Starting a business, regardless of its industry, means watching out for fierce competition. Even if your ecommerce business has incredibly unique offerings or services, it’s probably not the first company of its kind to enter into the market. Ecommerce businesses will have plenty of direct competitors to watch out for, many of which may be covered in their business plan. There may even be indirect competition in the form of businesses that later prove to have a competitive edge.
Staying one step ahead of the competition doesn’t mean you should ignore them. On the contrary, your ecommerce business should be mindful of everything the competition does well—and what they flop at, too. Keep one eye on the prize for small business success and the other eye diligently monitoring competitors with these tips.
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1. Read industry reports.
Before you can conduct a deep dive into companies competing with your business, you’ll need to have a thorough understanding of your own industry. Do you run a consultancy where you advise businesses on their corporate culture? Check out the strategic planning guides provided by Gartner. Read their special reports that may illuminate trends in your industry, such as “Five Things Inclusive Leaders Do Differently.” You may also find additional forecast and insight information through market research company Forrester.
One of the best ways you can stand out and remain ahead of the competition is to understand your industry, inside and out. Know what’s trending and buzzworthy and how your ecommerce business can contribute to that conversation.
This is a bit more strategic than popping onto the competition’s Facebook page, scrolling quickly, and leaving. You should be able to thoroughly study their social pages and come away from each one with key takeaways about aspects they are successful in and where they are making mistakes. Take the following into consideration as you monitor a competitor’s social media accounts:
- Where is the competition at on social? Examine the platforms that your competitor is visibly at and where they do not have a presence. Remember that no business, including your own, needs to be on every social platform if the market isn’t there. However, it may be beneficial for your ecommerce business to jump on emerging social platforms other competitors are not on yet, like TikTok, where a relevant audience may discover and learn more about your offerings.
- What is the competition posting? Is their content fun and creative, or professional and instructional? How often do they post? What kind of media is it, from video to photos?
- How does the competition engage with their audience? You may find some companies don’t respond back to their fans, or use a canned response when they do. Use what you’ve learned to establish an engagement strategy for how to reply to fans in a timely, thoughtful manner.
3. Read their online reviews.
Chances are high that competing companies have Yelp and Glassdoor accounts. These pages can give you a closer look into the competition’s internal process. Are customers satisfied with their experience at this business? Do the employees enjoy working there?
Take notes about what customers and employees like and dislike about the business. While your own ecommerce company should always be able to differentiate itself from the crowd, you’ll have a better understanding of how your offerings and team can provide an experience to these customers that the competition cannot.