As a business owner or marketing manager, you probably utilize a few digital marketing techniques or strategies to attract customers and increase sales. Yet unless one of those strategies includes spying on your competitors, you are doing your business a disservice.

Spying on your competitors isn’t as “cloak and dagger” as it sounds. You don’t need to employ secret agents to undergo acts of espionage and hidden surveillance. Instead, you simply need to be aware of what marketing strategies your competitors utilize, and how effective they are.

Why should you spy on your competitors?

You and your competitors are trying to market your products and services to the same target audience. Even if you think your current marketing campaign is good, you could lose business if a competitor's campaign is better. If their campaign attracts more customers, they will grow their customer base by taking away from yours.

Keep in mind that as the e-commerce industry continues to grow, you will have more of these competitors than ever before. Chances are, some of them are already spying on what you are doing. This means you need to spend more time watching your back or it will affect your bottom line.

Spying on your competitors isn’t against the rules, either. Businesses of all types engage in the practice every day, and today’s advanced technology makes it easier than ever.

What can we learn from spying?

By monitoring and researching our competitors, we can find where their strengths and weaknesses lie. We can see what is working for them, what isn’t, and which of their strategies might work well for you. If you see something working well for them and you aren’t doing it, perhaps you should.

You can also learn from their mistakes so you don’t waste time and money on a marketing endeavor that yields few positive results. Most importantly, you will discover how to stand out from the competition and carve out your own niche.

How to identify competitors

You may already have an idea of who your top competitors are; if you aren’t sure, simply use the internet to find out.

1) Use Google Search: Search for items relating to your industry.
2) For example, let’s say you are a footwear store that sells sneakers. You would search for “sneakers” (include the location in the search, if you are searching for local competitors). Use your store name and main keywords to find other stores selling the same or similar products.
3) Google Shopping: You can also use Google Shopping, which is a search engine designed to help customers find stores selling the same or similar products. You can see seller ratings, pricing and shipping details, etc.
4) Search for specific products you are selling in your store.
5) Open the product page and scroll down. On the left side of the page you will see all sellers with links to their stores.

How to research your competitors

Start browsing and critiquing their websites. Get a good overview of your competitors by answering the following questions, and you will be able to see clearly where they excel or fall short, and why.

  • What are their Prices & Shipping options? Do they offer free shipping on large orders?
  • How do they present their Value Proposition? A store’s value proposition is the primary reason consumers buy that business’s products or services. It is the most important message on any website.
  • How prominent are their Calls to Action?
  • What positioning & color schemes do they use? If the schemes aren’t working, why not?
  • What is their product photography like?
  • How do they display their products and help communicate details?
  • How many photos do they display per product?
  • How are their Product Descriptions?
  • How long are these descriptions and what structure do they follow? What information do they include? What information are they missing?
  • How strong is the business’s social media presence?
  • What platforms are they using?
  • How do they interact with customers and how often?
  • Do they use videos, pictures, blog posts or competitions to promote their products?
  • Is their site optimized for mobile users?
  • How have they adapted their website design to make shopping easier for tablet and smartphone users?
  • How frequently are they running promotions?
  • What benefits do these promotions provide to their customers along with their business?
  • Are they trying to build an email list?
  • Are they offering additional promotions for customers who sign up?
  • Are they trying to establish brand loyalty?
  • How prominent is this sign-up prompt?
  • Do they have an abandon cart process in place?
  • Add some items to a basket in your competitor’s store and leave without checking out.
  • Find out if they have abandon cart emails. If so, how well does the email entice you to make customers follow through?

Conclusion

Using the information you have gathered, you can better craft your own marketing strategies. You can also use these valuable website comparison tools on an ongoing basis to see how you measure up to your competitors and where you may need to improve.