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When starting an online business, how much marketing research needs to be done first?

I'm working on opening an online store that has various products. I'm still in the middle of my research stage of collecting information on other online businesses, trends, forecasts, etc. How do I focus my research for online businesses? Is there anything in particular I should start with?

Thank you in advance.

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Hi, Serge,

Congrats on starting an encommerce site! As Shelly pointed out, you need to determine, and get to know, your target market niche(s). Yes, research them as to their likes and dislikes, buying habits, which social networks they use as well as the various online ecommerce platforms that are out there.

I have a free resource on my site, a Define Your Target Market Workbook. I also have available a Market Research Package with online data resources to guide you in your research.

Good luck!

AZSocialMediaWiz . com
Empowering You to Become Social Savvy!

Anonymous User

HI Serge
great stuff :) all the best on your new business launch. There is plenty of data you could potentially gather to refine your business profile and target audience. But since you plan to launch online store I believe these are key areas to understand and research for. Having those numbers and information will definitely help you to tailor overall business plan both for the market, product positioning, niche (or not niche), marketing strategy, branding.
Here is what I would advise to do in first instances:
Competitors analysis - in online business is super important to know what are your competitors and what is they do to build and grow their online presence. Hence it is vital that you look into their websites to uncover the keywords they use, check what social media presence and what hashtags they use in SM and see how often they publish, how big their audience is, do they spend any $ on other marketing channels (i.e. Google Merchant, AdWords, Affiliate etc.). It is worth to check what strategy they used for Blog content and whether they have a group of external blogger cooperating with them to help them build backlinks (this parameter is quite key these days for Google)
Keywords analysis - once you have your competitors keywords uncovered you can use those keywords to run more discovery and check following: what is number of searches, what is the keywords difficulty - all of these are actually quite valuable data to help you tailor your offering in the e-shop. If you will see some good combination of the keywords which have low competition and average or high number of searches and you know that your competitors don't use it - then this is your winning point.
Google Trends - you can also use Google Trends and type is specific keyword - such query will return you with the info on how this keyword or category is trending globally in search result. This is good because you can quickly decide to either change the categories of products you will offer in your e-shop or keep what you planned already as a product offering. This data is also helpful to keep you one step ahead of the current market trends
SimilarWeb is the next great tool to use for researching against your competitors and benchmarking the data. It also helps to uncover new opportunities

I hope this helps as a starting point and will provide some support for you in getting to the root of helpful yet digestible data for your business set up :)

Anonymous User

Hi Serge, sounds like you've been focusing on competitive analysis (a great start) but you may want to test reactions to your business concept with your target audience(s). I would suggest you start looking at different customer segments you are targeting & creating personas for these and then testing their reactions to your product propositions. Critical analysis will be important - like, are your segments and personas correct or do they need adjusting, how do your different segments/personas react to your product/service propositions?
I suggest you start 'small' and conduct some exploratory, qualitative face-2-face or telephone interviews to understand 'why' they might be interested in your business, what would differentiate yourself from the competition, what are the critical success factors, etc.
Just a word of warning - try to conduct the research from as independent a view as possible, i.e. don't jump on parts of the research that support your ideas but look on it holistically to see both the strengths and the weaknesses.
If you'd like any further advice or a review of your qualitative questionnaire/discussion guide then feel free to contact me.
BR, Geoff

Anonymous User

Hi Serge,
Good luck with the new venture.
This is all good advice.
Most (all?) businesses at this stage have to make important decisions about all manner of things - pricing, product range, routes to market, marketing materials, website design, levels of support and so on. Without research, all you can is make (hopefully) educated guesses. So the answer to your questions is, ideally, "loads"!
Don't dismiss quantitative techniques in your research - you can run online surveys very quickly and cost-effectively, so if you've defined your target market segments, ask them what they think!
You needn't go to the expense of recruiting lots of respondents necessarily (though this might not be as expensive as you think), as you can run surveys on your website, social media and so on.
There's lots of advice on running surveys on surveymechanics.com which you may find helpful.
All the best,


Really for the best self research not involving purchased big data the basics are the same for each product but which page of the search results to look at in finding the truth will vary. The reason why is that blogs and sites that state reports on the hottest the best top 10 best top 5 best etc are typically owned and operated by the companies products and services listed.

You can utilize database archives from recent market research. Recent doesnt necessarily mean current.

There are inexpensive tools to evaluate trends across social media dependant on what specifically you hoping to learn about this can be very helpful in an ongoing capacity., while other topics and products never broach the surface as this is largely dependant on likes and comments in posts. Someone has to first post it for there to be engagement.

You can use numbuzz.com they provide current market research on request at no cost the data gleened is relevant but not necessarily in the volume or representative of national cross-spectrum yet it is sufficient to give perhaps a general idea. It is sufficient for most startups seeking investors or grants for example.

I apologize as Im sure this comes across as vague to the point perhaps of frustration lol.

Im a web designer, in the top 4% of marketers globally I provide FaceBook business services and my original background is 8 plus years providing Consumer Markets Research as a screener and analyst for Elaine Friedman Marketing and Phoenix Research. I can provide you with very specific answers and resources but I need specifics in order to provide specifics as each product and consumer group is specific. Teen Fashion for example depends on the purchaser more than the purchasee. Online environment its the parents granparents and other adults in their and their friends lives that are making the purchases out of need or as gifts. Specific trends for sale success then depends on the engagement and conversion of a completely different age group which often does not follow fashion trends that are in preference necessarily of the teen.

Professionals in their 20's to late 30's respond greater to dark landing pages black screen with vivid colored text and photography 40plus respond greater to blue teens to early twenty's color doesnt matter as much as the tagline in search and something comical and random prevalent in the landing page. People respond more to sidebars on the right than the left top menus receive greater response in contrast light on dark dark on light in particular bright light colors against black. Sky blue for example


Congratulations on starting your online business! I would recommend doing some benchmark research among the audience you want to reach with your products. This will allow you to learn more about their unmet needs, how they talk and think about the category or products you're offering, and can even get initial reactions to any new ideas or offers before you go live. Good luck!


Congratulations Serge on starting up. There is no end to how much you can research, honestly. I suggest speak to your Target Group as much as you can, ask them what would they like to see in your online store which they do not find it easily in your competitor's model. Build a product for your customers, get their insights as much as you can, eventually they are the one's who will drive your business. Have a Customer In Focus rather than a Product Out Model. Good Luck and wish you all the success!


Here's a contrarian approach: do no research, just launch! Okay, there are caveats. How much money can you afford to lose? If it's not much, it may make sense to spend it on website and marketing--assuming that you only acquire inventory after you have orders. The idea is that actual sales is the best guide to answering all the questions suggested in the other posts. Of course I am also assuming that you do know something about who wants/needs what you have to sell...

Agree! May be it is risky, but who doesn't take a risk.. I just launched a landing page ( from https://www.templatemonster.com/landing-page-templates.php ) as I was inspired and motivated enough. I will correct my website according to preferences of readers, no earlier.

Anonymous User

Have you got a USP.? If not, it is down to the lowest cosy of delivery. Check their price ans see if it is profitable


There are many ways you could go but I'd suggest Social Listening or Facebook Ad Campaigns.

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