Get ready to break out the martinis and enter the world of a marketing spy. Research is critical for any big decision, change in direction, or product launch. You must know your competitors’ moves to help you outwit them and win customers.
Timing plays a big role in marketing, especially when you’re announcing a new groundbreaking feature or product. In a week after launch, your competition can catch up and announce the same feature—so you need to time your release and marketing perfectly to gain the most traction. You want to be seen as the thought leader in your industry, not a copycat.
If you aren’t ahead of the game, your team will have to scramble to find your differentiators, instead of being the pioneers. Get your spy game on to make sure you are on top of the market and can drive conversions to your business. This article covers the best espionage tools and techniques in eCommerce.
Who Are Your Competitors Targeting?
Understand who your competitors are targeting to explore any overlooked audiences you could be targeting as well. Start with their outbound advertising. If they’re running ads in a vertical, you know they are either targeting that audience or trying to expand their presence in the area to launch a new product.
AdBeat (shown above) helps you look at where your competitors are advertising, what’s working for them and where their marketing dollars are spent. You can see their spend by day, month, or even weekend, not to mention the ability to drill down by country. This will help you discover categories in marketing that you have not tested yourself.
WhatRunsWhere shows you where your competitors are placing their ads and how well those ads are performing. It provides insight into your competitors’ ad-buying strategy and insights on your own traction if you decide to compete in those markets. You can also see if their messaging is resonating and adjust your own messaging to increase your success.
SpyFu and iSpionage allow you to enter a keyword or domain and find out which keywords your competitors are bidding on, what ad copy they are using, and which landing pages they have built to drive views.
Where Are They Reaching Their Audiences?
Learn which conferences your competitors attend. This takes time in research, but it costs nothing unless you decide to attend the same conferences.
Discover this by doing an organic search for conferences in your vertical. Go onto the conference websites, and check which companies are listed under partners, booths, or vendors. To understand their investment, you can look at the map to see where your competitor is, the placement they have on the showroom floor, and the size of booth they have.
This information can be used in multiple ways. You see the audience they are trying to reach and can either vie for those same audiences or go in a different direction.
For example, if the providers of a new accounting platform has trouble differentiating themselves, they may choose to stop attending accounting conferences with all their competitors and instead start attending ones that focus on music. They would use the knowledge of where their competitors weren’t showing up and create new opportunities in fresh markets.
Finally, take the information you learn about who they’re targeting, and review the content they have out there. This could be white papers, videos, or case studies. This will give you insight into their pitch, audience, and what they feel their differentiators are.
Discover What Drives Conversions
Listen to conversations about why potential customers made a purchase. These days there are many ways for a brand to engage with the world.
Following a competitor’s social feed is easy and, on most platforms, undetectable. You should at minimum be following their LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts to gather insight. For example, on Twitter you can create secret lists of your competitors and monitor their activity silently.
Social Mention provides awareness of how frequently certain keywords are used in tweets in real time. It works on both Twitter and Facebook, and it helps you monitor your competitors and how they are influencing conversations. You can search for brand mentions, hashtags, or keywords to get a full picture. Additionally, set up an RSS feed of competitor mentions to stay in the loop. The tool also allows sorting by date and viewing the discussions that are happening now or that led to a sale in the past.
Are your competitors having discussions with vendors or service providers? Reach out to those parties to find out what trends they’re noticing, how you or competitors could improve, and what competitors are doing.
Pro tip: Put together a blog article about “how [industry] players can improve in 2018” and reach out asking for more intel for the blog. This gives you great content for your website along with insight into your competitors’ moves. Most people are happy to share knowledge and be an expert voice.
Change Detection is a website that notifies you when any changes are made to a competitor’s site. The website itself isn’t much to look at but gets the job done. Just add the pages you want to follow, and when they make changes or updates, you’ll be notified. This includes any adjustments to their offerings, product specifications, homepage, and more.
Additional Intel: Pricing and Yearly Analysis
Something that can put you under in the game of retail is competitor pricing. The information at the fingertips of the consumer can make or break their decision to buy from you, before you even get the opportunity to engage with them.
Wiser, is a solution that automates price monitoring for you. You can stay ahead of the game and identify competitive pricing trends, when competitors are aging out inventory, and which sales or discounts are happening, so that you don’t lose customers.
Also, if you are coming to market with a new product, you don’t have to wait and guess what your pricing should be—you will have intelligence to base your decision on. If you have the means to hire a third-party company, conduct a competitive analysis to gain insight. You will typically receive a report that answers the following questions:
- How you are stacking up to your competitors?
- Who resonates better with their audiences?
- Where are your opportunities to improve?
- What advantages do you have over competitors that you can capitalize on?
- What are the threats to your business? Automation? Additional competitors? Trends?
Compare their results to your own full-suite analytics to gauge where you stand in relation to your competitors, and then adjust accordingly.
The job of a spy is to continually bring back information that will further your goals. With the right tools, the right information, and the right moves, you can gain the advantage. However, make sure you don’t get so caught up focusing on your competitors moves that you forget to forge your own path.
The tools and techniques in this article should be used to determine how your business can be different, stay ahead of the game, and provide a better customer experience. Using the information to your advantage will mean not-so-secret success.
About the author
Crucial Vacuum and Skubana Founder Chad Rubin grew his e-commerce business to an 8-figure business in 7 years. He is a Top 250 Amazon Seller, and co-founded Skubana as an all-in-one ERP system and operations platform designed for high volume sellers to run and automate their business. It integrates with most e-commerce marketplaces, 3PLs, and warehouses, provides profitability and multi-channel inventory management, and compiles all of your marketplaces on a single convenient dashboard. Learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up here.