First Steps… In Online Retail – Competitor Analysis

Highland Dancing Competition - Dornoch Highland Gathering 2007Firstly, this post is not a free pass for sneaky tactics! But nor should you miss this step out from your planning because it feels a bit, well, grubby…

If you’re going into buisness then you need to understand your competition. You need to know what their strengths are and you need to be laser targeting their weaknesses. The only way you will be able to do this is if you have done some competitor research.

You need to do competitor research to understand:

  • What markets or market segments your competitors serve
  • What benefits your competition offers
  • Why their customers buy from them

And as much as possible about their products or services, their pricing, and promotion (or marketing) tactics.

An easy way to start is go online and research the top 10-15 companies listed on google for your top keyword.

  • Note down what products the websites sell,
  • Which stockists do they use?
  • Their pricing strategy – are they aimed at the luxury market or the lower end?
  • Make notes on their website’s usability – can you move around easily or is their website confusing?
  • Place some orders and see what their customer service is like.
  • Look for any online articles or press releases (google for more information)

If they are Limited Companies you can actually have a good old nosy of their accounts which are downloadable for a a few quid over at the Companies House website. This may give you an idea of what a realistic turnover may be. Also make a note of what trade shows (if any) they attend or exhibit at during the year.

Make sure you are noting all this information down – I use a notebook for research as well as a spreadsheet. Sometimes I’ll have a thought and need to quickly note it down before I forget. A mind map is another useful research tool.

From your competitor research you should try to identify your own market niche and your competitive advantage. Something that your competitors aren’t doing that you can do or some way to improve (and better) what your competitors currently offer. For example, for children’s parties, I might notice that few businesses offer “all-in-one parties in-a-box” type of services. I would note that down and do further research to discover whether this is a product that customers may wish to buy.

Competitor research is a vital part of planning your new business. Always think “What can I do better?” and “what can I offer that the competition don’t?”

Creative Commons License photo credit: foxypar4

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