Market Research: Starting Is The Most Difficult Part

By: Janine Samuels

Designers beginning their market research may feel overwhelmed by having to do something more analytical than creative. What is important to remember is that while you are a creator you have also decided to trade that creative labour for profit. That means you need to understand the context wherein you have decided to trade. Market research isn’t an optional step of creation if you have decided to sell your products: it is essential. Equipping yourself with knowledge is the easiest way to avoid painful learning curves. That being said, the most difficult part of the process is knowing where to begin.

There are different stages to market research which feel formidable to a beginner primarily because of industry jargon. The principles are not as complicated as they may seem at first but require effort and insight to pull off well. There are two kinds of market research: primary and secondary research. Primary research is based on information you gather yourself: talking to people, doing surveys, and firsthand knowledge. Secondary research makes use of information that other people have gathered. This includes online articles, analyses of the market by experts, data about target markets, and resources that other people have created. Both are necessary for you to get as much pertinent information to your idea as possible.

Primary research like discussing your idea with other people to flesh out possible issues can be incredibly helpful but be wary of detailing your entire strategy to any and everyone. People steal other people’s intellectual property so if you intend to have an in-depth sharing session with anyone, be careful to have it with someone you trust. A pitfall people often fall into with primary research is they survey friends and family and consequently obtain a skewed idea of the market. If you have a wide social media presence or are able to get yourself out in the world: survey your potential customer base. Use tools like Twitter’s poll function to find out specific things about products you would like to make and sell.

For example: if you want to start selling handmade novelty headbands and you aren’t sure about what price to sell them at you can create a Twitter poll with potential retail prices and ask what people would pay. Twitter is a useful forum for getting this kind of data because it gives you the opportunity to reach a wider audience when your poll is retweeted by other users. It also allows you to see if there is an interest in your kind of product. Be mindful of the way you construct your polls and questions as well as the times you post to get maximum engagement.

READ: Putting a Price on Fashion

Have a multi-platform approach to obtaining primary research information. Online resources are useful but so is face to face engagement. Go to industry events, festivals, markets, and parties and talk to people there. Vendors are often open about their experiences if you are able to connect with them. Speaking to people in your field can give you a more accurate idea of what to expect from the market. Also, speak with the people who regularly attend such events and chat about what they liked, disliked, and why – these are your potential customers and their opinion is key.

Secondary research is as important as primary research. Building on other’s knowledge will help you to generate plans and proposals that can translate into money. Use websites like,, and to familiarise yourself with the basic tools of researching. Secondary research can also help you identify competitors, customers, and is an invaluable tool when creating a pricing structure for your designs. Doing simple things like Googling “novelty headband South Africa” will tell you about online availability and prices of your product in your area. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer and try to find a product like yours for the best price. That will give you an idea of who you are competing with and what platforms you need visibility on to reach your consumer base.

Do not fall into the trap of only using secondary research to construct your marketing and design strategy. Research facilitated by others comes from a certain perspective and can be outdated. It’s a good place to start but it can miss out on issues specific to your situation. Online resources are often catered to business people in the country they were created in so be mindful of that when reading articles and research online. Secondary resources can also be accessed offline by going to networking events and skills sharing sessions like Night Owls by Springleap Creative Insights Platform or spending time in co-working spaces.

An important thing to remember when doing any kind of research is your intention behind gathering the information. Data collection can overload you with miscellaneous information if you approach it without clarity of purpose. You also may be unintentionally obtaining market research but not listening to those around you with valuable insights so be present in conversations about your field.