Understanding who your competitors are, how they’re positioning themselves, and which marketing strategies they’re employing is crucial for claiming and maintaining your own spot in the market.
But how do you go about that?
By running an ecommerce competitor analysis.
Why You Should Do an Ecommerce Competitor Analysis
Generally speaking, the goal of doing a competitor analysis for ecommerce is threefold:
- learning where you are now.
- learning how you can stand out.
- learning how you can get ahead.
Comparing what your competitors are offering with what customers want can help you identify a gap in the market and stand out. This relates both to the products you’re selling (quality, design, price) and to your brand character (for example, being funky and humorous in a market that’s known for boring advertising).
If you’re already running an established ecommerce business, a competitive analysis also shows you your position in the marketplace, which then allows you to alter or further strengthen that position.
Lastly, a competitor analysis indicates where your competitors are performing well, and where their processes and strategies are lacking. As such, you can save time by learning from and building upon the former while the latter offers you an opportunity to do better and get ahead.
How to perform an Ecommerce Competitor Analysis
You can run a competitive analysis for all parts of your business:
- customer support.
In this article, we’ll focus on doing a competitive marketing analysis. We’ll go over the different marketing channels to consider and list tools that will help you with your competitor analysis.
But first, we’ll go over how to prepare for your analysis so you’re sure to collect the data you need from the right competitors.
1. Set your goals
Before you start your competitor analysis, you need to determine what you want to learn. If you don’t, you risk focusing on the wrong things or missing crucial information.
A few examples of goals for your competitive ecommerce marketing analysis could be:
- find out which social media channels performs best across your competitors.
- analyze who is ranking well in Google and why.
- track what type of emails they’re sending their subscribers, and how often.
2. Decide on a tracking method
Once you’ve determined your goals, you can break these down into data that needs to be collected, how you’ll collect it, which team member will be responsible, and where they’ll log everything. In most cases, a simple shared spreadsheet is the best choice for the latter.
When you prepare your tracking document, make sure to also include your own brand. You’ll be analyzing your own marketing strategies alongside those of your competitors to be able to easily compare them afterward.
If you’re doing a complete competitor marketing analysis, create a separate tab or document for every channel. This will give you a better overview.
Here’s an example of a sheet you could use to run a competitive Facebook analysis:
3. List and rank your competitors
Now, it’s time to compile a list of the competitors you’ll include in your analysis. If you’ve done some market research already, this should come easy. If you haven’t, do a quick Google search for the type of products you’re offering and see who pops up.
A little harder is ranking them according to relevance. While you could certainly learn something from studying all of your possible competitors, that would take up a lot of time and the marketing strategies used by a brand catering to a different audience than yours will likely not be as interesting to you as those of a brand targeting the same audience.
To figure out which competitors to include in your analysis, give all of your competitors a score from 1-10 for the following questions:
- Do they operate in the same industry?
- Do they sell similar products to yours?
- Is their pricing similar to yours?
- Do they target the same audience?
- How big are they in terms of annual revenue?
Tally up the scores and you’ll see which brands to definitely include in your analysis. Pick a minimum of five to get enough data.
4. Start collecting data
Now that you know which competitors you’ll analyze and what you want to learn from them, it’s a matter of collecting the data to do your competitive analysis. Below, we’ll have a look at some of the marketing channels you can dive into and the tools that can help you analyze them.
Ecommerce Competitor Analysis Tools and Tactics
Email marketing competitive analysis
From welcome sequences to cart abandonment emails, email marketing has so much potential to generate revenue that you can’t afford not to include it in your competitor analysis for ecommerce.
- Which type of emails are they sending?
- How often are they sending them?
- What does their copy look like?
- Do they send a lot of promotions?
- What kind of product images are they including?
Use competitor emails as examples for your own campaigns and draw inspiration from what seems to be working for them. You don’t even need to manually sign up to a bunch of email lists or track an enormous amount of emails. Just sign up for MailCharts. We track hundreds of ecommerce brands and calculate data like email frequency and promotional rate so you don’t have to.
SEO competitive analysis
Figure out which of your competitors are ranking high on Google and how they made that happen. Things to look at are:
- which keywords they’re ranking for.
- how much organic traffic those keywords are generating.
- how many backlinks they have.
- which sites those backlinks are from.
- and to which pages they’re pointing.
Ahrefs and SEMrush are the SEO standards for backlink and keyword research while Surfer SEO is a great ecommerce competitor analysis tool to analyze the on-page features of competitor pages that are ranking well.
Paid advertising competitive analysis
Lots of ecommerce businesses get started by running paid ads but it can become a costly affair quite quickly. Try to gauge whether your competitors have managed to get a good ROI on their ad spend and compare their paid advertising efforts with how well they seem to be doing on other marketing channels. It may just be that they’re spending a ton of money on ads because they haven’t nailed SEO or email marketing yet.
Use SpyFu to find out exactly for which keywords your competitors bought Google Ads, how much they paid, and how many clicks they got. Additionally, you can look up all the ad variations they’ve run over the last 15 years. This gives you a wealth of data on the type of campaigns that did well for them, and which type of ads you may want to avoid.
To know which Facebook ads a brand is currently running, go to their Facebook page and click the “Page Transparency” box in the left sidebar. A pop-up will open. Scroll down and click “Go to Ad Library”.
Social media competitive analysis
The great thing about social media marketing is that it’s out in the open. Not so great is that you get the best insights by manually going through your competitors’ social media accounts to see which of their content is performing best, how often they’re posting, and whether they’re using a specific format or style.
There are, however, a few tools that can be helpful with finding social media content that performs well:
- BuzzSumo shows you which content on a website gets the most social engagement.
- Hootsuite allows you to create feeds for just the social media content of your competitors so you can keep an eye on all of their accounts in one spot.
- Mention helps you track mentions of both your brand and your competitors’ across social media channels. This makes it easy to keep track of, for example, complaints people have about your competitors so you can do better.
Combining Everything into an Ecommerce SWOT Analysis
When you’ve gathered all the data you need on your competitors’ marketing strategies, you’ll already be able to spot some opportunities. While you could stop there and base your further analysis on the data in your spreadsheet, it can be helpful to do this in a more structured way: by running a SWOT Analysis.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and Weaknesses are things you can control, like the quality of your products and your customer support.
Opportunities and Strengths lie outside of your control. You can prepare so you can benefit from or respond to them when they happen, but you can’t influence their occurrence. They’re things like a competitor launching a new range of products or the economy taking a hit.
Map out your own strengths and weaknesses against the opportunities and threats you spotted during your competitive analysis to act on your growth potential and anticipate possible problems.
Now that you know what is and what isn’t generating results for your competitors, it may be tempting to copy the good and discard the bad but by doing that, you’d leave a lot of opportunities on the table.
Instead, use what is and isn’t getting your competitors results as the basis to further develop your own marketing strategy. The goal isn’t to copy. It’s to take what works, improve what doesn’t, and add your own brand flavor.
While you don’t want to get paralyzed looking at what your competitors are doing, it’s a good idea to repeat your competitive analysis periodically. Especially when it comes to marketing, social media algorithms change, Google updates happen, and your competitors might just figure out how to adjust to them sooner than you do.
By performing an ecommerce competitor analysis, you can save time figuring out what works within your industry, find a gap to position yourself in, and turn your competitors’ weaknesses into your strengths.
Make use of the tools listed above to analyze your competitors’ social media, SEO, and paid advertising strategies. To keep an eye on their email strategy, sign up for MailCharts and instantly access a wealth of ready-to-use ecommerce email data.