There are newer methodologies available to assist you in learning more about your competitors. This can be difficult to do traditionally, and can be costly and time consuming. Below are some ideas for capturing key insights about your competitors and staying in front of them when it comes to customer service, product offerings, and other key points of the customer journey.
Mystery shopping: if you’re employing a mystery shopping company for your business, why not open it up to measure your competitors? Many businesses have taken advantage of this with positive results.
What it will tell you: mystery shopping the competitor can be useful in learning more about customer service levels and procedures, how sales associates present information about products similar to what you carry, and view the customer experience through a set of objective eyes. A narrative based report will give you the “meat and potatoes” of the experience, giving you insight without ever stepping foot in a competitor’s location.
How it’s done: some companies will use the same report that they use for their business to have shoppers report on competitor locations. Because most mystery shopping programs are customized to measure your company’s specific standards, this is not always beneficial. Your mystery shopping provider can create a more generalized survey with standard key customer service standards to be used for this purpose. With this approach and a narrative detailing the shopper’s experience, you can learn quite a bit about your competition.
Social media monitoring: many social sites are open, but Twitter is the best for easy following of others. While the more bold companies will choose to directly follow the competition, others turn to social media monitoring for this purpose. By using a robust monitoring program, companies can monitor online conversations about their own company and competitors quickly and easily, capturing all online conversations that are related.
What it will tell you: a successful monitoring program can give you invaluable information, including:
- Finding out if a competitor is having financial troubles, or on the flip side, expanding faster than you first thought.
- Learning more about their customer base. In many cases, when customers are engaging with a brand, it’s very easy to identify them on social sites and start following/engaging with them, especially if it’s a dissatisfied customer of your competitor. It’s an easy way to turn the tables and gain some new customers.
- Find out your competitor’s “pain points.” Customers are very vocal and often times more honest when engaging with friends and family on social media. Find out what customers are dissatisfied with from your competitor and gauge your marketing message to address these.
- Learn about promotions and events. Is your competitor doing something “outside the box” with regard to events and/or promotions? Was it something you were considering yourself but weren’t sure of the reception it would receive? Especially with events, location based social monitoring can give you insight into customer perceptions and success – by essentially creating a social “fence” around the event location, you can capture social media content from the area, even if the user doesn’t use a hashtag for the event or reference it in the caption directly. This is a newer technology that can bring a lot of real time insight for your company or your competitor.
How it’s done: by using a service provider that is familiar with the ins and outs of social media monitoring, you can set up a regularly monitored program. Just identify the competitors you would like to monitor and you’re done. You will receive weekly reports that include all collected conversations, including user names and handles of those talking about the competition, allowing you to add them to your own social networks. Using the analytics system will allow you to dive further into the data collected, finding themes and areas for further investigation.
Location based monitoring can be used for events once your service provider knows the dates, locations, and time frames for the event. The data will be captured in a similar manner to social media monitoring, but will be provided at the end of the event. This program also provides analytics to dig deeper into the content collected.
Keeping tabs on the competition is nothing new, but technology and new uses for old methodologies can make it much easier than it was in the past. Hopefully these tips will give some food for thought on scoping out your competition.