by Joshua Hobson
Knowing who your key competitors are is crucial to making sure that your eCommerce business is a success. You need to know who customers are already buying with, what prices they are selling at, what offers and deals they have and, if possible, what their plans for growth are. But how?
We’re going to walk through some of the most popular research strategies of establishing who your competitors may be and it can be useful to put together a list of around five to ten other companies who have a similar product or who operate a similar brand to you.
These don’t have to be the best in the industry. In fact, mix up your list with some popular, successful brands alongside other brands who you think aren’t doing all that well. You will learn things from both sides of this spectrum.
And just because a competitor doesn’t exist online (yet), doesn’t mean that they’re not a competitor. It’s likely that somebody who is big in your industry on the high street will venture online soon enough so it’s best to keep an eye on them. And even if they don’t, they can still capture market share of those who are less internet-savvy or for those who find the high street is more convenient than shopping online (yes, those people still exist).
Your competition will come in varying sizes, on various platforms and in an array of brands so making sure you know who they are – and not just researching companies who are almost identical to yours – can give a powerful advantage.
Google and Search Results
A quick Google search is almost always the easiest and fastest way to get a provisional list of your top competitors. Simply search for your product or service and you’ll find dozens of brands who are offering it too.
Make sure you search for variations of your keywords whether these are makes and models, locations, price adjectives or industry-specific search terms.
Industry Blogs & Magazines
Industry blogs, magazines, newspapers and other press regularly include case studies of businesses or news stories including key events from big brands. So these can be useful places to go when you’re looking for competitors who are active in your community.
Depending on your industry and the magazines you look at, you may find that only the big competitors are featured or mentioned. Whilst this is useful, it’s also just as important to find the smaller competition.
Trade Shows and Events
Going to conferences and trade shows is also a good way of finding competitors who are active in your industry. There may also be customers, clients and connectors who attend these events so it can be a good market research platform if you ask them for their thoughts on some of the big brands.
Some businesses also use conferences and events to announce new product launches and plans for the future so being there first hand will you give a heads-up on any industry movements and give you time to adapt your own strategy if necessary.
Searching online on review sites and message board platforms like TripAdvisor, Amazon Reviews or Mumsnet will help you see what customers are saying about the products and which brands they prefer to buy them from.
You will also be able to read direct opinions from real-life customers who will have thoughts on advantages, disadvantages and improvements to the service they get – allowing you to adapt your eCommerce strategy to fit what you know your potential customers will want.
Getting qualitative research is just as important, if not more useful, than numerical stats and figures. Read this useful article from Inc. on how to conduct qualitative market research.
Recommended Social Accounts
If you’re a regular social media user, you’ll know that sites like Twitter and Facebook will recommend certain accounts that it thinks you’ll like – depending on who you’ve already followed and who you’re tweeting about.
If you follow a few of your known competitors and suppliers, soon enough you’ll find more and more similar businesses in your ‘recommended for you’ section.
Not only will you be able to find more of your competition, you’ll also have quick and easy access to what their social marketing strategy is. Social Media Examiner gives some good tips on researching your competition on social media, so take a look if you’re interested in this stand of research.
How Can You Keep Up to Date with Your Competitors?
Once you’ve researched your competitors, you have to make sure that you stay up to date with their latest developments and news stories.
There are a few tactics you can consider and most are fairly simple to do and usually can be automatic. If you want to find out more about staying on top of the latest trends or industry updates, read our blog post on keeping up with trends in digital for extra tips. Some basic tips include:
- Set up Google Alerts for their brand names to receive an email anytime they are mentioned in a big news feature somewhere online
- Subscribe to their email newsletter for news and updates directly from them
- Follow them on social media so that their social updates appear in your own feed
- Subscribe to industry magazines and events so that you’re in the loop with any key developments from bigger businesses
What should you look out for?
When researching your competitors, different businesses will most likely look for different things depending on what their unique proposition is and where they are in their business development. That said, there are some common trends that it can be useful to keep an eye on
- Deals and offers
- Shipping and delivery costs
- Brand perception and reviews
- Marketing strategy
- New product launches
- Customer service
- Charity sponsorships and CSR
Need Extra Help?
If you’re growing your eCommerce business and need some help with establishing your competition and figuring out where you stand in the market place, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help you grow your business.