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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 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 name, descriptions, blog posts and your 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.

Google has gotten wise to entrepreneurs using this tool to conduct keyword research for their online businesses. When you go to create an account with Google Adwords to start using the Keyword Planner, you will be prompted to start an account, enter a dollar amount and possibly even enter credit card information.

Don’t panic. Go ahead and enter in $1.00 and then make sure to suspend the campaign before you finish creating your account. You won’t need to start an actual campaign at this point.


2. Find Trends and Put the Big Picture in Perspective

Another cool Google tool you can use is Google Trends.

Do 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 go all the way back to 2005, as of this writing). You can also compare the volume of searches between a few terms, geographic locales and even view how particular events affect search popularity.


3. Examine Social Media

Examining 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 their language so 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.

First, take a look into hashtags and what’s trending overall.

Use Instagram’s search tool the same way you did Google Trends. 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 socially active community.



4. Build an Online Store and Test the Waters to Gain Momentum

Dive in and open an online store.

You can do this long before your product or service is ever developed to start driving traffic or even to collect some pre-orders. This tactic can help you gain immediate feedback from your target consumer or gauge demand for your product before manufacturing or buying inventory.

Create some ads on Google and Facebook and spread the news via word-of-mouth. You’ll be able to start attracting potential customers who can provide feedback, sign up for your mailing list, or be placed on a waitlist to be notified when the product has launched.

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

A word of caution: make sure your website is clear in communicating that your product or service is not ready to ship. Also, provide an estimated date for release and details around whether or not you will provide refunds. You’re not trying to take people for a ride — you simply want to test the waters and gain momentum to carry you to the next step.

Routes to Building an Audience without a Product

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

Launch a Narrative Brand

Narrative brand’s do incredibly well online. This is because they use content to drive organic traffic and engage audiences on social media platforms. Casper is a great example of a narrative brand. Their Van Winkle blog attracts hundreds and thousands of monthly readers –– giving rise to the overall Casper brand and building long-term trust with readers.

Spearmint Love is another brand which used a narrative long before selling any products (read more about their incredible story here). Sheri Lott started the Spearmint Baby Blog is 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, Sheri decided to launch her own store, selling the items she most loved.

Today, Spearmint Love has hundreds and thousands of followers, and is about to relaunch the blog to continue educating and engaging customers for the long-haul.


Use Kickstarter or IndieGoGo

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 communication access and eventually product-touting 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.

Redshift Sports, for example, used Kickstarter to build support for their cycling-niche product, quickly earning all needed funds to build the product and getting press coverage as well. The team still uses Kickstarter to test new ideas and launch new products.

Native Union follows a similar strategy on IndieGoGo. New products are launched on that platform, and when they gain enough support, the team builds the product and launches it on their site.


5. Leverage Your 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:

6. Scope the Competition

You’ll want to take a look at your competition at this point in time to get a 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.

So often those businesses that come to market first make mistakes in the uncharted territory. Think about MySpace and Facebook or even Yahoo and Google. Often, the second-comer wins customer loyalty.

7. Google It

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:

In the next chapter, you’ll learn how to categorize your competitors before you conduct a complete competitive analysis.

Want more insights like this?

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Table of Contents

IntroHow to (Realistically) Start an Online Ecommerce Business That Actually Grows
Chapter 1 What to Sell in 2017: How to Find a Product Niche and Start Selling Online
Chapter 2 How to Evaluate Market Viability for Your Products
Chapter 3 How to Conduct Online Market Research for your Ecommerce Business
Chapter 4 How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis for Your Online Business [with templates]
Chapter 5 10 Online Business Laws You Need to Know for Internet Selling [Updated 2017]
Chapter 6 How to Identify and Analyze Your Target Market in 2017
Chapter 7 How to Source and Manufacture Products for Your Online Business
Chapter 8 How to Create, Setup and Launch a Profitable Online Store (Seriously)
Chapter 9 59 Productivity Hacks for Online Small Business Owners
  • avinash kodoth

    Dear Katey,

    Greetings !

    I am to submit a presentation on the e commerce market of a country.
    Help please ?



  • jack marco

    You need a honey in spoon for your big commerce!!!?

    Strive for it with the better and innovative ideas!!!


  • You’re very welcome. Good luck!

  • Steve Rogge

    Thanks for your time Katey!

  • Steve,
    Oh, thanks for details. I can help more. Ok, although they are not the same product take a look at baby gates and wooden dog fences. They are not permanent and are also portable. You can make sure to address why your option is better. Look at reviews, feedback, social, etc. All of this will help you understand where your product fits into this segment and allow for you to leverage weaknesses.

    I think telling your story about how you came up with the idea and the issue it solved for could be great for things like your about us page. The most impactful thing to share with the market are specific use cases in which the population is looking for. Although things like baby gates and portable fencing (I’m not super saavy in this industry) don’t allow for actual privacy. This is just someplace to start, you’ll learn as you explore all of the options. I’m just thinking about what dominates the industry right now. Oh, also look into those accordion doors that are super flimsy.

    Anyway, that’s where I would start. This might not be the best competition but it will start leading you to other products out there that are similar (not the same) so you have a better understanding how to market yourself.

    Hope this helps and thank you so very much for reading!

  • Steve Rogge

    Thank you Katey. My product is an interior door entry deterrent designed to keep kids, their friends, or guests during a party from entering a bedroom. Also college kids that share apartments with several other roomates. The closest thing in existence to what I made, is a door knob with a cylinder key lock on it. What I made is mobile and can be moved from door to door easily without high cost, and can’t be gone around easily like a normal door knob, with or without a cylinder lock. It was invented out of personal necessity, due to a situation that developed in my home. The basis was adolescent drug use and theft to buy drugs. Should I make the main focus of my research “the problem of theft within the family unit, or perhaps inside theft generally”?

  • Steve,
    Try to look at products that are at least similar to yours to see how they are performing. If there is nothing at all that is even remotely similar to your product, take a look at products that might be purchases along with your product and see what the demographic looks like, how they speak about products, how they use the products. This will help you in understanding how to market to these folks and try to have them purchase your new-improved offering. Does that make sense?

  • Steve Rogge

    What is the best way to do market research on a new product that doesn’t exist in the market place at all?