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3 top eCommerce market research tips

3 top eCommerce market research tips

Running an online store can be one of the most challenging vocations of the modern world. Like a roller coaster, eCommerce can be the best industry to be in (when sales and conversions are flying high), and the worst (when Web traffic dries up along with sales).

With organic search traffic from Google proving to be more and more volatile and harder to come by, it’s important for eCommerce site owners to ensure that they are doing everything possible to secure a sustainable and profitable stream of income. But what does that mean in practice?

The only way to guarantee a lasting supply of interested and engaged customers is to understand everything you can about your niche market – including who’s who in the zoo, what strategies competitors are using to drive sales, and what customers are thinking and feeling about your products, sales and service.

It’s a lot to keep on top off, but with a little practice you’ll quickly begin enjoying the benefits of knowing and understanding more about who can help you sell more, how to implement better marketing and promotions, and where and why customers behave the way they do.

1. Work hard to identify new influencers

Do you know everyone that works in your niche industry? You should. Reporters, bloggers and journalists are some of the people you should be rubbing shoulders with every chance you get. But not just any old writer. You need influencers who your customers listen to. Spreading the word about your brand, products and business is virtually impossible without help from established industry influencers. Trying to market and promote an eCommerce store is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of online business because everyone is sick of being bombarded with ads about sales and discounts.

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That’s why it’s so important to have someone else talk about your store. Someone who has a decent social media following, or a decent email list, or simply access to publishing platforms where the type of customers you want hang out. But above all, someone who is trusted by their readers.

But who are these influencers? An influencer can be anyone. What qualifies them as someone you want to build a relationship with is who they influence.

This means that in order to identify the right influencers for your store, you must first research:

  • Who your target audience is
  • Where they congregate online
  • Who do they follow

Sounds easy, right?

Identifying influencers is actually the easy part of the equation because all the information you need is available online. Google is a most useful tool to use when searching for influencers because search results tend to be a great starting point for finding influencers using targeted keywords (depending on what topics your particular target audience might be searching for) – i.e. if a blogger writing about the “latest shoe styles” is on page one of the search results, they might be a potentially valuable influencer for you to reach out to (assuming you sell shoes).

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The next step is much harder because in order to leverage the influence of the people you are targeting, you must first build a relationship with them and gain their trust. Influencer marketing is not a paid relationship like celebrity endorsements, which means it requires time, patience and effort to succeed… not cash. Once you have identified your preferred influencers, check out influencer marketing 101 to learn more about how to approach them and build sustainable, profitable, and mutually beneficial relationships.

2. Monitor competitors’ sales & marketing

While influencer marketing focuses on reaching out and pulling in new customers, monitoring your competitors is more about learning what marketing and promotional strategies they are using to drive sales.

Imagine you could monitor the sales of competing products, and receive alerts whenever they experience an out-of-the-ordinary spike in sales. Knowing that a product is experiencing a spike in sales – in real-time – would then allow you to quickly work out what it is that lead to the sharp increase. For example, a product review on a prominent tech blog, or an article in a magazine, or a press release in the news.

Armed with the knowledge of what exposure leads to an increase in sales, you can learn useful things like which writer/blogger was responsible for the article, and which site(s) have plenty of buying customers. This makes it much quicker and easier to focus your efforts on people and sites that are known to work in your niche.

But how is it possible to monitor the sales of competitors when they keep that information private? Well, it’s not possible to see how well someone is selling from their own personal site, but it is possible to spy on how well products sold on some of the big marketplaces, like Amazon, are selling. Using a sales tracking service like RankTracer Enterprise means that you can monitor the sales of any product sold on Amazon and spy on how well, when, and why those items are selling over time.

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Once the system has alerted you to a spike in sales for a given product, they also offer tools to help close in on what marketing campaign was responsible for the increase and add it to your own marketing playbook.

3. Ask questions

The title of this section might sound slightly redundant, but there is more to asking questions than meets the eye. There are different ways to ask questions, and there are different people to ask those question of.

It’s often very useful to ask complex, market and industry related questions on Quora. Especially if they are questions requiring a bit of specialist knowledge you don’t have access to. Many, many industry experts from all over the place take the time to write in answers that often contain really valuable nuggets of info – often with links to corroborating evidence from respected research organizations.

So Quora can help with industry related market research questions, and possibly offer a bit of decent insight into your own customer base. But, the best people to ask about your customers are your customers themselves.

Use your newsletter and mailing list to ask questions about what people want, why they are (or aren’t) buying, what information they need to help them make buying decisions, and so on. Unfortunately, many customers are pretty apathetic about answering polls or questionnaires, so offer something juicy in return. Something like, “Answer these five questions and get 20% off your next purchase” might do the trick.

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What about your own eCommerce platform community forums? Many top eCommerce solution providers offer support forums for their customers to learn from the wisdom of the community. For example, Shopify has a huge range of discussions around anything from how to build a business, to getting feedback on your store design, to selling your site.

There will almost always be someone who has been in the same situation you are and has found a way to solve it already. And, the act of sharing and helping others is also a fantastic way to build your network and make potentially valuable new connections.

Hopefully these three tips will help you to learn more about your store, it’s niche industry, and the people who inhabit it. Ultimately, the more knowledge you have, the easier it is to make better decisions. Decisions that will ultimately lead to greater profits and financial success.

What other market research tips have you used with success? Share yours in the comments.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Hawk via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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