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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 March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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