eCommerce Market Research: 8 Tips to Conduct Research That Will Grow Your Business
by Ron Dod
Home | Blog | eCommerce Market Research: 8 Tips to Conduct Research That Will Grow Your Business
Share this article
In the digital era, shoppers hold all of the power in purchasing decisions. While consumers used to be restricted to a handful of products found locally, with worldwide eCommerce sales topping $3.53 trillion in 2019, people can get their hands on a wide array of items from across the globe.
Additionally, shoppers are conducting more in-depth research into their potential purchases than ever before. However, despite the monumental shift in consumer behaviors over the years, many brands have failed to adapt their marketing strategies to align with today’s paradigm.
Naturally, for merchants to generate purchases, they need to go where their customers live and play online. While this might sound obvious, many do not possess deep and abiding knowledge about where consumers conduct their product research and what influences their decision to buy.
To understand such variables, eCommerce market research is a necessity.
eCommerce market research seeks to uncover the reasons that shoppers purchase certain products through analyzing various personal, cultural and societal patterns of behavior.
Who are the brand’s customers? Answering this requires detailing the audience’s average age, level of education, occupation, income, lifestyle and similarly important information.
What do they currently buy? Here, sellers aim to establish consumers’ purchasing patterns related to the business’s niche, including their favorite brands, frequency of purchases and other critical elements.
Why do they buy what they do? Addressing this query requires retailers to get into the heads of their audience and figure out what it is that drives purchase decisions, such as alluring price points, popular product features and additional elements that might entice shoppers.
How can a brand convert a consumer? This is where merchants bring together all the information they have learned to gain a bird’s eye view of the different market variables, sales figures, consumer motivations and more to establish a plan of action.
eCommerce Market Research: Understanding the Different Types
When it comes to eCommerce market research, there are two kinds that retailers want to focus on:
Primary Research: This is firsthand data that retailers harvest directly. This can often entail meeting with, interviewing or surveying consumers to obtain direct feedback. This type of research is highly advantageous as it enables sellers to collect in-depth data on their business, product marketing efforts or anything else they wish to study.
Secondary Research: This type of research involves analyzing data published by third-party sources to better understand the market, competition or other outside elements. Naturally, it is easier to begin with secondary research. However, retailers must be mindful not to get bogged down or overwhelmed by the information available and lose sight of the aim of the research effort.
Utilizing one of the research methodologies outlined above, sellers will conduct two types of studies:
Exploratory: The aim here is to harvest as much information as possible to understand a specific problem by gaining a comprehensive overview of how the target audience perceives and addresses an issue. Finding this information out will allow sellers to make more informed decisions about how to grow their brand.
Specific: With global knowledge provided by the exploratory study, sellers can begin delving into the specifics of a problem. This is done by asking pointed questions that can help merchants harvest more feedback about products, services, marketing and other business opportunities for growth.
With a proper understanding of the different kinds of eCommerce market research, it is time to dive into the tools that retailers can utilize to collect and analyze such data.
Google Trends is a fantastic (and free) tool that allows sellers to uncover trending topics on Google search. For instance, looking at Google Trends (as of this writing) shows that while Apple AirPods are still generating quite a bit of interest, a search for this item peaked during the holiday shopping months:
Merchants can utilize this tool to find out what their audience is searching for and analyze the data to gain insights into consumer desires. Moreover, Google Trends can clearly show sellers the level of demand for different product features, the popularity of competing brands and similarly essential data points.
Another great eCommerce market research tool from Google is Google Alerts.
Google Alerts enable sellers to monitor mentions across the web for their business, competitor sites and practically anything else they can imagine.
By simply entering a given word, term or phrase, Google will alert retailers via email when the engine detects a new mention.
In addition to serving as an excellent eCommerce market research tool, Google Alerts can better SEO performance, uncover link building opportunities, circumstances for collaboration and tons of other favorable happenings.
Social media is a prime source of information, as the psychology of social media shows that 80 percent of posts are dedicated to a person talking about themselves. This stat indicates that social media is ideal for harvesting consumer opinions on various topics, unadulterated by biases that may form within focus groups.
This process helped them to enhance content marketing efforts, align the voice of the customer with website copy and augment the brand’s SEO keyword strategy.
Surveys are a great eCommerce market research tool as they provide merchants an affordable avenue to gather data about demographics, opinions, market needs, purchase behaviors and just about anything else.
Survey Monkey is a premier tool for such a task as the platform allows sellers to easily create and share surveys comprised of different question formats. Additionally, this eCommerce market research tool makes data analysis a snap.
However, Survey Monkey isn’t the only game in town when it comes to survey creation.
Typeform is a similar form creation platform that enables retailers to generate custom forms, including (but not limited to):
Surveys and questionnaires
In addition to the various form types, retailers can analyze the data in a myriad of ways. For instance, sellers can export data in a spreadsheet, view it as a graph, obtain a summary form and more.
The customization aspect to the platform stands toe-to-toe with industry favorites, such as Survey Monkey, while still providing the service at a moderate price.
Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center is one of the least biased, most credible non-profit think tanks in the world. For many, Pew is considered the gold standard of research, providing information on “public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research.”
Given Pew’s authority and credibility, this site serves as an invaluable resource for obtaining secondary data for eCommerce market research.
A similarly reputable source for secondary research is Statista.
Statista is one of the leading providers of market and consumer data, thereby serving as a vital source of information for eCommerce research. For instance, data from Statista about eCommerce share of retail sales worldwide reveals that in 2019 “e-retail sales accounted for 14.1 percent of all retail sales worldwide. This figure is expected to reach 22 percent in 2023,” thereby revealing the industry’s great potential for growth over the next several years.
Moreover, Statista features an extremely user-friendly interface, allows for multi-format downloads and highlights sources for its data.
Therefore, understanding what content performs best within a niche is an essential eCommerce market research task. To manage that task, there’s BuzzSumo.
BuzzSumo is possibly the most popular content marketing research platform on the web today. This tool provides retailers with copious amounts of information on which topics resonate most with a target audience.
BuzzSumo enables sellers to enter various keywords to find content that is most shared on social channels, locate influences related to specific subjects, track competitor content and leverage tons of other incredibly useful features for eCommerce market research.
With this handful of tools, merchants can successfully embark on their research efforts. That said, there are some other strategies that sellers should keep in mind throughout the process.
Define Buyer Personas
Prior to exploring how customers come to their purchase decisions, it is necessary to understand whom these individuals are, thereby making buyer personas a powerful tool.
Buyer personas are, in a nutshell, generalized representations of a brand’s ideal customer. Creating buyer personas helps marketers to visualize an audience, develop proper communications and inform a strategy all around.
Some traits that merchants will want to include in their buyer personas include:
The idea is to utilize such personas as a guiding light for researching and learning about real-life customers. However, it is essential to note that businesses often connect with more than one persona. Therefore, brands should ensure that various materials are created to speak to each different customer group.
Prepare Research Questions
To get the most out of conducting primary research, retailers must be prepared. This means that it is necessary to generate a discussion guide. This concept is applicable to interviews, focus groups, surveys and other types of company-to-consumer interactions.
The purpose of this is not to create a script, but to ensure that researchers cover the most critical information and utilize their time wisely. Despite possessing a guide, discussions, questionnaires, interviews and the like should remain conversational in tone.
Moreover, to obtain the most valuable data possible, merchants should aim to ask open-ended questions. Leading individuals to specific answers simply does not produce the highest quality data. Therefore, by asking closed yes or no questions, retailers risk unintentionally influencing a consumer’s thoughts or not giving them the chance to express their ideas fully.
As mentioned several times throughout this piece, surveys are an excellent tool for obtaining eCommerce market research insights. Therefore, add a survey to a merchant’s website or build an eCommerce email marketing campaign around sending questionnaires to customers.
Surveys are a powerful tool for numerous reasons.
Firstly, these enable sellers to write custom questions to audiences and (using open-ended questions) harvest incredibly insightful answers. While some questions must be closed yes or no queries (to avoid fatiguing the user), the goal is to gather as much information as possible to build accurate profiles from the eCommerce market research.
Secondly, surveys can actually result in increased sales. By offering shoppers a small percentage or dollars off discount for completing a survey, many consumers will feel incentivized to complete the questionnaire and the checkout process.
This is the ultimate win-win scenario.
Utilize Facebook’s Custom Audiences Feature
As discussed in the tools section, social media is one of the most powerful eCommerce market research tools available. Speaking more specifically, Facebook advertising can provide sellers with tons of data on their audience to help them obtain insights for growing a business.
After the company has located these individuals, Facebook assembles a chart that showcases various trends among the consumers contained in the list. Through this chart, sellers can see the kinds of interests and habits these shoppers display, which is valuable information to possess for eCommerce market research.
For instance, through this data, retailers might discover that most of their shoppers spend a lot of time on YouTube. Such an insight lets merchants know that it is wise to invest more heavily in creating video content, optimizing YouTube videos for better SEO performance and running ads through the platform.
Conduct Competitive Research
The eCommerce arena has become extremely competitive over the years. Therefore, for retailers to understand where they fit within the online sales ecosystem and how to bootstrap themselves up the eCommerce food chain, conducting competitive research is a must.
Thankfully, there are a variety of competitive research tools that can help retailers in this regard. Some of the most popular platforms include:
While each of these caters to a different area of competitive research (SEO, social media, content, etc.), each provides unique insights that will help merchants better ascertain their audience’s wants, needs and interests, as is depicted through the performance of rival sites.
By analyzing competitor outcomes as it relates to these key areas, sellers can obtain research insights that can help them overcome the competition.
Summarize the Findings
At this point, merchants should have a ton of primary and secondary information on the eCommerce market at large, consumers, competitors, successful strategies and more. In fact, there is a chance that some sellers might feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information they have collected.
At this point, it is time to boil down all of their eCommerce market research, looking for common themes and outcomes that will help retailers devise a list of actionable tasks that can be fashioned or incorporated into a profitable strategy.
To make the process easier, it is advisable to utilize a presentation software to compile an eCommerce market research report that will succinctly convey the findings of this exploratory effort.
Take the key findings from this report and put them into action.
Conducting eCommerce market research can be an extremely revealing experience for scores of sellers. Even those who think they are highly informed on who their buyers are and what they want are likely to uncover a variety of channels, messages, desires and more that they were not aware resonated with shoppers.
By taking the time to conduct eCommerce market research, retailers can reveal tons of new opportunities for business growth.
However, we understand that is easier said than done, considering all the time-consuming day-to-day efforts sellers are already engaged in managing.
That said, Visiture’s eCommerce marketing services cover the gamut of information and optimization tactics that retailers need to dominate their niche. Reach out to us today for a consultation to see how we can help your business grow to new heights of prosperity.
Join 150+ Leading eCommerce Brands
And see how Visiture can grow your revenue online through award-winning transactional focused marketing services.
Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
Receive a Free eCommerce Marketing Audit Today!
Most Common Misconceptions about Google Analytics
March 27, 2020
How Google Analytics’ Attribution Beta Helps Digital Marketers
March 25, 2020
eCommerce Migration: Your Guide to Replatforming Your Online Store