Credit card frauds, phishing scams, and frauds by customers are challenges that online stores can overcome by deploying secure coding practices and a robust seller-buyer management program. The biggest challenge e-commerce players face today is innovation. Innovating the next best thing or a feature that improves customer experience by a notch is undoubtedly the biggest challenge.
Also, customers gauge on-site experience by comparing one platform with the other hence spying on your contemporary becomes an important part of CX innovation. With competitive intelligence, e-commerce executives can read into the next big change popular e-commerce platforms are coming up with.
What is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive intelligence is about gathering information like pricing, structure, and process flow chart through legitimate and ethical research. Often carried out on a prime competitor, such researches are ethical and cannot be labeled as a breach.
Agents who conduct these researches rely heavily on annual reports, monthly decks, and balance sheets published by organizations or third-party audit agencies. By reading into these prestigious documents, enterprises can develop an understanding of methodologies followed by their competitors to achieve specified goals.
Competitive intelligence is different from espionage and illicit hacking because it never breaks into a system; it is more of research that is customized to suit the industry and its varied nuances.
Why Studying your Competition is Important?
- 64% of customers compare products online before making a purchase
- Price is secondary but early delivery and easy returns are primary influencers
- Customers are betting their money on players who are innovative
- 80 out of 100 people are willing to go with a business that is continuously introducing them to new products, services, and experiences
- E-commerce players that offer multi-payment option and pickup facility are likely to win
Information sources for online and other searches include:
- Company websites for insights into target audiences or shifts in strategy, product pricing, and product benefits, and so on.
- Company press releases for a new product, staff, or expansion news.
- Social media postings, particularly if the company begins sharing information related to a product or service that hasn’t yet been introduced.
- Company information aggregators such as Dun & Bradstreet or Hoover’s Online.
- It’s also possible to gather relevant competitive information by talking to people inside and outside the company.
Example of Competitive Intelligence from Other Industries
Competitive intelligence is not a new practice; varied industries have been relying on it for ages to develop an edge over their competitors. While such practices offer incomparable benefits in terms of cost-cutting and saving manpower, it often backfires because enterprises blatantly copy campaigns that worked for their competitors.
Irrespective of all the challenges, competitive intelligence continues to be one of the most exciting tools in the arsenal of digital businesses. Here’s how popular industries have been using it
Example 1: Airline Tickets
Airlines have leveraged competitor intelligence to identify the right pricing for a ticket and then convincing customers to buy from them. Such effective use of research and competitor study tells us how pricing continues to be an important decision influencer.
If you look closely at these campaigns, you will realize competitive intelligence works best for smaller routes, since experience hardly matters, customers are looking forward to paying the least possible amount for flights up to 1 or 2 hours.
Example 2: Investment Trading
Well, the masters of the stock market use competitive intelligence for both their personal gains as well as for community benefits. Often masters discover stocks their competitors are betting on and then use the information for minimizing their loss and building a reputation that helps them get more money.
In the recent past, the stock market leaders have developed tools and methodologies that automates all such processes and makes it easier for them to predict the next big jumping stock.
The stock market is undoubtedly the best example of how competitive intelligence cuts both ways. If it can help you gain the requisite momentum, it can also push you into losses.
Example 3: Tech Startups
Be it competitor benchmarking or compression rate analysis. Tech Start-ups are always focused on beating their competitor because it helps them establish the next Market Standard.
In the start-up world, first movers always end up grabbing the biggest market share and not the organization with the best product. In an industry, where being the first mover is important, competitive intelligence can help enterprises be the fast mover. Start-ups can leverage this research to develop abilities that can help gain the requisite momentum.
How E-commerce Players Can Succeed with Competitive Intelligence?
India is among the fastest-growing e-commerce markets. Amazon and Flipkart are the leading players in the country. Earlier these two players tried to get in exclusive partnership with product companies to spread their dominance. OnePlus was releasing their phones exclusively with Amazon while all mi TVs were taken by Flipkart but a circular by the central government has stopped them from getting into an exclusive partnership with brands.
Now OnePlus phones are available on both Amazon as well as Flipkart. Now that the status quo is reversed, customers have more options to choose from and it stops the monopoly of digital players.
Customers now visit both platforms before buying a product, while a huge percentage of users are likely to go with their preferred platform, around 10-15% of users are expected to consider the price they are paying hence the platform that offers the best deal will win.
To ensure that a lot of people continues to by OnePlus from Amazon, they will leverage competitive intelligence to identify
- The price at which Flipkart is selling it
- How fast they are delivering it
- What additional card based discount Flipkart is offering
- What are the products recommended through up-selling and cross-selling tabs
By conducting such intricate competitor analysis, Amazon can use price matching features and also generate more revenue by recommending relevant products and shipping products at a faster rate.
2. Ad Benchmarking
Almost every e-commerce player bets big on their best selling products because
- It is easier to grab the attention of customers with these products
- The chances of products getting returned are less
- Customers are likely to show it off and tag them, which brings in free marketing
- They are quality products and have huge positive reviews, which simplifies decision making
Since a good number of online platforms are promoting their best-selling products through Facebook ads, it gets easier for new players to identify products that sell the most. Such an intricate level of competitive analysis can reveal
- An array of popular products (if you benchmark multiple platforms)
- Ad Copies that works the best
- Kind of offers that simplifies decision making
- Additional products that are promoted through “recommendation tabs”
Here’s how to use competitor intelligence on Facebook Ads
Step 1: Visit the Facebook page of e-commerce player
Step 2: Click on See All on the Page Transparency section
Step 3: Click on Ads from this Page
Step 4: Select Go to Ad Library
There you can see all the ads run by the Facebook Page of an online store. Other things you can view here are
- Areas these ads are running in
- Age of targeted audience
- Product copy
- Kind of images used for promoting these products
- A little research can help you identify the budget too
3. Search Marketing
Search engines like Google and Bing have evolved the years. Earlier, websites with higher keyword density used to rank at the top but now search intent is used to rank pages.
Nowadays, website pages that match the search intent of customers rank higher. Such evolution has changed the way webmasters optimize their pages. Earlier, search engine optimization was the popular method to go by but nowadays, search intent optimization is leading the way.
If you are starting a new e-commerce store that offers great makeup products and has no idea how to optimize your product pages for search engines then it would be a good idea to study competitors like “Nykaa” and “Myntra”. Traverse through their product pages looking for
- Keyword density
- How well-written their product descriptions are
- Kind of images they are using and whether they have alt tags
- Keyword usage in titles
Such a meticulous study of the competitor’s page will help you identify the best practices for search intent optimization. Running such an intelligence study for millions of product is not possible, if you decide to have an in-house team for it, you will have to spend millions on it. Outsourcing catalog management to players with proven expertise can help new players gain an edge over their competitors because
- Professionals will ensure consistency throughout the varied catalogs
- Ensure all attribute values are added correctly
- Put forward the best application of the product and drive more sales
4. Product Selection
72 of 100 people are likely to visit Amazon over Google for discovering new products simply because it has more products. Having more products is a way of succeeding in thriving markets like India and Singapore.
The more products you have, the better the chances of up-selling and cross-selling. With over 12 million products, Amazon is undoubtedly the most preferred platform for online shopping.
By leveraging competitive intelligence e-commerce stores can go past their prime contemporaries. Here are some of the most common ways of identifying the bestselling product but remember the key to success lies in adding these products to your platform and not just discovering them.
- Read into the annual reports for highest selling categories
- Talk to sellers and logistics partner for identifying top-selling products
- Read into reports that highlight challenges, it often mentions products and categories
- Listen to industry leaders speaking at conclaves
- Spy on their Facebook ads
- Read the complaints by customers on Twitter
These are some of the common ways of identifying top-selling products, you can also hire industry experts who rely on proven technology and methodologies for identifying the bestselling products and sellers.
5. Website Design
We all have read journals about “customer experience being the new key differentiator”, well it is true and organizations are investing in CX innovation to offer the best on-site experience. Amazon is one of the leading players because it has mastered the art of curating an exceptional experience. If you look into the 10 CX lessons from Amazon, you will realize, how this online store plans all their campaigns and product selection based on how customers react to it.
By putting customers at the center of everything, online stores can create an experience that brings them both a loyal audience and growing revenue. By making little changes to their online platform, e-commerce stores can witness a monumental rise in sales and revenue.
Amazon is continuously investing in research that helps it create new widgets and on-site features that improve overall customer experience. By running competitive intelligence studies on Amazon, new e-commerce players can cut-short the chase and gain heavily.
Here are some of the unique on-site features that Amazon has
Birthday Reminder Feature: If you have a kid or niece you want to send gifts to, you can just the fill their date of birth on Amazon and the online platform will send you an email with
- Customized list of products based on age, gender and location
- Exciting discounts and card-based offers
- Reminder about upcoming birthdays
Other features Amazon uses to offer quality experience includes
- Best-seller in the category tab
- Request a callback feature
- Choose your pickup location
- Amazon Pay, shop now Pay later feature
The initial success of e-commerce players has got the venture capitalists excited. Now they are willing to put money in online stores and exit like the Flipkart investors exited after Walmart acquired it.
While ample funding is available and e-commerce stores have enough budget to acquire new customers; players focusing on customer retention will only make it to the winner’s list. Leverage tools like competitive intelligence and you will be able to create a successful online store, fast. By gauging multiple competitors simultaneously, you can create a new and exceptional platform that beats them all.