Market Research might drum up memories of being accosted by people with clipboards as you hurry past them, head down – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Rather than being the reserve of big brands, market research can be an invaluable tool for designers and makers too, plus it can be creative and even fun. Here’s one way you can use market research to find out what your customers are likely to buy, without a clipboard or downcast eye in sight…
First things first. Before you can work out what your customer wants, you need to know who your perfect customer is. Who buys your jewellery, or who do you want to buy it? Imagine what they wear, where they shop, what magazines and blogs they read, which other makers’ work they buy. What colours do you associate with them, which materials? It’s useful to think about what they’re not too – where would they definitely never shop, for example.
Grab a piece of paper, split it into two columns, and add the heading “My perfect customer loves…” on one side, and “My perfect customer can’t stand…” on the other. Then write as many things as you can in each column.
Create a mood board
Once you know who your customer is, immerse yourself in their world. Scour the pages of the magazines and blogs they follow, the Instagram and Pinterest feeds of the designers and shops they covet. See what they are seeing, and start to create a mood board of trends that catch your eye. These could be things like ‘birds’, ‘fairytale’ and ‘1960s’, or less tangible concepts like ‘luxury’ and ‘eccentric’.
You can either create an actual mood board using words, images, sketches, colour swatches, cut-up bits of magazines – whatever suits the way you work and think – or you could create one online using Pinterest (you can keep it private if you don’t want to share it with the world). If you want to tap into future trends, you could also study the catwalks for the seasons ahead, check trend-predictor sites, trade publications and brands like Pantone to see what’s going to be big, even if it’s not yet, and add those to your board.
Dig into the stats
Now you can start to delve a little deeper. Find out what’s selling, and at what price, by searching through recently sold items in your customer’s favourite shops and in your competitor’s shops – and conversely what’s not selling so quickly by looking through their sale items (if they have a sale section). Keep an eye on Folksy blog posts and seller emails for stats on what visitors are searching for and buying, as well as average sale prices and other selling info.
The creative bit
You should now have a board of inspiration as well as a treasure trove of information. Here comes the best bit. Take your mood board of themes, colours and trends, and let your creativity shine. Use the themes and concepts you have collected as inspiration, and develop a new product (or range of products) using those as a starting point. Make something original: don’t copy what other people are doing, instead create something that’s all yours.
The idea is that by using inspiration collected from the world inhabited by your perfect customer, your designs are more likely to appeal to them. As you’re designing and creating, keep in mind the price points highlighted by your fact-finding, so your hard work isn’t wasted on a piece that ends up too cheap or too expensive for your customer.
Test it out
When you’ve created your design, try it out. Social media is great for gathering opinions, so use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or the Folksy forum to show people what you’re making and ask them what they think. Consider what you’d like to know – just asking people if they like something won’t be as useful as asking specific questions like what material would they like it in, how much would they expect to pay for it, would they prefer it as a brooch or necklace etc?
Craft fairs are also great places to test new products because you can get direct feedback from your buyers – or if you’re scared to ask them face to face, why not set up a mini voting booth or chalkboard poll, like Folksy seller Ruth Robinson did at one of her markets stalls.
When you feel confident you’re ready, unveil your final piece to the world and see how it responds. It only costs pence to list something for sale online (or if you have a Folksy Plus account, it’s free!), so what have you got to lose? You can keep tweaking if you need to, or if it’s a runaway success you can design a whole collection around that one brilliant idea!
Abi Watkins from Rock Rose Jewellery shares her tips for effective market research
1. Collate any information you have about your customers (age, gender, address, average spend) to define your market. This info will help you build a picture of them. Create a ‘mood board’ of images that remind you of your core customers when working on new designs.
2. Check out your competition. Compare successful designer or shops you admire. How do they attract customers? What sales are they making? What’s their price range? Rather than copying, be creative.
3. Research your ideas before selling them. I use Pinterest to see how unoriginal my idea (that I thought was truly original) is. If there are similar designs out there, can you make yours the most appealing by making it better, delivered faster, more professionally packaged?
4. Set up a social media channel and tell your customers about your ideas. Provide regular, interesting info about your work. As well as being a great way to see basic stats such as the average age of your customers, you can get lots of feedback on new designs, especially if you ask directly.(Top of page / featured image: Silver Pencil Necklace, £35 by Rock Rose Jewellery)