Conducting market research

In the first episode of The Startup Series, Jacqui Ma, founder of urban bag retailer Goodordering, shares her advice on how to use market research to help grow your business. 

Conducting market research is a task that’s become second nature to Goodordering founder Jacqui Ma.

Gathering information about her customers’ needs, emerging trends and competitor activity allows Jacqui to make business decisions with greater confidence.

“Market research isn’t something that I do twice a year,” she said. “It’s something that happens every single day. It’s so, so important for the business and to be able to keep evolving.”

Goodordering designs, manufactures and exports colourful, practical bags for cyclists and families with active lifestyles. Jacqui’s bags are sold online, at markets and bike festivals.

Sales figures give Jacqui the most accurate indication of her customers’ likes and dislikes. She also gains valuable feedback through face-to-face conversations at markets and through social media conversations. Jacqui ensures she’s up-to-date with competitor activity with regular visits to cycling and bag stockists.

Read on for Jacqui’s advice on how small business owners can go about gathering their own market research information:

1. Listen to your customers when making face-to-face sales

Selling at market stalls and festivals means Jacqui is in regular face-to-face contact with her customers. The feedback she gains from buyers and browsers can inspire new products or additional features within existing designs.

Jacqui said: “I’ve been able to evolve the product based on the customer feedback that I get from selling the product direct to customers at Broadway Market or bike festivals. They’re never shy to tell me exactly what they need, their problems or the things stopping them from buying the bags.”

2. Join the conversation on social media

Jacqui uses Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest to build an online community around Goodordering. She creates content around her key inspirations – cycling, good design and East London life.

Joining in social media conversations is a valuable way of conducting market research – you can find out what your customers are saying without even leaving the office.

Jacqui said: “I use Instagram to communicate to loads of customers from all around the world. The comments and questions they ask through that come directly to me. I’m able to get a lot of information about what people like and not like.”

3. Keep a close eye on your sales figures

Face-to-face sales and social media comments can build a picture of your customers’ preferences. But for Jacqui, it’s her sales figures that provide the “ultimate” barometer of each product’s performance: “Cold hard sales figures really tell me what people like and people don’t like.”

4. Know who your competitors are and keep tabs on their activities

Market research doesn’t stop at knowing your customers’ likes and dislikes. It’s important to identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses too. Make sure you know where their products are stocked and their target audience. Armed with this knowledge, you can identify threats and opportunities as they occur and make changes if you need to.

Jacqui explained: “I know exactly who my competitors are. In terms of actual market research, every time I go to a different country, I go and check out the bike stores. Every time I go into a department store, I go to where my bags would belong and check out what brands are in there.”

5. Make better business decisions with your own non-stop feedback loop

Seeking out the views of her customers and keeping check on her competition has become second nature to Jacqui. Knowing what your customers like and what your competitors are doing means she can make well-informed, more confident business decisions.

“It’s become an intuitive process,” Jacqui said, “I know exactly where my bags fit in the whole scheme of things in terms of price point and functionality."

Have a UK startup that earns up to £50,000? Join Xero for Startups* and get a years' free membership to Enterprise Nation's small business community. *The Startup series is published in association with Enterprise Nation.

Xero is beautiful online accounting software for your startup

Join Xero for Startups today.

Find out more
Xero for Startups