Carrying Out E-Commerce Research - Milk Bottle Labs

Carrying Out E-Commerce Research

by Keith Matthews January 23, 2017

How to Do E-commerce Market Research

To succeed in any business, you need to plan, research and understand the market. Unless you have a clear idea of who your target clientele are, what’s on offer from other e-commerce sites, and how the market is anticipated to grow, you may find it tough to create a practical business model. However, since e-commerce companies offer a vast variety of products and are driven by business models that are significantly different from one another, researching this domain is relatively difficult.

Though you can always find several free and paid ecommerce research tools, the results may not be always accurate, but they can help in tracking customer profiles, opinion and behaviour.  You can even use research of trends to foresee the type of products, content and services that will be lapped up by buyers in the near future. With shopping cart system research, you can have useful insight into how ecommerce services deal with their market's interests, requirements, technical capabilities and behaviours. Qualitative ecommerce research that involves face-to-face interaction with study groups helps gain product perceptions and consumer product information. Thus, with proper e-commerce market research, you can anticipate industry trends, decrease unnecessary expenses and plan to make your products/services in demand. 

A good way to start your research

A good way to start your research

Accessing ecommerce market research reports of reputed and reliable market research firms often comes at a cost, which could be a problem if you have a limited budget and the data you need is difficult to find otherwise. Such research firms may charge almost $500 annually to let you access the information you require but the entire chunk of data may not be in one place. Rather, it could be spread around other firms. To access individual reports, you may have to part with anywhere up to $3000, which is an extremely costly affair. Paying so much for market research alone would mean spending a significant part of your marketing budget, which could have been put to better use otherwise. If all these make you think completing e-commerce research data impossible, take heart. You just need to put in a little more effort and dig a bit deeper to do it. Here are two good ways to get started with your e-commerce research:

  • 1. Press releases:

    After creating a research report, most e-commerce market research firms publish press releases to get the word out. To get people interested in buying their full report, the PRs of these research firms often contain summaries of the research report that reflect the key findings. Though you won’t get all the information contained in the full report, you may still find rich snippets of data in these press releases. So, if you don’t have the budget to buy the complete reports, reading the PRs carefully will help you. You may even choose to get the PRs by specific industry and sector sent straight to your inbox by signing up with PR sites like Source Wire. Subscribing to the RSS feed of sites like PRWeb and PR Leap too can help.
  • 2. Any other resource you can get your hands on:

    From combing through e-commerce industry blogs and news sites to reading posts on review sites and social media, you can get useful insight and data related to market research. So, even when you don’t have the budget to buy expensive research report, a bit of effort and some creative thinking on your part can help you find what you need online without paying a dime. However, remember to be patient as you may have to trawl through a lot of irrelevant information and note down resources you find and think could be helpful, which you can revisit later. Since the e-commerce industry is quite transparent, unlike other businesses like those offering B2B services, finding information about everything from the state of market to pricing can be found online if you are ready to slog a bit.

Research using these might give some insights

Research over these might give some insights

  • 1. Keyword research:

    With Google Keyword Tool, you can conduct fast and easy keyword research to know the words or phrases related closely to your products/services that people are searching for. For a particular keyword, you can even generate different related keywords, which would give you ideas on what words you can use in your product descriptions, names, web pages and blog posts to optimise your e-commerce store for search engines that will drive targeted and quality traffic your way.
  • 2. Social media:

    Probe different social media channels to know how your brand and offerings are perceived by customers, what they talk about, their opinion about your business and the industry as a whole etc. Learning their language, peeve points, likes and dislikes will let you leverage the same in your product descriptions, blog posts, social media campaigns, making it easier to get noticed, attract quality traffic your way, build a loyal customer base and finally, boost conversions, from using hashtags to see what’s trending to leveraging various social analytic tools with competitive elements, you can learn a lot and get useful research results from social media channels.
  • 3. Knowing about the competition:

    Take a close look at the market to find out if there’s a clear leader, if the market is saturated or if your competitor has a weakness that you can take advantage of. Even if the market feels full at first glance, you shouldn’t get disheartened. Rather, take a close look at your competitors to find how those sites are doing, the mistakes they have made (from which you can learn and avoid repeating the same), and if there’s any specific area that has scope of improvement or offers an untapped opportunity that you can benefit from. Since all this information is publicly available and can be accessed with some research and digging, they will help you chart your course of action to stay ahead of the competition.
  • 4. Researching the trends:

    The modern commercial landscape is constantly changing. Knowing what’s happening out there to what’s new and what’s coming next, researching market trends will let you interpret what’s likely to work and what’s not, thus letting you take the first mover’s advantage. For instance, by researching online shopping cart abandonment trends, you can know what are the key factors driving shoppers to leave their shopping process midway (which could be anything from too many forms to fill and long site loading time to not finding the preferred payment mode etc). By steering clear of these factors and making your ecommerce store’s shopping process user-friendly, streamlined and fast, you can tap into this huge clientele. According to a recent report, the average shopping cart abandonment rate online is 68.81%. So, guided by data on shopping cart abandonment, you can also plan to retarget shoppers with emails after they have left your online store, thus encouraging them to revisit and buy from you.
  • 5. Forming focus groups:

    Rather than gathering data from friends, family and persons you know, you should gather them from focus groups of your intended target market. By formalising qualitative information, the data gathered from such groups can offer you useful feedback and insight about your business. The group is usually seated in a room, where a moderator manages the discussions on e-business topics ensuring everyone participates in the conversation and opinions and feedback are shared unhindered. Gathering such feedback is immediate and advantageous, as it can reveal problems/bugs that your in-house e-commerce team may have overlooked.

Tools that you’ll need

Tools that you’ll need

  • 1. Google Trends:

    Google Trends is the online search facility provided by Google that allows users to see related search results for any query. It analyses a certain portion of Google searches to determine the number of searches that have been made for a certain term compared with the number of total searches performed over the same period of time. In Google Trends, you can query for a maximum number of five topics or words simultaneously. Results are shown in a graphical display called ‘Search Volume Index’ graph. The data is exportable in .csv files that you can open in different spreadsheet applications.
  • 2. Marketer’s almanac:

    A great tool offered by Google that helps you remove the guesswork from trend-spotting. By using Marketer’s Almanac, you can develop your content calendar in a data backed manner as it provides monthly consumer behaviours often merged with responses to major holidays and events. It can tell you what you sell, when you begin marketing for major holidays and events, when you publish posts on social media platforms etc. Additionally, it reminds you of the events you might have forgotten about and points out the current trends that may become useful for you.
  • 3. Alexa:

    Since its inception in 1996, Alexa has been helping e-commerce marketers to analyze traffic on the stores of their competitors. You just need to key in the competitor’s URL and Alexa returns back with its global traffic rank, search analytics, average site load time, audience insights, number of websites linking in and much more. You can actually find almost anything about your competitors but keep in mind that chances of inaccuracies are there because the data is obtained from those where its toolbar or extension is installed. The traffic is calculated based on parameters like page views and reach. Page view is the total number of times a specific URL is seen by Alexa users in a single day and reach stands for the total number of users who visit a certain URL in a day.
  • 4. Google Alerts:

    Google Alerts lets you place specific keywords in its set up and you can receive emails when they’re mentioned in news stories. Though it’s quite a useful service, you may receive irrelevant or uninteresting news if you fail to set it up properly. In Google Alerts, you can specifically select to get alerts for your region and you can have them in your inbox or in your news feed. Here’re some key tips to pinpoint the news.
    1. Use asterisk* to widen your search
    2. Place an ~ ahead of your keyword for similar terms and synonyms
    3. Place a minus sign ahead of the terms or sites you want to be excluded from searches
  • 5. Google AdWords Keywords Tool:

    This tool helps you analyze keywords and the volume of traffic attracted by those keywords. You can also narrow down the search by incorporating certain product categories like cosmetics, apparel etc and landing page URLs. Google AdWords Keywords Tool also lets you have an estimate of the money your competitors are paying for their pay per click ads. Google Traffic Estimator lets you identify current bid prices and number of ad clicks for different keywords. This external keyword suggestion tool greatly helps you out with AdWords keyword suggestions for your website, especially if you’re a novice in Google Adwords and PPC.

Final Thought

Market research isn’t an easy task and can look particularly difficult if you’re on a tight budget that doesn’t allow you to either buy costly reports or pay research firms to perform the job for you. Now that you know the inside tricks of doing such research on your own, evaluate your e-commerce site objectively and try to chalk out how it can be modified to attract more traffic and beat the competition. Use your learnings from this post, conduct thorough market research, try to identify the weaknesses of your competitors and find opportunities that you can benefit from. Remain flexible, modify your marketing strategy in accordance with your ecommerce market research and stay competitive.  Keep learning....

Keith Matthews
Keith Matthews

Founder, Milk Bottle Labs


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