Are you thinking about adjusting your retail pricing? Introducing a new product? Shortening your turnaround times? Before you proceed on any one of these important marketing strategies — which will also directly impact your financials — it’s critical to create an in-depth analysis of your competition.
Sound like a daunting task? It can be but the pay-offs are considerable. All online businesses must differentiate themselves to drive more traffic to their website. For example, if your competitive analysis indicates that your turnaround times are no better or worse than everyone else, then it’s time to either move onto another stage of your research or focus on the necessary improvements to lead the pack.
But I digress. The first essential step in reaching a good business decision is a clear understanding of where you fit in the competitive landscape. This requires establishing the key benchmarks for your spreadsheet analysis, uniquely driven by your business requirements. Listed below is a 20-point competitive analysis checklist for tracking your eCommerce website competitors:
- Homepage title
- Meta keywords
- Meta description
- SKU and product description
- Pricing (full retail and discounted, if applicable)
- Selling quantities (if applicable)
- Promised turnaround time
- Shipping method with stated delivery times and charges
- Guarantee (if any)
- International? If so, what countries?
- Do they offer product samples? At what price? Is there a minimum or maximum?
- Customer Service focus: Do they prominently offer a toll-free number? Live Chat? Email?
- Social Media involvement: Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Google +? Pinterest? Blog? Other?
- Credit Cards accepted – PayPal – plus any other payment methods
- All marketing channels used to promote this product
- SEO ranking on key products
- Email program: Does the site offer a sign-up opportunity? Once you’ve subscribed or ordered, how often do you receive them – Are they primarily informational in nature or for selling purposes only –What incentives do they offer to purchase?
- How long did it take to receive your test order?
- Rate the quality of shipped product and packaging – Did the company insert any additional literature (flyer, catalog, card) and special offers?
Important point: Include your own website in the analysis so you can clearly make the necessary comparisons. Although it’s time-consuming, the easy part is collecting the data. Once you have all of the critical info captured, it’s now time to move onto the hard part: You need to search for the gaps between you and your competitors, reaching conclusions on the opportunities and threats facing your business. You may find that you are weak in specific areas and need to catch up or, even better, you might discover that you have some real, honest-to-goodness advantages that you’ve never noticed before, thus requiring immediate advertising attention.
Don’t keep the results to yourself. Make this a collaborative effort. This is the fun part of the process. Share your findings within the company to get everyone’s unique perspectives. They may uncover additional opportunities you had not even considered.
One final point — don’t get lost in analysis paralysis. When you’ve completed your competitive study and arrived at the key take-aways, it’s finally time to take action. Don’t delay. And, by the way, the world and your competition are always changing. Never sit on your laurels for too long. Repeat this analysis every three or six months to ensure that you understand the current competitive landscape.
Have we left anything off our competitive analysis checklist? How often do you create an in-depth analysis of your competition? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.