Competitor benchmarking – keeping your customers close… but your competitors even closer!

by Donal O Nuallain
25 Apr 2017
1 minutes to read

It is always a good idea to keep an eye on your competitors. When it comes to their online presence, checking what your rivals do can show you what works well for them. This process is known as benchmarking and it works by observing your peers and putting yourself in the shoes of a customer that is using their website.  The idea is not to copy what your rival is doing but to pick up tips and tactics that you might apply to your own online business.

So how do I benchmark my online presence against my competitors?

When benchmarking your online presence, the first thing to do is to set up a worksheet so you can track competitors’ performance in various categories.  This could include pricing, use of product images, payment options, delivery options, use of social media etc. This is something you can do regularly to keep up to date with your competitors.

We recommend that you choose 2-3 direct competitors and 1-2 indirect competitors outside of your industry category. This is a great way to get new ideas. The next step is to create a matrix which lists the names of your chosen competitors and the topics of interest to your business, for example:

– Social Reach and Engagement: Look at their social media presence, the number of total followers and level of social engagement on these channels. How do you compare?

– Website UX: check out competitors’ website design, functionality, navigation, look and feel, the quality/interactivity of content.

– The online buying/checking out process: what steps do they have in their purchasing process? How many delivery options do they offer? Have they solved any problems that you currently have with your shopping cart?

– Online Engagement: Use of email – do your competitors send out numerous, different emails to catch consumers’ attention after they have moved away from the site?  Do they use abandoned cart reminder emails to target consumers who started to fill out a form to buy something but abandoned it before completing the purchase? You can check this out by registering your email address on the website.

Take a note of the different experiences for each direct and indirect competitor in your matrix. Then look at your own business – do you measure up? Are there gaps in how you engage with customers? Are there areas for improvement? Are you lagging behind in terms of innovation and best practice? Do you have clear standout strengths in certain areas?

We recommend that you create an action plan and set targets so you can track improvements.

Make use of free benchmarking tools

In order to help you with this process, there are a number of free or trial-based tools and resources available.

1. You can discover a lot of useful insights about competitors through your own Google Analytics. You can choose from over 1600 industry categories within the Benchmarking reports section. The data can be further refined by location and other classifications, allowing you to compare your website against those with similar traffic levels in your industry. You can also compare your own analytics data – time on site, bounce rate, the number of pages viewed, total users – with that of your competitors.

2. Alexa.com is a benchmarking site where you can evaluate competitors’ online performance such as website traffic, statistics and analytics. They offer a free 7-day trial, which can help give you ideas to grow your traffic.

3. Twitonomy allows you to get analytics on competitors’ tweets, retweets, replies, mentions and hashtags.  LikeAlyzer helps you to measure and analyse the performance and effectiveness of your competitors’ Facebook pages.

4. Mention.com will give you a top-level understanding of social media sentiment towards your competitors and the number of times they are mentioned across social channels.

Set diary reminders to carry out a repeat benchmarking exercise in in 3-6 months’ time. Make it a regular part of your business and ensure you are on top of the latest and best practices in your industry.

Want some more tips on how to grow your business online? Click here to learn how to build a content calendar for your business. We’ve also recently written about how to start planning your website build and how to make Irish people spend money online with your business. 

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