How to carry out market research for a new shoe business

In order to know whether you’re doing the right thing setting up your fantastic new shoe business that is going to take the world by storm, it’s vital that you carry out market research.  Market research is a wonderful tool that can establish and confirm the need for your shoes, find out which styles, colours etc will be the most popular, determine a price point for your range and who your competitors are.

I would highly recommend carrying out thorough market research before deciding to start your footwear business.  It’s an incredibly competitive sector, and unless you have identified a previously untapped market and that there is  definitely a demand for your type of footwear (which you can make money from) then you may find it difficult to establish your brand and set yourself apart from the competition – with high set up costs as mentioned in a previous blog, you want to make sure you are on to a winner.

Once you’ve confirmed you have a demand for your shoe business, ongoing market research is imperative for customer feedback, so that you can continually refine your products, marketing, brand and customer service.


Primary research

Primary research is the information you find out direct from consumers using research methods such as questionnaires and focus groups.  This type of research is useful when you are questioning your specific target market to understand how they think, what their opinions are on your particular product and also for ongoing customer feedback.

There are lots of successful case studies of businesses using their communities (their customers and potential customers) to help shape business strategy and tactics by continually asking for opinions on what they think about anything from the colour of packaging to new features of their products.  The positives of this are that your customers feel engaged and listened to and can become very strong brand ambassadors.  The negatives are that you could get bogged down listening to everything they have to say and straying from your core brand principles and original strategic direction.


Survey monkey

Survey monkey is a free, easy to use, online resource for designing and sending out surveys to your target market.  The software can also provide analysis and insights using the data you collect. I used survey monkey (shared through social media) to find out what types of shoes I should be selling and at what price I could sell them at.  In the survey I if they were happy to participate in further market research, I then used these willing people to send my shoe designs to in order to get feedback directly from my target market.

Creating good questionnaires is a skill.   You should identify your objectives (what you need to glean from the results e.g. the colour of your shoes) before writing the questions and deciding what types of questions to ask.  Test out your questionnaire on some friends and family first to see where there may be ambiguity and if you need to refine your questions.

Primary research could also be carrying out some mystery shopping to understand how your competitors provide customer service and what you need to do in order to be better than them.  You can do things like order products from their website, sign up for email marketing campaigns and visit their stores.


Secondary research

Secondary research (also known as desk research) is where you use information that is already out there, collected or written by someone else.  This is essential to understand your competitors and the market you want to work within. The internet has been amazing to find out information for my business, I don’t know what I would have done without it! 

You can find out the size of your market, who is selling footwear similar to yourself; how they position themselves in the market i.e. high end, value, niche; what their prices are and you can also find out information about their turnover and profits.  

Be careful though, make sure anything you find out is from a trusted source and any data you use to make decisions is recent and accurate.

Other types of secondary research you should carry out are reading fashion magazines and following fashion experts on social media to understand the latest fashion trends for your sector.


National market intelligence

At the very start of researching the viability of my business idea I looked to Mintel.  Mintel is a world leading market intelligence agency and produces a report on the UK footwear industry each year, offering key insights in to trends and how major players are performing in the sector.  The data and analysis provided by Mintel helped confirm the size of market and potential demand for my niche footwear product.

The British Footwear Association also has market research on the sector available to their members.  I joined as a start up and it was £100 for the year.


Social media 

By setting up your social media channels and getting followers of your brand prior to your launch, you can use them to ask for feedback and also to test marketing campaigns.  It’s a great motivating factor to receive positive feedback and incredibly useful when you get suggestions you hadn’t thought of yourself.  After all, if you’re a tiny start up like I am i.e. it’s just me, you can’t be expected to think of everything yourself!

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