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The Art of Competitor Analysis in Email Marketing

Email marketing
August 7, 2018
8 min

‘The Art of War’, an ancient Chinese military treatise written 2,500 years ago, remains relevant even today. The ideas from the book can be applied not just to military strategy, but in large-scale business as well. The author, Sun Tzu, was a renowned military general and strategist. In his book, he put great emphasis on the importance of knowing the opponents in winning the future battles. This applies to businesses as well: if you want to succeed in growing your ecommerce project, you also need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

Why this matters

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Sun Tzu

Email marketing is one of the leading channels for revenue generation. With its help, you can bring potential customers to your website, quickly and on a minimum budget. According to the 2017’s research by Promodo, email marketing was ranked third best-performing marketing tool among those used by Ukrainian businesses.

Analysing your competition can provide a solid footing for developing a successful marketing strategy. As the market is growing every day, it’s crucial that you keep your ground. For this purpose, you need to identify your competitors and the class they’re playing in. This will help you analyse own opportunities and growth prospects.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can achieve this strategic objective, step by step.

Assess the situation

[..] A power of estimating the adversary [… ] constitutes the test of a great general. Sun Tzu

The first step in building your marketing strategy could be, studying your market, identifying its structure and your potential competitors. Analyse their market position, website solutions, social media activities, and approach to pricing.

Start with identifying your closest competitors. Conduct a primary analysis of the market and determine which competitors are playing in the same market niche as you, selling similar products or offering related services. Ask yourself if your competitors are large enough to compete with your business and steal your customers directly.

The next step is to identify competitive advantages. As a rule, each business has their own unique selling proposition a.k.a USP. Try to determine why your potential customers prefer other manufacturers or service providers. See what benefits your competitors offer to win over customers. Check what they put their primary focus on.

Conduct the reconnaissance

Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient. Sun Tzu

The simplest way to collect information about your competitors is to analyze their websites. When it comes to email marketing, in particular, the key indicators would be:

  • product ranges and prices
  • email collection methods
  • personal accounts and their structure
  • loyalty programs

Subscription forms are among the primary tools used to interact with customers. When analyzing forms, pay attention to what is offered to customers in exchange for providing their email address, and to the number of fields customers need to fill in. Analyze the methods your competitors use to attract new audiences. These can be signup forms, multiple advertising channels, partnerships, and other ways to engage customers, such as viral content in social media networks, YouTube videos, and more.

Customer accounts are quite important for ecommerce projects. These allow customers to track their active and completed orders, edit their personal information, see available services, monitor their account balance, and much more.

A loyalty program for registered customers, in turn, allows you to add value beyond offering similar products and services at nearly the same prices.

This is why a loyalty program will give you a significant competitive advantage. A loyalty program is valid no matter what your field of activity, sales volumes, and business lifecycle stage are.

The most widely used components of loyalty programs are:

  • gift cards
  • bonus cards
  • discount cards
  • product gift certificates
  • social security cards

Wider product ranges and lower prices can also be a significant advantage and the reason why your competitors are doing better than you.


Spies are a most important element in war […]. Sun Tzu

As with the analysis of your competitors’ online stores, you can learn more about what they’re offering to their customers if you subscribe to their email lists. Create a dedicated email account, or better a few, and use them to subscribe to your competitors’ news, updates, and promo campaigns. It’s also worth subscribing to competitors’ blogs if there are any.

First of all, analyze the following components:

The frequency of emails. See if the emails are sent on a specific schedule, how many emails are sent in a week and in a month, at what time of the day they’re sent.

Email content. See how the emails are designed, what purposes they’re sent for, how personalization is used.

Responsive design. Check if the emails are optimised for different devices: desktop computers, laptops, and tablets.

Types of emails: welcome series, triggered and transactional emails, sales emails, follow-up emails, and more.

The success of email marketing depends not only on the frequency and text content but visual content as well. This includes colours, images, as well as the positioning of banners and links. There’s always a combination of multiple factors that influence user experience with the website. It’s called usability.

Compare the usability of your email marketing campaigns with your competitors’ emails. Check if your email campaigns meet the needs of your customers and prospects, and take all the necessary measures to improve them. Beautiful, easy-to-read, relevant emails will help you bring your target audience back to your website and turn one-time visitors into regular customers.

It’s crucial that your end users see the benefits of choosing you over your competitors. Make sure your emails are unique. Make them different from your competitors’ regarding the subject, content, and time of sending. To do this, conduct a more detailed analysis of your competitors’ emails. Look for answers to the following questions:

  • What categories are there?
  • What is the content of emails in each category?
  • What brands do your competitors offer?
  • What are the discounts they offer?
  • What marketing activities do they undertake?

The result of such analysis would be a list of innovations to implement in your email marketing, as well as a list of similar mistakes to eliminate. You can conveniently store and analyse this data, for example, in a single table in Excel or Google Sheets.

By collecting information about the particular characteristics of your competitors’ email campaigns, you’ll be able to improve your own algorithms and methods for email marketing.

Bottom line

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. Sun Tzu

A thorough and timely analysis of your competition can help transform your email marketing, from dull spam into the best-performing sales channel. You’ll be able to not only identify opportunities for the development but also avoid your own mistakes. As a result, you’ll improve the loyalty of your target audience, get more repeat sales and better quality of your email campaigns.

Written by
Zoryana Oberemok

Email Marketing Specialist at Promodo

August 7, 2018
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