The Startup Guide to Market Research for your Ecommerce Website

Metacake is filled with “idea” people. We’re always brimming with ideas. In fact, we even have a division of the company called Metacake Labs so we can research, test and validate new ideas and concepts.

The idea always comes first, along with dreams of how much money you can make from your idea. But market research is a critical step during the early stages of any new business idea – especially when you’re considering building an ecommerce website.

At the highest level, market research will tell you how much time you should spend on a project. On a more granular level, market research can guide your strategy by answering questions and validating or invalidating assumptions.

Always Ask Why

One of the first steps when conducting market research is to determine if your idea is original. Search for similar products using different keywords that may describe what it is or what it can do.

Your idea doesn’t have to be completely unique. Market research can help you figure out if you can succeed by simply doing something better than a competitor or targeting a different audience.

If somebody else is using a similar idea or selling a similar product, are they doing well? Why are they doing well? For example, what is it about the customer experience that’s motivating people to buy?

If someone else is using a similar idea and doing it poorly, why are they doing poorly? Is there a problem with product quality, service or marketing? Are they targeting the wrong audience?

If you have an idea that nobody else is using, don’t assume you’re a genius just yet. Determine why nobody else is using it.

Your idea may very well be a stroke of brilliance. A potential goldmine that nobody else has discovered.

But in all likelihood, someone else has thought of this same idea before. So it’s important to ask why they didn’t do anything with it…

Perhaps they tried and failed miserably. Maybe they determined it just can’t be successful. Or perhaps they simply didn’t have the resources.

How much will your idea cost to develop?

Are you marketing and pre-selling an existing product?

Are you still in the design and prototyping phase for a brand new product?

Think about customer acquisition. How will you find customers? How are other companies finding customers?

All of these things cost money. You need to research the variables that can affect your website, product offerings and marketing strategy, and determine how they’ll affect your cost structure and business model.

The more data you have, the more reliable your numbers will be.

Develop your Brand Story

When you start to consider potential names for your ecommerce site and your products, the first step is to make sure nobody else is already using them.

Research available domain names on sites like or Having the right domain name is incredibly important to an ecommerce website, so look for a few good options. You can also search for trademarks and patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Once you settle on names and buy your domain, you can start building your brand message. Explain specifically how you can make people’s lives better or easier. Identify points of differentiation.

Clarify what you want your products and your ecommerce website to mean to people. How should your products and website make people feel?

Everybody loves a good story, and market research can help you determine what that story should be.

Keep Everything Organized

This may sound obvious, but so many ideas never flourish because they’re not written down, or the original thought process is lost in translation.

Evernote helps us stay organized as we flesh out ideas. We can take notes, record conversations, and access this information from anywhere. Evernote is our program of choice, but you can use whatever app or program works best for you. Even a good old pen and a piece of paper (…as long as you don’t lose it…).

The key is to make sure your ideas are documented and they’re organized while doing so.

Have an idea for an ecommerce website that you need help developing? Contact us for a free consultation. Let us help you conduct and interpret market research to determine how viable your idea is.


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