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Market observation is part of every successful company’s business. For online retailers, it may be worth looking into what the competition is doing. After all, no online retailer operates in isolation and e-commerce is a market undergoing constant change.

At first, you should, of course, focus on the fundamental elements of your business to lay solid foundations for success. However, if you want to know whether your prices are in line with the market, whether the structure of your website actually makes sense, or whether your marketing is effective, having a look around is recommended.

The following elements help you analyse the competition:

  • Visiting their website: Most certainly, you will have already taken this step to get an idea of who your competition is. Now, have a look at their website again and observe the changes they’ve made to its layout, menu navigation, and pricing. Compare additional charges for delivery or installation with your offers.

  • Reading their blog: This is a further measure requiring little effort, which can prove very enlightening. Quite naturally, you won’t read any company-internal communications on a public blog, but the subjects covered can help you find out what products are being marketed in a targeted way, how customers are addressed, what the target group is, and/or what new offers are put forward.

  • Googling your own products: By searching for your most popular products on Google, you will quickly bump into the competitors offering the very same products. This enables you to have a direct look at the competition’s pricing.

    Thanks to the “Compare prices from X stores” link that appears in Google Shopping ads, you can get an immediate overview of your competitors’ prices. Moreover, you get an idea of how unique your goods are. You’ll most certainly get more search results for a washing machine than for the spare parts of a vintage car. This is a factor you may want to keep in mind when deciding your pricing.

  • Follow social media channels: You might be reluctant to follow your competitors on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, but it can prove very instructive for you. The current trend is presenting products on social media, which gives you the opportunity to find inspiration for your own content marketing. If you don’t want to be recognisable as a competitor, you may of course follow your competitors with your private account.

  • Reading specialist literature: Be it in the form of a blog or a paper magazine, specialist literature on e-commerce and on your products gives you a clearer idea of what your competitors are doing and what trends are emerging in the market. Especially big players will be featured, but there might also be smaller start-ups with new ideas.

  • Placing a test order: You don’t need to buy a motor boat for 160,000 pounds, but placing a test order from your competitors may give you some good ideas on how to optimise your own ordering process. How do you get to the shopping basket? What information is required to place an order? What does the confirmation e-mail look like? These are questions you will have already asked yourself. The answers to these questions can be compared to find the best solution.

  • Talk to people: Ask around to find out what friends and people you know think about your product. Where did they buy it, and why? What was the deciding factor for their purchase decision? If you want to get neutral opinions, it is recommended to engage with other retailers. You will be able to meet them at trade fairs, training sessions, or specialised meetings you can find for instance at Meetup.

Inspiration, not guerrilla war

Draw inspiration from the analysis of your competition, but don’t copy them and avoid engaging in unfair practices like posting fake reviews on their shop or misleading comments on their social media. As a successful retailer, you shouldn’t need to engage in such practices in the first place, but, apart from this, if unveiled, they would lead to a huge image loss. Focus on collecting good ideas for your own company and market them in a smart way.

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