The ease of use of e-commerce platforms and the promise of quick and enormous profits have drawn many to pour vast amounts of capital into the business hastily. But while a healthy level of boldness is generally good for enterprise, too much uncalculated risk is a dangerous idea. In today’s e-commerce landscape, courage is best tempered with solid facts. These facts help you weigh the costs against the benefits and eventually lead you to determine the wisest decisions moving forward.

Luckily, there are numerous ways and handy online tools that can help with this essential decision-making and preparation process. These pre-market tests serve to rein in your excitement before you recklessly drop huge sums of savings into online retail investments.

Use keyword tools

One quick way to get a feel for whether your product has a place in the market is to search for keywords related to the product, as Envision suggests. Google Keyword Planner, a free tool, provides data on how often words or certain strings of words are searched. The idea is that if no one is searching for the product you intend to offer, then it is likely that demand will be low to none. Conversely, if many are searching for your product, then there might just be space for it in the market. There are also alternatives to the Google Keyword Planner such as UbersuggestSEO Book, Wordstream, and Semrush. These can supplement the data from Google, while adding other insights on Search Engine Optimization and related content ideas.

Keyword tools such as Google Keyword Planner can give you an idea what keywords are commonly searched online. Image Source: Ahrefs

Meantime, you can also use Google Trends, another free tool that allows you to explore the public’s level of interest on a particular topic, based on Google search. It has a nifty filter feature, enabling you to select whether you want to receive information worldwide, or from a specific country. You can likewise choose whether you want to include only results from Image Search, Google Shopping, or YouTube, and whether you want to compare how one keyword fares in the results against another.

Check out the competition

It is essential to keep an eye on the other key players in the market and those that are emerging. Known as competition analysis or competitive analysis, this entails doing something as simple as browsing the products of the other players, checking whether they leverage social media, and whether they are getting lots of engagement on their posts. Additional relevant information to note is whether there are reviews of your competitor’s products and whether these are positive or negative.

The amount of time these players have been in business is also relevant. In general, a solid social media presence, with lots of engagement from clients, positive reviews, and being active in business for years are good signs. These suggest that there is demand for the product, the demand is more or less consistent, and that the product can satisfy customers’ requirements and preferences. Meantime, be sure to pay attention not only to your competitor’s strengths and successes but also to their weaknesses and failures. This information can be turned into a list of do’s and don’ts that you might consider eventually. You can also use this to predict your competitors’ actions and decisions, giving you the upper hand and maintaining once you finally decide on entering the market.

An example of competitive analysis. Image Source: Savannah Hux

Survey potential customers

One of Chron’s suggestions in their article on Pre-Market Research for Small Businesses is to survey to determine what percentage of consumers are likely to purchase the product you are offering. To get this data, you can give sneak peeks or teasers of your product and gauge the market response. This can be done on social media, your official website, or crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or GoFundMe.

With crowdfunding, you get the bonus of having your supporters help you raise the amount needed to produce large quantities of the product. And if the product is truly impressive, and you get large amounts in funding, it may even get the attention of the media, influencers, and bloggers who are willing to use their clout to support your concept.

Another option is to open the product for pre-order. With this strategy, the interested consumer pays for the product even before it is available, with the knowledge and understanding that it will be sent to him/her soon. A large number of pre-orders, of course, equals a high level of interest. As the retailer, it reduces your risk as you would only have to produce or order from your supplier the actual number of already-paid items.

Similarly, you can survey potential customers on the products of competitors—something that Chron also recommends. You may ask them, for instance, about how your product compares with those already available in the market. This information may even lead you to rethink your product design to meet your target market’s needs and preferences.

Some examples of projects funded in Kickstarter.

Allow potential customers to test for functionality

While in the pre-market stage, you can give potential customers the chance to try out your product. Be sure to take note of their reactions. Focus on whether the product works as intended, whether it meets their expectations, and crucially, whether there are safety risks you should address. Again, this may lead to a product redesign or modification. Still, it involves much less risk and investment loss at this stage than if you were to ask customers to send back hundreds or thousands of disappointing, faulty, or even hazardous products.


On the whole, these pre-market tips on testing demand should be an experience for learning and growth. Keep your mind open, ready, and patient as you collect data. This way, you reduce the risks, gain essential insights on what the market wants and needs, and ultimately avoid an unfortunate mismatch among your product, marketing strategies, and target market.

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James Redmond Chua

James Redmond Chua

Executive Project Manager, JCE Japan Creative Enterprise