10 Questions E-Commerce Firms Can Ask in Their Market Research

By the Editors

If you’re an e-commerce firm ready to embark on a major market research initiative, making sure that you’re asking all the right questions is important.  While the specific questions definitely depend on what you’re trying to accomplish, we often see requests for guidelines on core smart questions to ask.  If you’re an e-commerce firm working to establish a better baseline understanding of your customers, the following areas may be worth exploring.

  1. Do any specific holidays affect their purchasing habits?  Some industries have a clear connection to certain holidays: florists’ business explodes on Valentine’s Day.  But there may be non-obvious opportunities for your business in connection with certain holiday trends.
  2. Are your buyers focused on content or goods?  Different segments of customers will pay astronomical amounts of money for information to help them solve a problem, yet they are very reluctant to spend an extra $50 on an upgraded physical product.  It’s useful to know where the line is on this issue for your customer base.
  3. What device do they use most?  Are your customers purchasing goods on their mobile phone, their tablet, their PC, or their Mac?  Optimizing your content for the most important devices is a critical step to increasing your conversions.
  4. What speed of internet are they using?  As video and more graphically intensive product sites are becoming the norm, it’s easy to assume that everyone is on an optimized connection.  Are your mobile users browsing on 4G, or stuck for half the month on a downgraded 2G plan?  Do you have rural customers who may be working on much slower speeds than are common in urban/suburban areas?
  5. What’s the relationship between online browsing and in-store purchases?  Do your customers spend hours online looking at and researching products, but ultimately visit a physical store to make the purchase?  If so, can you learn why and help overcome the objections or habits that are driving those behaviors?
  6. Do your customers have security concerns?  Depending on the demographic you’re targeting, it’s still common for certain shoppers to have concerns about fraud, credit card security, and identity theft.  Are these issues with your buyers?  What do you need to do to allay their fears?
  7. Convenience, variety or price?  Previous major e-commerce studies have shown that convenience, variety and price are the major drivers for people to shop online.  Which of these resonates most deeply with your customer?  Are you meeting this desire head on, or are there improvements you could make to improve your online store’s performance?
  8. How important are incentives?  Do your customers respond to major incentives such as discounts, rebates, and web exclusives? How important are these to your target demographic?  What’s the most effective way to promote them?
  9. What about returns, sales tax, and free shipping?  At the surface, shopping online can seem easier because you don’t have to drive somewhere, wander through the store, and wait in line to check out.  But what about issues where you need to return the item?  Is the shipping cost prohibitive?  Are there logistical aspects of the shopping experience that you could improve to convince customers to do more shopping at your store?
  10. Can you offer better customer service options?  Can your customers call you if they have a question?  Are you utilizing one of the chat services to have someone always available to answer customer questions?  Offering great customer service is an important asset in a virtual world, and a great way to differentiate yourself.