How to Conduct Retail Market Research Like a Pro

How to Conduct Retail Market Research Like a Pro

retail market research Whether you operate a brick-and-mortar, a click-and-mortar, or a pure-play brand, you need to conduct retail market research, that is, market research specific to the retail sector.

That is because, in today’s age of mass information circulating at speed, we exist in a market jungle, as market trends oscillate and customer expectations sway, while your competitors are becoming more adaptable.

To stay ahead and survive this market jungle, you need to get acclimated to performing the correct form of market research.

Let’s learn how to conduct market research for the retail sector.

The Makeup of Market Research

Market research, as we’ve covered aplenty, is a wide umbrella term that pertains to studying several facets of a particular market to gauge the profitability and success of your product or service.

This includes gathering information on the following:

  • Trends in the sector, vertical and niche
  • Your target market
  • Segmentation within your target market
  • Your competitors (tactics, launches, performance, etc.)
  • The sector at large

retail market research

It is made up of two sets of research: primary and secondary. The former deals with gathering research that you, as a business, conduct yourself. The latter involves consulting with information that has already been researched and is publicly available (not always for free).

Primary research requires using the following methods to collect information:

  1. Surveys on your target market and closely situated markets
  2. Interviews (in-person or over the phone)
  3. Consumer reviews
  4. Focus groups
  5. Sales records
  6. Employee feedback

Secondary research has a more encompassing set of documents and sources:

  1. Trends sites (Google Trends, Google Alerts)
  2. Keyword searching and SEO platforms
  3. Research agencies
  4. Statistics sites
  5. Market research sites
  6. Competitor sites
  7. Case studies

Techniques Particular to Retail Research

retail research

The above provides fundamental information about performing market research — in a general, all-purpose sense.

Since you would need to turn to both primary and secondary data throughout the market research process, you should be able to detect and distinguish these resource types, whenever you come upon them.

Above all, you need to know which exact platforms, websites and tools to use for collating information on the sector of retail. In market research, you move from the general to the specific fairly quickly, and you’ll need information specific to your vertical.

This is especially important if you serve a niche market.

Primary research techniques speak for themselves, as you would need to gather original insights and data from those mentioned above. Secondary sources particular to the retail sector, on the other hand, need to be laid out.

Secondary Research Sources for Retail

Here are a few secondary sources for market research on the retail vertical. Note that many of these platforms aren’t free, but their intel is indispensable.

  1. For understanding the retail industry:, specifically the Retailing Market Research Reports & Industry Analysis page, which links to a wide variety of internal research reports. These reports cover the many sub-sectors of the sweeping retail vertical, such as the clothing market, department stores and other related topics such as market analytics.
  2. For understanding customer personas: MakeMyPersona You should constantly be up to date on your buyer personas. This free tool from HubSpot generates personas; all you have to do is answer some questions about your ideal customers. The tool then creates a detailed document on your target market.
  3. For economic data in the retail sector: Business Dynamics Statistics (BDS) A division of the US Census Bureau, this program provides economic data on employment, job expansions/ contractions, number of establishments, number of startups and more. This platform supplies annual measures on different business subsectors.
  4. For competitor analysis: County Business Patterns (CBP) Another division of the US Census Bureau, this program presents subnational economic data based on various retail industries. This includes the number of establishments, employment, annual payroll and more to analyze economic changes over time.
  5. For understanding your customer base: Facebook Audience Insights If your business has a Facebook business page, this tool will provide demographic information, along with some behavioral insights into your followers. It shows you their age, location, income, employment type, spending behaviors and even lifestyle (Facebook’s category).
  6. For multipurpose research: Think with Google An all-in-one market research platform providing guides, data reports, infographics and content to reap insights on the retail industry and your target market. You can use specific tools to grow your store, find your audience and stay up to date with the latest research within your particular retail subsector.
  7. For keyword research, SEO and competitor analysis: SEMrush This platform offers over 30 tools to analyze 3.7 billion keywords and 4 trillion backlinks. It allows retailers to find new organic competitors, as well as those in Google AdWords and Bing ads, to analyze their competitors’ budgets, strategies, ad copy, display ads and keywords.

Wrapping Things Up

Retail is one of the most expansive verticals, as it can include virtually any business that sells products to consumers. It requires both primary and secondary research methods for a thorough analysis and interpretation.

Secondary research for the retail sector involves a distinct set of secondary sources for quality research campaigns. A successful research endeavor will allow you to provide meaningful products and experiences for your customers, communicate with them more productively and improve your standing within your submarket.

Although the above examples of secondary research are invaluable, there are many other online tools for your disposal. Social media, for example, is excellent for market research, as it can connect you with your customers to get their perspectives firsthand, along with their data. 

Frequently asked questions

What is retail market research?

Retail market research is the process of gathering information about target customers and markets to determine or improve upon the success of a retail venture.

What types of primary research are useful in retail market research?

The most relevant types of primary research for the retail sector are surveys, consumer reviews, focus groups, feedback from employees, and sales reports.

How is secondary research performed?

Secondary research is performed by gathering and reviewing previously published information in order to gain insights to support a market research project.

How are buyer personas used in retail market research?

Buyer personas are a good way to define and understand the various customer segments that are likely to purchase from your retail store.

What information can Facebook Audience Insights provide about your retail business?

A shop’s Facebook business page can provide a wealth of information about its followers, including age, location, employment, income, spending behaviors, and lifestyle preferences.

How to Conduct Ecommerce Market Research Like a Pro

How to Conduct Ecommerce Market Research Like a Pro

Whether you’re setting up an ecommerce business from scratch or planning to launch a new line of products in your online store, market research is a crucial starting point.

In this article, we review key ecommerce market research methods that will help you build an in-depth understanding of your target audience and secure success in the competitive world of online shopping.

Discover Key Industry Players and Trends

When you’ve got what seems like a winning idea for an ecommerce business, it’s important to test the viability of the idea by reviewing the market landscape in your vertical or niche. 

Your first step should be to use secondary market research methods to check there’s a need your business can fulfill. Accessing public databases, journals, and industry reports will help you understand more about the current state of the market you hope to enter. You’ll also want to research your main competitors and collect data you can analyze to determine what makes them so successful.

Another option is to examine the market trends surrounding your business idea, either manually or using a tool such as Google Trends. By uncovering changes in search demand for relevant keywords, you’ll be able to see whether your niche is a passing fad or a steadily rising trend. 

So, let’s say you want to start a business selling artisan chocolate online – you might find that “organic chocolate” and “ethical chocolate” are trending up in your market. Not only is this a good sign that your carefully crafted treats have a future online, but you can also use that data to adjust your business proposition and focus on its sustainable credentials.

Conduct Keyword Research to Get the Full Picture

Keyword research is a good place to begin getting a basic understanding of your audience. Although later, you’ll want to move on to explore your target market and ideal customer in more depth, possibly using an online survey

Well-known and widely-used keyword planner tools include the Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush and a slew of others. Another simple method for keyword research is to run a query on a search engine like Google, then peruse the SERP (search engine results page).

For example, let’s say you sell artisan chocolates; a relevant term would be “artisan chocolate.” When you run the query, scroll to the bottom of the SERP and take a look at the list of related keywords that consumers have searched. This in itself will help you generate new keyword ideas.

For our “artisan chocolate” keyword we might find: “artisan chocolate gift box”, “artisan chocolate near me” and the names of some well-known artisan chocolatiers. The artisan chocolatiers you find are important in this example, as they represent the other purveyors of this product in the market. As such, it allows you to understand your competitors. 

You can also use these to begin developing a very broad outline of your target audience. 

For example, “artisan chocolate near me” may suggest that consumers are looking for a local shop to find luxury chocolates. What are some ways you could create that local feel despite being a pure player (an ecommerce- only business). 

Establish Your Ideal Customer Profile

Once you’ve carried out your secondary research and you’re confident there’s a market for your ecommerce products, you can move on to develop a detailed profile of your ideal customer. This stage is focused on primary market research methods, such as research panels, focus groups, interviews, and online surveys. But which method should you choose for ecommerce market research?

Research panels have become significantly more time and cost-effective since you can conduct them online. However, they still have their share of setbacks. Using the same panelists’ time and again can result in “panel fatigue”, where participants become bored and don’t put the same care into their answers. In addition, professional panelists – attracted by the financial incentives – can try to provide the “right” answers so they’ll be asked to participate again, a recipe for skewed results.

Online surveys, on the other hand, can provide much more authentic, reliable insights into your target audience. Pollfish uses an innovative organic sampling method, where in-app surveys collect data from respondents in their natural environment. Participants opt in to take the surveys and are rewarded by bonus points or privileges within the app itself.

With “m-commerce” ( mobile device shopping) predicted to reach 45% of the U.S. ecommerce market by the end of 2020, market research focused on active app users has a major advantage for ecommerce businesses. You can find out more about your audience in the very environment where they may be ordering your goods, for example. This can be done by A/B testing mobile content and interfaces, along with choosing a survey platform that is distributed across publisher apps.

Review and Monitor Social Media Conversations

Social media listening is another important part of ecommerce market research, and it can combine secondary and primary research techniques. Using social media, you can “visit” the places where your potential customers are meeting online and discover more about their wants, needs, and pain points.

An automated social listening tool will allow you to gather quantitative data on key trends and topics related to your business idea from the major social media platforms. However, it’s also worth manually reviewing groups, pages, and threads involving your target audience to gain qualitative insights. One advantage of this is that you can learn the “language” of your audience and then reflect this in your messaging.

To return to our artisan chocolate example, you might review groups related to chocolate enthusiasts, home-bakers, or sustainable living. You could then record common concerns you find there and run a survey to identify what would entice your audience the most when buying chocolate online.

Before you let these insights direct your go-to-market strategy, you can test them for their broader applicability. For instance, Pollfish allows you to design surveys with different types of questions, so you could take the following statements…

  • “I know where the chocolate is made.”
  • “The cocoa is Fair Trade and organic.”
  • “The chocolates are hand-made in small batches.”
  • “The chocolate includes the highest quality ingredients.”

…and ask respondents to rank them in order of importance, select one or more answers, or select “Other” and type their own statement.

Run Analytics on Your Ecommerce Site

Now that you’ve completed your first stage of market research, determined that there is a market for your business idea, gained insight into your target audience – and now your ecommerce site is up-and-running. Time to sit back, relax, and watch the profits come in? Not yet. This is a crucial moment to continue your market research, augmented by the real data on sales, site traffic, product feedback, and more that should now be flooding in.

You should have analytics tools (e.g. Google Analytics) set up on your ecommerce site so that you can build up a thorough picture of how site visitors and customers are behaving. You can then analyze this data in order to keep improving your business. 

For example, if you recognize a high level of cart abandonment, perhaps you need to optimize your checkout flow and reduce the number of steps. Or you might notice a pattern in reviews where the customer complains they weren’t expecting their chocolates to contain alcohol; that points to the need for greater clarity in your product descriptions.

An ongoing cycle of research, testing, and action will make your ecommerce site an effective base for your business and ensure it’s a pleasant shopping experience for your customers.

Beating the Giants of Ecommerce With Deep Research

Ecommerce is a landscape dominated by giants (we all know who we’re talking about), but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get stepped on. Once you have the expertise in your niche, you can provide intrigue around your product and thus, high demand for it. So find your target audience, convince them of your unique value, and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Frequently asked questions

What is ecommerce market research?

Ecommerce market research is the process of collecting information about the target customers and markets of an ecommerce business or the ecommerce sector in general.

How can secondary research help improve an ecommerce business?

Secondary market research can help a business understand the current state of the market help the business understand whether or not they can compete. This information can also help the business understand what makes other ecommerce businesses successful in similar verticals.

How can keyword research help guide ecommerce market research?

Keyword research can give an ecommerce business a better idea of the demand for their products or service. A higher search volume is likely to indicate an increased demand for a particular product or service.

What is a customer profile?

Customer profiles are detailed descriptions of the various market segments that may purchase a company’s products or services. Customer profiles are created using information from primary research, such as surveys, research panels, focus groups, and interviews.

How can website analytics help improve an ecommerce business?

Monitoring a website using an analytics tool such as Google Analytics, can help a business understand how users behave as they move through a website. By identifying and fixing potential problems, the company can continually improve their ecommerce business.