For every eCommerce store keeping up the the changes in your industry can be daunting and trying to keep up with the moves of your competitors even more so. Knowing what your rivals are up to is necessary in staying one step ahead of the game and keeping your foot in the door rather than being overshadowed at every new milestone they hit as a business. Fortunately there are things you can do to keep a sneaky little eye on what other companies are up to without being too obvious, effectively helping your business stay up to date and still seen as actual competition for your competitors.
Look out for their name
The most fundamental part of keeping an eye on your competitors is knowing when and where their name is popping up. Keep an eye out for their name in media such as news reports, blogs, magazines and press releases. This array of media will give you a well rounded view of how their company is doing in the eyes of the world. It offers a good mix of their personal goals, brand awareness and overall opinions of their company. Checking up on this regularly lets you know whether they are getting good or bad publicity at any given moment and more importantly what it is that got them that publicity in the first place. Things such as social mention and google alerts can help with this, as both will alert you whenever your competitor’s name is mentioned across platforms that they search on. Use this information to learn from their mistakes and successes, if they are being featured frequently on a website or blog that you’ve never been seen on, it may be time to make a new connection.
Know their prices
Frequently check up on what they are charging their customers. If you sell the same products doing this could put you at a large advantage. Keeping these kinds of checks lets you know where you stand in the market, are you the overpriced brand or the one everyone comes to for better prices? Note their costs in comparison to yours and see whether you come in lower, higher or even the same as them and use this to see what you can do to become a little more competitive in price. Be wary though, you competitor may have higher item prices on the surface, making you feel like the more affordable brand but they may have deals that actually work out better for customers wallets than your organic prices do. Keep an eye out for discount deals over a certain amount of money, free shipping and any other benefits that may turn your audience’s head their way.
Keep an eye on where your competitors are posting banners and ad campaigns. While this may seem like the impossible task or like it is going to take hours of searching the web in hope of finding a competitor’s banner it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of tools that give you the ability to get alerts when your named competitors add a banner to a website as well as letting you see how well each of them is performing. If you decide on using one of these tools you will need to note most importantly where these banners are, is it a website you could be featured on too? Note it down for future campaigns you may run. You will also need to take note of what the campaign is for, what are they so eager to advertise? Try to understand their goals and see how all the banners are performing to gauge audience reactions. This research can save you time and money on campaigns you may run in future by seeing how similar campaigns run for your closest competitors, allowing you to stop any similar campaigns in your lineup that failed miserable for others.
Be as involved as possible
Try to become part of their audience as much as you can. Be as involved as you can be in their business by doing things such as subscribing to newsletters. Although risky, this can give you access to the inside of their marketing, you can find out how they are talking to their customers and just what they are offering them behind closed doors. You get all their latest news a little early and are completely aware of any returning customer deals and coupon codes they may be offering that you simply are not. Take the time to find out what they boast about, what they think are their strengths and investigate them a little, are they really offering all that to the highest standard? More importantly take note of what they do not offer their returning customers that you can, make up for their downfalls and be a step ahead with your remarketing strategies.
Find real opinions
The one thing that can tell you more about the success of a business than the company itself are the people who use their services. Find a way to talk to customers and find out what they think of your competitors brands, even yours if you can and compare the results to see how your brands stack up next to each other. Check reviews for their brand, both on their website and on external sites such as blogs or forums. Be sure the reviews you are working off are valid and not blatantly paid for or made bias through the offering of free products or money back for a good review. If you feel like going a little further try a bit of mystery shopping. Get someone you can trust to do a little shopping on their website and really try out the services, see how their website functions, what options are offered at checkout and how helpful their customer service staff are. This can help you again to analyse their downfalls and offer what they are missing.
Watch their social media
Follow their social media accounts if you need to, either as a business or under a personal account and simply view what goes on. Find out how their customers interact with them, whether they are happy and talkative with the company or they are short and irritable with them. How their customers approach them can show a lot about the kind of service they have received from the brand. Check out who follows them and target some of their audience, as both your ideal customers are likely to be pretty similar if not identical, there’s no harm in trying to get them on board with your company too. Notice posting patterns and topics, paying special attention to any campaigns they run and how they perform. Find the successes and the failures and use them to shape how you approach your own social media pages, this stops you from repeating the same mistakes as them.