You should know the face of your enemy. If you are looking only ahead without looking sideways and watching your steps – you are running the great risk. You are mistaken if you think that comparison with other, more successful businesses, can wipe out your excitement and striving for success.
Comparing yourself with competitors is both important and necessary. Making right conclusions is crucial. So, how can competitive analysis help an average store?
Studying the experience of those who has made a success in your field, you can learn a lot and avoid a variety of mistakes. Collecting detailed information about your competitors’ business is not very complicated task. We will tell you what is worth paying attention to in the first place and how you can implement the obtained knowledge in practice.
- Positioning. Learn how the online-store positions itself. Sometimes reading the buyer greeting or information about the store is enough. This data is located just on the homepage of the website. You can ask your acquaintances what they think of this online store. Ideally, your positioning must be different from the others’ one, it must be unique and memorable.
- Price policy. Let us determine in what price category the competitors work (economy, medium or high prices). At the beginning you should not get involved in price competition – market leaders will win the race. Try to use highly competitive products from your catalogue. These are popular products (or a group of products), whose approximate price is well-known to your target audience, and which are sold in your store at a very low price comparing to the competitors. For example, in one pet online store the prices for top-sellers of cat and dog food (Whiskas, Royal Canin) are deliberately lowered – they are in constant and stable demand. While additional pet supplies (bowls, toys, beds etc.) are at a high price.
- Assortment. There is no hope to outrun the market leaders by the variety of assortment at the initial stage. But the thorough analysis of product supply of competitors will help us see the “holes in the assortment”. Your task is to understand what the competitors have neglected and turn these goods into your advantage.
- Customer service. Great attention should be paid to competitors’ service analysis. Customer service is a key point in online store operation. It is the area where you can outrace your competitors and at a very low cost, as a rule. You just have to do a bit more that customers expect from you.
- Promotion tools. It is important to know where the competitors and their customers meet. And allocate advertisements of your service on the same stands but better than the others do it. For example, by analyzing competitors of the online store selling sleeping supplies, we have found out that they pay little attention to context advertisement and their ads themselves are not attractive for the customers. In our turn, we made a strong ad campaign in Google.Adwords with all product positions, quick links and pictures. It wasn’t long until we saw the result – now context advertisement brings the site the majority of new customers.
- Promotion budget. Finding out how much the competitors spend on advertisement is possible. Information about the cost of banners and promotional items at various venues is usually in the public domain. Knowing the approximate budgets of competitors for advertisement we can compare these sums with our own budgets and decide if we can bear these expenditures.
Virtually, all aspects of competitors’ business can be analyzed starting with the service level and up to the context advertisement. You will have to do something with hands, but some part of the tasks can be solved using special tools.
Today we will talk on what can be learned about the competitors at once, just in a couple of hours.
So, we open the browser and start to analyze in details the website of an online store-competitor. The following items are worth paying attention to.
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- Elements of establishing contact. Look what means of communication the online store offers to its customer: telephone, email, callback, Skype, online-consultant etc. The more, the better.
- Private office and its functionality. Private office with the history of orders and a possibility to repeat the order is a useful decision for the customer. It is critical that registration on the site is as simple as possible.
- Trust elements. Such information as comments, staff photos, certificates, and awards increase users’ trust considerably. Think of how you can convince your visitors in your reliability.
- Possibility to subscribe to the newsletters. Subscribe to the competitors newsletters and be aware of their main news. And besides, look how well the newsletters work – whether the materials are interesting and the format is suitable. Make your newsletters better.
- How does the site engage the user? Pay attention to the additional functionality which makes easier choosing the product and increases the chances of any online store: product description, blog, photos, video-review, calculator, selection of color etc.
- The promptness of the answer to the telephone call. We make a test call to all our competitors. And measure the speed of the operator’s response. You will be surprised, but in some online stores operators can ignore the call even in the working hours. Answering machines are also worth analyzing. Long greetings often irritate customers, especially if some problem calls for an urgent solution.
- How fast do the managers react to the order made via website/email. A test question through the site or the contact email of the online store can tell us a lot. Firstly, the speed of the reaction is important, the employee’s desire to solve your problem, the form of the letter. If the letter has a link to the online store, contact phone numbers, logo and the name of the employee you are communicating with – no doubt, this is a huge plus.
- Availability of product, updated prices. A test order from competitors can help you obtain a lot of information. Try to buy a great number of not bestselling goods. If after you made an order, the operator calls you and starts to apologize that some part of goods are not available and some prices are not actual, you can make a clear conclusion about your competitor’s work. You won’t make the same mistakes in your project.
- Telephone call at the end of the day. The efficient way to check the competitors customer service is to call a call-center 5 minutes before the working day is over and try to make a test order. The employee’s behavior and the tone of his voice will tell you a lot.
- Customer base. Call the competitor’s company, say that you are a regular customer. If the online store has no CRM, the operator will offer you to give “once again” the contact information and the address of delivery.
So, in two hours and without some special methods you can understand which of your neighbors in the market are real competitors, and which should not worry you. And, of course, you will collect useful ideas and find out “weak points” of your competitors and, having analyzed the information which you have gathered, you can make a winning plan of your own.