The first step in conducting market research is to define your target market and customer persona. Who are you trying to sell your products or services to? Some things to consider include demographics like age, gender, income level, location, as well as psychographics like interests, values, attitudes. Create an in-depth fictional customer persona profile to represent your ideal customer. Understanding your target market well will help guide your research.
Once you have defined your target market, research the overall size and growth trends of the industry your business will operate in. Look at market analyses and reports from reputable sources to understand the total available market, key growth drivers, emerging trends, and opportunities. Evaluate factors like seasonality, changes in consumer preferences or technology that could impact demand over time. Understanding industry dynamics provides important context for your business.
Competitive research should analyze both direct and indirect competitors. Evaluate several competitors’ websites, marketing strategies, pricing, product/service offerings. Look at product/service reviews to understand consumer sentiment. Understand competitors’ strategies, strengths, weaknesses and UNIQUE selling propositions. Benchmark your business concept against the competition to see if there are any gaps in the market you can fill. This provides insight on differentiation opportunities.
Customer research is vital to truly understand what problems your potential customers are trying to solve and their needs, wants, and preferences. Conducting customer interviews allows you to directly engage with your target audience. Develop an interview guide with open-ended questions to have natural conversations. ask questions about shopping behaviors, important product features, preferred purchasing channels, and pain points within their current shopping experience. Interview 10-15 potential customers.
You can also conduct customer surveys online to reach a wider audience. Ask both close-ended and open-ended questions. Close-ended questions about attributes such as importance of price, delivery speed, product selection can be analyzed statistically. Open-ended questions allow respondents to elaborate freely on topics. Surveys should be short, around 10 questions, to optimize response rates. Aim for at least 50-100 survey responses depending on target market size.
Study industry reports related to ecommerce trends from sources such as eMarketer, Forrester Research, and Digital Commerce 360. Pay close attention to changes in the way consumers are shopping and key drivers of future sales. Identify trends to capitalize and new opportunities emerging. For example, the rise of social commerce, personalized shopping experiences based on data captured, voice/chat-based shopping are all areas expected to grow.
It’s also important to understand macroeconomic factors such as GDP growth, unemployment, interest rates etc that can impact consumer spending power and demand for discretionary retail purchases. Monitor economic indicators and projections from reputable sources like the Bureau of Economic Analysis, World Bank, Federal Reserve. Downturns in the economy may require adapting strategies accordingly to achieve sales goals.
Search keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, keywordsh*tter and SEMrush allow you to see search volumes and trends for related keywords relevant to your business/industry. Identify top commercial and informational keywords. Learn common related questions asked by searchers to better target your website content and search engine optimization efforts.
Social listening tools such as BuzzSumo, Social Mention and Meltwater allows you to analyze trends within social media conversations related to your industry, products or services. Evaluate key influencers, online communities/forums where your audience engages, positive vs negative sentiment discussed. This identifies additional marketing touchpoints and helps monitor the brand conversation.
Thorough market research across multiple dimensions is vital for gaining a deep understanding of customers, competitors and industry dynamics for any ecommerce capstone project and long term business success. Both primary and secondary research should be conducted to develop customer insight, competitive differentiation opportunities and track macro changes impacting demand. Regularly monitoring trends is also important for maintaining a competitive edge.