long before your product or service is ever developed to start driving traffic or even to collect some pre-orders.

Shake off the nerves because a great ecommerce platform, like BigCommerce, will have this option built into its product pages. You can even add in expected release dates and schedule it to go live.

This tactic can help you gain immediate feedback from your target consumer or gauge demand for your product before manufacturing or buying inventory.

In addition to the creation of your website, you’ll want to drive traffic to your store. Creating ads on Google and Facebook and spreading the news via word-of-mouth are great ways to succeed at this.

You’ll be able to start attracting potential customers who can provide feedback, sign up for your mailing list, or join a waitlist to be notified when the product has launched.

Pro tip: the investment community is more likely to give money to a company that has shown proven market demand by collecting pre-orders or signups from real consumers.

5. Routes to Building an Audience Without a Product

This is tricky, but doable.

Leveraging an already existing audience to sell new products to is a great way to quickly scale a business, and there are various ways to do this.

Launch a Narrative Brand

Narrative brands do incredibly well online.

What makes a brand narrative? Highlighting moments and experiences shared between a user and a product through content. 

Narrative brand success comes from using content to drive organic traffic and engage audiences on social media platforms.

Burrow is a great example of a narrative brand.

“It really starts with how we engage the customer and get them interested. One of the most important things is making sure we have a really strong mix of channels and tactics.” — Mark Simmons, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Burrow

But, let’s look at something a bit more realistic for businesses building from the ground up.

Spearmint Love is another brand which used a narrative long before selling any products.

Shari Lott started the Spearmint Baby Blog in 2009 after the birth of her first child.

The blog reviewed products and gave advice, eventually earning her thousands of Facebook and Instagram followers –– many of whom were asking her where they could buy the goods.

Three years in, Shari decided to launch her own store, selling the items she most loved.

Today, Spearmint Love has hundreds of thousands of followers and continues to use a content-forward strategy to continue educating and engaging customers for the long haul.

Explore a Crowdfunding Platform

Kickstarter and IndieGoGo give you the crowdfunding platform and audience to build a customer base and an email list.

The support you garner on these sites gives you a unique way to communicate to new customers – and eventually reach people who can spread word-of-mouth marketing.

Plenty of businesses have taken this route to launch, and even use it for new product launches as well.

Passion Planner does exactly that. While they have gained sales and brand awareness with their BigCommerce store, they continue to leverage Kickstarter to launch new products.

It might seem odd to use a tool like Kickstarter once you are already selling a set of products. But there are many benefits to using a crowdfunding platform for new products:

  • It can help you launch a new product and give you an indicator as to how well it will do in the market,
  • It gives your customers a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into bringing a product to market, and
  • It enables your brand to engage and partner with your community of customers to spread the word.

6. Leverage your digital networks and get a temperature check.

Leveraging your digital networks is a must, including your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram followings.

These folks are all potential customers who can help gauge interest, fulfill some test orders, and offer valuable feedback at every step of the journey.

Make sure to let them know you want real, honest feedback, not that sugar-coated stuff that serves no purpose.

Here are some great forums to get honest feedback:

7. Scope the competition.

At this point, you’ll want to take a look at your competition to get the lay of the land.

Here are a couple questions to start you off:

  • Is there a clear owner of the space?
  • Is the market saturated with competitors?
  • Can you spot a weakness in the competition that you can take advantage of?

Don’t get discouraged if the market feels full at first glance.

That just means you’ll want to take a deeper look to see if each site is actually performing well or if there is an opportunity for improvement.

Want more insights like this?

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Table of Contents

IntroHow to (Realistically) Start an Online Business That (Actually) Grows in 2021
Chapter 1 How to Find the Perfect Products to Sell Online
Chapter 2 How to Evaluate Market Viability for Your Products
Chapter 3 How to Conduct Online Market Research
Chapter 4 How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis for Your Online Business
Chapter 5 10 Online Business Laws You Need to Know for Internet Selling
Chapter 6 How to Identify and Analyze Your Target Market in 2020
Chapter 7 How to Source and Manufacture Products for Your Online Business
Chapter 8 Choosing The Right Ecommerce Platform For Your Business
Chapter 9 59 Productivity Hacks for Online Small Business Owners
Chapter 9 How to Create, Setup, and Launch a Profitable Online Store (Seriously)
Chapter 10 Driving Traffic to Your Online Store
Chapter 11 Next Steps After The Sale: Your Guide to Small Business Shipping
Chapter 12 Measuring Success: Analytics
Chapter 13 Time To Grow: The 5 Things To Consider When Scaling Your Online Business
Chapter 14 17 Tips For Online Small Business Owners


Beatriz Estay

Beatriz Estay

Beatriz is a Content Marketing Manager at BigCommerce and the fashion and lifestyle influencer behind The Letter Bea, an Austin, Texas based blog. She holds a B.A. in Communication and Sociology/Anthropology from Lake Forest College and specializes in ecommerce, marketing and merchandising strategies, influencer and branding work, and social media. When she's not curating content, Beatriz loves to travel the world, share her journey with Type 1 Diabetes, and find Austin's most Instagram friendly spots.

View all posts by Beatriz Estay

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