How to Research Your Competition on E-commerce Marketplaces
For better or worse, the e-commerce space has been booming over the last few years, and whether you’re able to get ahead of the curve or whether you end up left behind comes down to one thing: staying competitive. Although digitalization was already underway, a few social-distancing mandates made the move online non-negotiable. While the surge online was in many ways convenient for brands who already had their e-commerce platforms sorted out, eventually, this surge also brought challenges. Mainly, saturation.
Suddenly, every brand and every shopper was online. This means that brands who were used to the locality of in-person shopping and marketing suddenly had to grapple with having everybody, anywhere as both a potential customer and a potential competitor.
Now that the online space is saturated, customers are flooded with options for just about every product — how is your brand supposed to stand out from the virtually countless options? In a term: e-commerce competition research.
What is competitor analysis?
Those three words aren’t terribly difficult to understand on their own. “E-commerce competition research.” In short, and naturally, they describe the research you perform around understanding your e-com competition, and around how you can leverage what you’ve found to become more competitive. Things might be a bit more challenging if you were to ask yourself, “What’s the first step?” Here’s a hint: find out who your competitors are!
Once you know who you need to be researching, you can (keep reading to) find out about what kind of research you need to be doing and how you need to be doing it. That’s easier said than done, of course, if you don’t know who to research in the first place.
Fortunately, discovering who your competitors are isn’t always terribly difficult. Three of the most useful ways to zero in on your competition are: surveys, Google, and social media.
The first one is so obvious that it can go overlooked often and easily. Need to know who else your customers are considering? Ask them! Designing good questions that request useful data from your customers is an incredibly powerful tool in general, and offering incentives for responses can be a great way to boost participation.
Next, how do you think a lot of (potential) customers end up deciding between your brand and another? By seeing what pops up first on Google, of course. How can you know what other brands are popping up for your customers? By searching on Google.
It’s no surprise that SEO plays a big role in what your competition might look like, but the beauty of it is that that same SEO makes using the search engine algorithms to identify your competition very straightforward. Just Google important keywords related to your brand and see who pops up consistently.
Finally, social media has become one of the most important channels for marketing and conversion in the industry. Everybody being pushed online means that you’re going to have to meet potential customers where they are: on their feed.
By checking relevant keywords and hashtags on social media, you can see how your brand stacks up to others, and which brands are in more or less immediate competition with your space.
What does marketplace analysis look like?
You’ve found who your competitors are. Fantastic. What’s next? Exactly what might be the most important details to consider might depend on your specific product space, target consumers, and competition, but there are a few marketplace data that are indispensable to research for everybody.
First, what marketplaces are your competitors on, and why? If you’re the only one on a certain platform, run your numbers. Are you dominating a space that your competitors haven’t found yet, or are you throwing money at a platform you shouldn’t be on in the first place?
On the platforms you should be on, check out how your listings match up with those of your competitors. How do your prices match up? Are you significantly “overpriced” compared to your competitors, or could you increase your margins?
Check to see what reviews are highlighted on competing products, and how reviews stack up with yours in general. Even if it’s not in-person, seeing is still believing. Look at the product images your competition is using, and if they’re performing better than you are, note what the differences are in all of these categories.
These are all important and necessary research strategies to employ, but the unfortunate drawback to note is that you can only do so much of this by hand. That is, of course, if you’re not employing some next-gen tech, like Artificial Intelligence.
With a tool like Amber AI, you can run a lot of this same research on a much larger scale, all at the click of a mouse. Pair this with other tools for e-commerce competition research and you’ll have a bird’s eye-view on the competition in no time.
Turning data into results
Finally, it’s time to reap the fruits of your labor. Pouring all of the time, effort, and money into research only makes sense if you’re going to make changes to your e-com marketplace listings — unless your research shows that you are absolutely dominating the industry in every metric, you have changes to make!
The precise changes to be made, unfortunately, might not be incredibly straightforward to identify. Your product images might need improvement, but there’s no reason to think copying your competitors’ style is going to pay off. You likely have different brand personalities, different styles, and likely slightly different targets.
That being said, knowing a change needs to be made at all is the first step, and often a challenging one to make. The next stop in the process? Lots of smart, quality, and controlled testing!