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what-is-competitive-analysis

It doesn’t matter how beloved a brand is – undying consumer loyalty is never guaranteed. It takes constant competitor analysis to ensure your place in the market – but what exactly does that mean? And is it really that big a deal?

Times Have Changed

The answer to the latter question is yes – it’s a huge deal.

Brands in the past may have been impervious to losing customers if their reputation was well established – but that was all before the internet and social media existed. Now consumer loyalty can be swayed by price, ease of shopping experience, negative customer reviews, or just another brand being considered trendier than yours.

For brands to survive, they have to be aware of everything consumers think and feel, and how that impacts success in their industry and category. It’s a tall order – which is why competitive analysis is so important.

But what exactly is competitor analysis, to answer our earlier question? It’s more than simply comparing yourself to competitor sales or rankings. In fact, if the only thing you look at are known competitors, you’re only doing one-third of the job.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Four Facets of Competitor Analysis

Using social listening and social monitoring tools, there are four basic facets you want to explore and track over time:

1. Where your brand stands with your audience

Before you can contrast against competitors, you first need a baseline of how your audience views your brand. What are you doing well, what do they wish you’d fix, and how much do these things matter? We’ll talk more about that last bit shortly. For now, the idea is to understand your place in the landscape as a starting point.

2. Where known competitors stand with your audience

Your audience doesn’t belong solely to you – but that’s not a bad thing, it’s an advantage. Analyzing them allows you access to everything they think and feel about your competitors too. So how are the biggest rivals faring in their eyes? Where are they succeeding and failing? This information is crucial to your competitive strategy.

3. Unexpected competitors you’re ignoring

If you’re paying attention, your audience can lead you to competitors you didn’t even know you had. Many hotel brands must wish they’d paid closer attention to Airbnb earlier in the game, and retailers couldn’t have predicted the power of Etsy – unless they’d been tracking consumer trends on social. Don’t assume you already know all your competitors – or you’ll be caught off guard by the next disruptor.

4. Industry and category trends

Don’t narrow your focus so much that you miss the big picture. Yes, individual competitors matter, but so do category and industry trends. A great way to beat competitors is to be first to embrace a new technology – like AI – or to respond to any overarching trend about to break. Just be sure it makes sense for your particular brand or you’ll have the opposite results you’re aiming for.

Sentiment as a Lens for Viewing All Competitive Insights

The way to ensure you’re making smart decisions is by using sentiment analysis to support your social listening and social monitoring efforts. Aside from pointing you to where consumer attitudes about your brand (and others) fall on the positive and negative spectrum, sentiment analysis offers triage by way of Passion Intensity.

The most passionately negative issues indicate problems in need of solving – while the most passionately positive opinions tell you what consumers love the most.

As the NetBase Industry Report 2019: Retail shows, Customer Service is an area Burberry and Gucci need to put first

This helps you prioritize your approach in every area analyzed – and there are several to consider, if you really want to understand competitors at every level.

Competitor Analysis Breakdown

Audience segments

You should already be using segmentation to individualize messaging for the various like-minded groups within your audience. But when you start exploring beyond your own brand, new segments may emerge based on new variables your competitors bring into the mix.

Are these segments you can serve by recognizing they exist, or by offering more than your competitors are? We’ve seen how identification of new audience segments has inspired brands like Arby’s to take action to delight consumers.

If your competitors treat their audience as one big group, you’ll make a bigger impression by seeing them as the individuals they are.

Channels

Are you reaching your audience everywhere you could be? If you haven’t analyzed your competitors’ channels, you might be missing a core segment.

It’s all about discovery. You might be having great success on Facebook or Instagram, but if your competitors are actively pursuing Tumblr or Snapchat, you have to investigate to be sure you aren’t missing anything.

Audiences aren’t identical from brand to brand, of course, even within a single category or industry – but don’t assume you know everything about yours without at least exploring beyond those boundaries.

Content

Similarly, content preferences change frequently enough that you should track what’s working (or not) for competitors and compare against your own results. Allow yourself to be surprised – and be sure you’re monitoring social in real-time.

Agencies like Moxie make this a habit, identifying content that appeals to the audience shared by client brands and their competitors, and leveraging it for their clients’ use within just a few hours – or less. This is how you stay ahead.

Influencers

It’s not just content that matters – it’s the people cultivating engagement for your competitors, or your audiences. Influencers are more powerful than your own messaging because they’re perceived as another consumer voice – versus that of an advertiser.

There’s an inherent trust – even with celebrities – because the information is coming from a single person, versus a global corporation. This makes choosing the right influencers a crucial skill – and timing is everything.

If you see your audience responding to an influencer, snap them up before the competition does. Just do your due diligence so you don’t end up regretting anything. And study the way consumers respond to the influencers of your competitors – and learn from those interactions.

Products and Campaigns

As you gauge audience response to competitors, pay careful attention to how they respond to marketing campaigns and new product ideas. You can learn a lot about what not to do and save yourself time and money by not making the same mistakes.

Additionally, you may recognize consumer needs your competitors miss – like demand for a product no one is making. Take on that challenge and be the one to deliver on something new that will turn consumers into customers.

McDonald’s let these shenanigans go unchallenged…

Customer Service and Crises

Do the same with customer care issues – especially with competitors who aren’t quick to respond. With so many people turning to social when the customer experience is lacking, you have a lot of opportunity to be the hero with competitors who aren’t paying enough attention to their customers.

Be cautious when things ramp up into crisis mode, however. Trying to capitalize too eagerly on a brand going down in flames might burn you in the process. Monitor the situation, along with social sentiment, and take care of consumers’ needs if it makes sense to.

Otherwise use social insights and work quietly in the background, ready to strike when the moment is right.

Competitor Analysis Is a Process

For competitor analysis to be truly successful, it must be continuous. Trends change quickly, so you can’t take your eye off the ball.

Make use of regular competitor analysis reporting to stay on top of how your reactions to competitor social data is succeeding. Set new goals according to the insights coming in, and track and adjust progress as you go.

The competition will never know what hit them.

For more about the different types of social analytics tools and how to use the, read the rest of our comprehensive series:

Ready to put the competition on notice? Reach out for a customized demo of our competitive analysis tools today!

 

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