E-Commerce Market Research
How to Find the Data Needed to Start and Promote a Business Online
Starting an e-commerce business requires careful planning and forecasting. These three market research strategies suit a variety of business types and budgets.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s E-Stats report, released 2016, showed that e-commerce grew faster than total economic activity in three of the four major economic sectors. The market for new online businesses is definitely there; however, many new e-commerce entrepreneurs jump in without sufficient planning.
Some believe their product or service will “sell itself,” or that a global market means one that is unlimited. In truth, a wider customer base also means more competitors.
A solid e-commerce business plan helps entrepreneurs think ahead to potential problems, plan marketing strategies, secure funding, and project sales. A good business plan is updated over time, to reflect the performance and new goals of the company.
One critical aspect of a good e-commerce business plan is market research. After the planning phase, management regularly use market research to make good business decisions.
What Type of Market Research is Needed for an E-Commerce Business Plan?
E-commerce market research should provide important information about three aspects of moving the product or service from the hands of the entrepreneur to their customers’ doors:
- Market research- Information about the industry, including trends, past performance, projections for growth, etc.
- Competitor research- Who else is selling this product or service? How are they marketing it?
- Customer research- What is the target market? What are their habits? How can they be reached and converted to buyers?
Each individual business has specific information needs, and the above list is not inclusive of all considerations necessary to plan a business. However, the following market research strategies will help new or growing businesses find the right type of data to make the best choices.
Market Research- How to Find Industry-Specific Market Data
The easiest way to discover trends and projections in any product or service industry is to purchase reports. Research companies collect, compile and distribute data for a fee. Most reports are available online for purchase with a credit card.
Industry-specific market research reports give entrepreneurs the opportunity to see the big picture, using information that otherwise might not have been available to them.
Before purchasing a report, check that the information collected applies only to e-commerce sales, not the industry as a whole. Also, make sure it is targeted to the right niche or industry, and that it was produced by a reputable research agency.
Mksnetwork.com is one such company from New Delhi. They collect information and compile reports on market data by industry, but further break the data down by country, to give entrepreneurs specific, necessary planning information. MarketResearch.com is another good resource.
Competitor Research- Where to Find Free Information on Business Competitors
Depending on the size and scale of the business, competitive research might be in-depth or a general overview. In most cases, entrepreneurs need to know who else is selling their product or service (or one similar), how it is marketed, at what price point, and to which customers.
It is also wise to check into the customer service, shipping, warranty/guarantee, and other policies of competitors. This helps the new business find a competitive advantage.
Competitor research can be performed in-house, or outsourced to a company or individual who can visit competition websites and gather publicly available information on product offerings, advertising methods, etc.
Use a free tool like Alexa.com to measure traffic to competitor sites. Archive.org is a free tool that allows users to look up websites and see what they looked like in the past; this is useful for entrepreneurs to learn how a competitor has changed their selling strategies over time. Compete.com measures the performance of selected websites head-to-head, free of charge.
Customer Research- Finding Information to Attract and Keep Customers
Customer research has two purposes. First, a new business needs to know who their target customer is and how to reach them to make a sale. Market and competitor research help the entrepreneur discover their customer base. There are also paid resources such as MarketingResearch.com’s Demographic Research reports, which provide consumer information based on age, gender, lifestyle and other demographics.
Second, businesses must understand how to manage their customer database to retain clients, promote new products, measure marketing strategy success, and more. Companies can employ Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Customer Knowledge Management (CKM) techniques; two different but interrelated concepts for building loyalty and retaining market share.
Taking the time to formulate a realistic business plan can help entrepreneurs qualify for grants or other funding, prepare for rapid growth or slow starts, and prevent mistakes that could spell an early end to their new business. E-commerce market research is a critical part of the planning and launching stages in any new online business.
Use eBay as a Research Tool
Gain Valuable Information Before Building an E-Commerce Website
In addition to being a great sales opportunity, eBay also offers companies a great research tool that can help build a successful e-commerce business.
The Internet offers many small companies the opportunity to sell into a world wide market place with relative ease. An e-commerce web site can bring in customers from all over the world and help to build a strong business. A small business that is planning an e-commerce website may find that undertaking research first is the ideal way to establish where the opportunities, and the pitfalls, lie. One interesting way that a small business can undertake research at minimal cost is through eBay.
Using eBay as a Research Tool
This is an excellent way to understand where potential customers may come from and the types of products that are likely to be most popular. This also provides invaluable insight into the ways that customers think and the most common questions or concerns that they might have.
Using eBay as a research tool is a low cost way to start to get a company or business name known and offers the potential to meet a large and international market place. Many businesses with successful e-commerce websites still use eBay as another sales outlet.
Set Up an eBay Store
Setting up a store in eBay is quick and easy to do, and sellers can take advantage of important eBay features such as postage calculators and contact forms.
Working with these features and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each will help to build a good understanding of what features are important to an international e-commerce website. This will help when specifying or building a website.
Other eBay Sellers
Taking a look around other eBay sellers will also provide a useful insight into how other companies handle selling internationally. Many eBay sellers have clear terms and conditions of sale that may highlight important issues and the feedback facility, whereby customers can leave feedback about sellers, is a useful way to learn of any potential pitfalls to watch out for.
Some sellers show any questions that they have been asked and this is a good way to get an insight into what concerns a buyer may have.
This is also a good way to take a look at what products sell and don’t sell internationally. In addition to looking at the current ‘live’ auctions it is useful to look at completed auctions and explore the items that did not sell. This can give a good insight into where the market opportunities lie, and correspondingly, where there is market saturation.
There are a number of free sellers’ forums where sellers from all over the world can meet and discuss a wide range of issues. These forums are broken down into areas of interest and provide a valuable source of information.
eBay is a valuable sales tool, however the opportunities that it provides for research should not be overlooked and the feedback gained will help build a solid and succesful international e-commerce business.
Design tips on creating a website that makes more money.
In order to have a successful and profitable website, there are a few design tips that will keep your customers coming back.
A well designed website is essential to help your customers find what they are looking for. You want create a site that is easy to navigate. There are two key concepts to keep in mind when designing your website. The first concept is to engage the viewer.
Provide a quality looking site that will entertain the mind and engage the reader. The second concept is to hook the viewer to come back. A good website puts forth a little seed of satisfaction that will encourage the viewer back.
That seed is important because when they are looking to purchase a product, gain information or acquire a service, they want it as quickly and as easily as possible. There are millions of websites out there, and making yours stand out can be the difference in whether or not you are generating income.
The Basics to Website Design
While there is a vast amount of knowledge to help you build your website, here are a few basic tips to keep in mind.
1) Create a website with a header and footer.
The reason to have a header and footer for websites gives the viewer a firm idea of the beginning and end of the webpage. Headers usually include the logo and branding information, as well as tabs for other pages within the site, such as “about us” or “FAQ” section. The footer can repeat that information or include a contact button. This defines the space for the viewer and allows them to view information in a clear grid like pattern.
2) Develop tabs or buttons to click to other pages.
Tabs for the “home”, “about us”, “products” and other categories are essential to organizing your content. Many individuals do not have the time or inclination to wade through lots of wording or graphics to get to what they want.
Providing them with clear information where they can get in touch with you or purchase your product without too many hassles makes them happy. Brainstorm a few wording ideas to make sure you get the point across to the viewer. When they click on the “products” tab it should clearly lead them to an area to purchase items and not a page on “who we are”.
3) Include a side-bar on the left or right side and provide an area for content.
Breaking up the center between the header and footer area is significant to the viewer. Have an area where there is content about what your site is and what you offer. Instead of dominating the whole central area, break up that area with a sidebar that includes graphics, list information about other articles or important information on your website. Many web designers use the content as key focus and include one or two side bars for advertising.
4) Use graphics.
The age old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” proves true even in the era of the internet. A logo that brands your website, a picture next to an article or a photograph depicting your product, gives the individual a visual idea of what you are offering.
Too many words and no visuals can turn off a viewer. Graphics can also be a good marketing tool for your website. When you think of top brands can you visualize the icon or graphic that goes along with it?
Search engines like Google, blogging sites such as technorati.com, or informational sites like Wikipedia all include color and/or graphics to assist the viewer in identifying who they are.
These visual demonstrations allow the viewer to mentally grab on to something. They may not remember the specifics of your site, but if they remember your name there is a better chance they will return it.
5) If using scrolling text, moving images or music give the viewer an opportunity to turn it off.
This last little bit of advice is necessary to assist your viewer in his or her preferences. Some do not like photos whizzing by them while they read about what you have to offer, and others may enjoy the music you have selected to enhance your website.Whatever the case may be, give them an option to pause, turn down or close features that could potentially make your viewer click away.
These tips highlight a few aspects of creating a dynamic website so that visitors will want to return. Although it may seem basic, they are tips indispensable to the website beginner. Following these tips can bring more traffic to your site, giving you more income while satisfying the needs of your customers.
Maximizing Pay-per-Click Advertising Conversion
Landing Page Optimization for PPC Advertising Success
Internet advertisers can boost their conversion rates if landing page optimization tactics are employed.
So many internet advertisers focus their efforts on their pay-per-click advertisements that they fail to recognize the role that their landing pages play in terms of generating any desired action. This is one of the most common mistakes that online advertisers make. Those who are hoping to launch a PPC campaign should realize that committing the same mistake can be quite costly not just in terms of money but also in terms of opportunities.
No matter what search engine or ad network is being used, the intention of internet advertisers should be to attract targeted traffic to a site and get web visitors to make a purchase, subscribe to an offer, or perform any other action. Upon entering a landing page, web visitors should know exactly what they are meant to do and they do it.
They don’t end up confused, distracted, or much worse, uninterested. With this in mind, internet advertisers should concern themselves with landing page optimization. Failing to convert web visitors when they end up the advertiser’s means paying for clicks that internet advertisers will never gain results from.
Few people online like to read through long and winding texts.
Internet advertisers can actually publish such texts on their pages to explain all the features and benefits of what they have to offer but they shouldn’t make that the first thing their visitors see upon clicking on pay-per-click advertisements.
For the purpose of landing page optimization, short bullet points should be used above the fold to highlight the most important messages to be communicated.
Those bullet points should be powerful enough to capture the attention of web visitors, engage them, and encourage them to find out more by reading through the entire page. Also, all texts should be crafted in a way that they do not focus on offerings but on benefits web visitors can gain from them.
Another thing internet advertisers can do to address the short attention span of most people online is to post a short video. That short video should demonstrate what exactly is being offered and what web visitors can gain out of it.
The video should be posted just beside the bulleted highlights. By doing this, internet advertisers will be more likely to gain their web visitors’ full attention and convert them into registrants or actual paying customers.
Publishing unrelated links like affiliate buttons and pay-per-click advertisements should also be avoided. This landing page optimization strategy allows web visitors to focus their attention on the online business and what it has to offer. Lastly, internet marketers should make sure that their landing pages are designed well but not too fancily that they load too slowly.
With landing pages, everything from the communication strategy to a website’s loading time can make the difference between a sale and a wasted click.