How to Conduct a Retail Competitor Analysis for eCommerce

Monitoring your competitors can help you spot trends, anticipate shifts in the market and stay on top of best practices for your retail site. But this isn’t a simple task. eCommerce brands need to monitor competitor content, visibility and product offerings across every digital channel. A retail competitor analysis can help with this.

 

What is a retail competitor analysis?

A competitive analysis for retail allows brands to compare and contrast competitor products and eCommerce marketing strategies with their own. By collecting and evaluating competitor data, brands can understand what tactics work best within their industry and among their target audience.

The process of conducting a retail competitor analysis will vary hugely depending on your brand’s goals. If you want to improve your D2C store, you could focus on comparing competitor websites. If you’re looking for marketing inspiration, you could look at social media and PPC campaigns. You could even concentrate on a particular marketplace, like Amazon.

Ideally, you should look at all of these channels in order to understand your store’s overall performance.

 

Why is a retail competitor analysis important?

Retail competitor insights are useful for tons of reasons. Here are just a few of them:

Brands can keep up with the latest trends

Consistently researching retail competitors is a powerful way to ensure your brand doesn’t become complacent and consistently stacks up against the competition.

It allows you to benchmark your store against competitors’ and identify new trends, technology and marketing tactics that will help you stay ahead of the pack. In the world of eCommerce, monitoring competitors is particularly important because all these things can change so fast.

It helps eCommerce brands identify risks

Because the online consumer journey isn’t linear, competitors are presented with opportunities to steal your prospects away through the use of search ads, product listing ads and other online marketing methods.

Conducting a retail competitor analysis will ensure you’re aware of any attempts to distract your prospects from the sales funnel. You can then increase bids and run campaigns to combat this.

It highlights marketing opportunities

Keeping an eye on the competition also pinpoints ways that brands can distract competitor prospects from their path to purchase. For example, you may see opportunities to improve your presence on review sites or work on your Amazon rankings. Having this information at your fingertips will enable you to make better business decisions.

It can reduce costs

By looking at retail competitor insights, you can figure out both the advantages and the pitfalls of potential strategies – without investing in costly and time-consuming campaigns yourself. This can help you discover effective ways to get ahead and stand apart from the crowd.

 

How to do a retail competitor analysis

While the process of conducting a retail competitor analysis is flexible, here are six essential steps that every eCommerce brand should take as part of it.

1. Set objectives

First of all, it’s important to establish what your objectives are. Perhaps you want to improve your marketing messages or find new product opportunities. Maybe you want to improve sales across your retail network or boost your D2C presence.

Whatever your objective, stating it clearly will allow you to perform a competitor retail analysis that provides the information you need to meet your goals.

2. Choose competitors to examine

Select 5-10 companies to include in your audit. Some of them should be well-known to you, but try to include some competitors that you haven’t checked out before.

You can conduct searches on Google and Amazon to find newcomers. With the help of a Where to Buy tool, you can also examine basket-level data to understand what products customers tend to buy alongside, or instead of, yours on third-party marketplaces.

Include direct competitors who sell similar products to a similar audience, as well as some

indirect competitors, who sell different products or have slightly different audiences.

3. List the questions you want answered

Once you know what your objectives are, you can set out key data points that you want to gather. Simply writing down the questions you want answered is a great way to get started.

You’ll probably want to define each competitor’s target audience, USP, price points, shipping policies and sales channels.

Beyond this, you could consider examining website features, marketing channels, advertising strategies, marketplace product pages, SEO tactics and content types.

4. Find the answers

To gather insights, you’ll need to assume the role of a potential prospect and check out what your competitors have to offer.

Subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on social media, check out their promotions, analyse their store’s layout and abandon your shopping cart. It’s also a good idea to read reviews to see what wows their customers most. Then, your store can figure out how to offer something more.

There are also lots of tools you can use to facilitate data collection. There’s software for social media monitoring, such as Falcon.io and Sprout Social. Semrush and Ahrefs are ideal for running SEO audits, checking backlinks and identifying competitor keywords.

Owletter and SendView offer data on competitor email campaigns, while Built With or WMC will automatically run webstore comparisons for you. You can also use company directories for fast insights into your competitors’ finances.

Old-fashioned market research will tell you a lot too. Add questions about your competitors to surveys, questionnaires and focus group interviews to get more in-depth perspectives.

5. Put it all in a spreadsheet

Set out all your key data points in a spreadsheet and create columns for each of your competitors. This way you can easily track, share and update the data you collect in an organised and logical way.

This will make it easier to make comparisons and spot trends. It makes sense to create different tabs for each channel you analyse.

6. Perform a SWOT analysis

Consider doing a SWOT analysis to accompany the data you collect. This is a handy way to create an overview of your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You can conduct one for each of your competitors too.

This will quickly highlight areas of your eCommerce strategy that require improvement, as well as areas where you hold a competitive advantage.

 

Key metrics to include in your retail competitor analysis

The metrics you monitor as part of your analysis will depend on the questions you want to answer, but here are some key metrics that every brand should try to collect.

  • Market share: You can easily calculate the share of search of each of your competitors to estimate their current market share. All you need is a keyword tool. This will tell you a lot about a competitor’s success and how much of a threat they pose to your brand.
  • SEO analysis: Look at organic traffic, rankings, domain authority, backlink volumes and organic keywords to assess your competitor’s success on Google. If you sell products on Amazon or eBay, you should check out their rankings and keywords there too.
  • PPC performance: Noting down competitor keywords, bids and PPC traffic on Google will provide the insights you need to improve your own product ad campaigns.
  • Social media metrics: By tracking competitors’ followers, posts per week and active channels, brands can learn how to boost their own engagement and spot gaps in the market for social commerce.
 

More ways to stay ahead of the competition

The results of your retail competitor analysis will provide you with inspiration and next steps for your own eCommerce strategies. But here are some extra tips for staying ahead of competitors.

Reduce distractions with Buy Now buttons

Because competitor search ads, organic content and product listings can appear when a prospect searches for your brand on Google or Amazon, it’s a good idea to implement a Where to Buy solution on your website. This minimises distractions by using ‘Buy Now’ buttons to send shoppers directly to your product pages on Amazon, eBay and the rest of your retail network.

Take advantage of retail media

When conducting your retail competitor analysis, you’re bound to see opportunities to place retail media ads above your competitors’ listing. So don’t be afraid to advertise your products across your retail network to win the digital shelf.

Implement new technologies

Simply adapting to new technology will ensure you keep up with your most innovative competitors. This will help you stand out from the crowd and create a better customer experience too. Look to AR, VR, voice search, shoppable media and other new technologies to gain a competitive advantage.

Final thoughts

eCommerce technology, marketplace rankings and customer expectations are constantly changing, so it’s important to continuously keep an eye on your competitors. You’ll need to revisit your original insights on an ongoing basis to ensure you’re working with up-to-date data.