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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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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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