Whether you’re already selling online or just considering it, you should be aware of what your online competitors are up to. You can learn from them, analyze their strategies and come out on top if you play your cards right.
Competitor information can serve as a perpetual benchmark for your own business performance, while inspiring new ideas for growth and expansion. If you’re new to the digital world, the information you gather will be even more valuable as you learn from their experience, success and mistakes.
Competitive intelligence isn’t new, but how it can be gathered is in a constant state of evolution. We have the internet and innovative tools at our disposal that can generate actionable data in minutes. It will require analysis before it’s of much use, however, so be prepared to make a serious, ongoing commitment to it. You can’t surpass them or maintain your lead if you don’t know where they are.
Gathering Competitive Intelligence Online
Finding your online competitors is usually as simple as doing a few searches in marketplaces, search engines, directories or social media. The top results you receive for each query will probably be the same results shoppers see, with a few local and behavioural exceptions. You’re probably already aware of some of your online competitors.
Make a list of your top 5-10 online competitors and enter them in a spreadsheet (or whatever format you’re comfortable with). You may have to do this for individual products or services to get an accurate snapshot. Head to their website and social media to start your investigation.
Information to note:
— Website address & physical location if they have one.
— Products or services they sell that are the same as (or similar to) yours.
— Where are they selling? Their website, online marketplaces (such as Etsy or Amazon), or social media?
— Do they have a blog? What do they talk about? How do they format and use their content? Note that copying their content is a fool’s errand. Put the work in and be original for the best results.
— What are they doing right or wrong? How can you change your business to improve upon their bad points? What are they doing right that you can do also?
— Read their online reviews to find out where they’re winning or failing in the eyes of their customers.
— Price, promotions & sales will help you establish a competitive price point. Do they offer free shipping? Digital coupons?
— Place an order, while taking notes throughout the order & checkout process.
— What keywords are they ranking for? Where are their visitors coming from? Who is linking to them? Which of their ad campaigns are most effective? Tools like SEMRush are specifically designed for search-related competitive intelligence and analysis. You’ll find more tools in Top Keyword Research and Competitive Intelligence Tools.
As you compile information, you’ll both expand and refine your requirements. You don’t want to drown in information that is of little or no practical use. Instead, define and pinpoint the information you need to rule the market.
- Follow your competitors on social media.
- Sign up for their newsletter if they have one.
- Save screen shots of their ads if you see them on Google, social media or elsewhere.
- Create an email folder where you can quickly save any of their email marketing that impresses you. Hit ‘Forward’ to make notes for improvements and send it to yourself.
- Refine your marketing strategy to emphasize your strengths by comparison to your competitor. You don’t have to name the competitor, if it’s important to the shopper they’ll see it. What makes you a better choice?
- Is there any place online where your ideal customer hangs out, that your competitors aren’t reaching or engaging? Get your brand in front of them.
Competitive intelligence has always been important, but online it can be the difference between winning market share or struggling to win each sale. Don’t get too caught up in chasing competitors around, focus on how the relevant information you gather can grow your business. Use competitive intelligence to inspire change and innovation, as you work your way to the top.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.