How To Research Your Market: Tips & Hints for Fashion Start-ups

To be successful, a small fashion business must know its market. Marketing research is simply an orderly, objective way of learning about people – the people who buy from you or might buy from you.

This article provides an overview of what market research is and how it’s done. It introduces inexpensive techniques that small business owner-managers can apply to gather facts about their customers and the people they’d like to have for customers.


Basically, marketing research is just what the merchant did with the peanuts. Find out what catches customers’ attention by observing their actions and drawing conclusions from what you see. To put it more formally, in the words of the American Marketing Association, marketing research is the systematic gathering, recording, and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services.

Marketing research is an organized way of finding objective answers to questions every business must answer to succeed. Every small business owner-manager must ask:

  • Who are my customers and potential customers?
  • What kind of people are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • Can and will they buy?
  • Am I offering the kinds of goods or services they want - at the best place, at the best time and in the right amounts?
  • Are my prices consistent with what buyers view as the product’s value?
  • Are my promotional programs working?
  • What do customers think of my business?
  • How does my business compare with my competitors?

Marketing research is not a perfect science; it deals with people and their constantly changing likes, dislikes and behaviors, which can be affected by hundreds of influences, many of which cannot be identified. Marketing research does, however, try to learn about markets scientifically: to gather facts and opinions in an orderly, objective way; to find out how things are, not how you think they are or would like them to be; to find out what people want to buy, not just what you want to sell them.


It’s tough – impossible – to sell people what they don’t want. Big business does marketing research to find out what consumers want. Small business needs market research too.

For once, small business holds an edge. The giants hire experts to define the mass market in which they sell. Owner-managers of a small business are close to their customers; they can learn much more quickly about customers’ likes and dislikes and buying habits.

Small business owners often have a feel for their customers – their markets – that comes from years of experience. But experience can be a two-edged sword, as it includes a tremendous mass of information acquired at random over a number of years, information that may no longer be timely or relevant to making selling decisions. In addition, some facts may be vague, misleading impressions or folk tales of the everybody knows that variety.

Marketing research focuses and organizes marketing information. It ensures that such information is timely. It provides what you need to:

  • Reduce business risks.
  • Spot problems and potential problems in your current market.
  • Identify and profit from sales opportunities.
  • Get basic facts about your market to help you make better decisions and set up plans of action.