Of the five steps involved in Browser Media’s CRO Process, the first involves the most manpower: Analyse. We gather user data, we conduct customer feedback surveys, and we dive into market research to identify if and how your website is underperforming, and start to pinpoint opportunities for improvement.
Competitor analysis is a big part of this first stage and it involves stacking your website up against the competition to determine what (if anything) makes you stand out, how customers (or would-be customers) think of your competitors, and how your user experience fares against theirs. Here’s how to fine-tune your competitor analysis and put it to good use.
The who, what, when, and why of competitor analysis
Before you kick off your competitor analysis, make sure you know why you’re doing it. Is this about site structure? Is it about your brand’s message and how you communicate it? Or are you simply looking to devise ideas for a/b testing? This will determine how you’ll conduct your research, and keep you focused on what you’re trying to achieve. There’s nothing to stop you returning and reconducting your analysis with different goals in mind (this is the when), getting others involved for a chance to gather differing opinions (and that’s your who).
Conducting your competitor analysis
1. Identify your competitors
You probably have a handful of competitors you’re constantly referring to, but in order to make sure you’re not missing anything, you should still check for any new kids on the block. A simple Google search should throw up your main threats. You may want to check who’s using your favourite business-related hashtags, who’s dominating Facebook, and maybe who’s giving LinkedIn a go too – depends on your industry.
2. Request user feedback
Not only could you reach out to your customers to ask if there was anyone else in the running before they chose you, you could ask users for their opinions of competitor sites. At Browser Media, we use UserTesting.com to invite participants to complete tasks on our clients’ sites, as well as a couple of their competitors’, gathering their feedback as they go. You could request they use Google to find a competitor and ask them what made them click on the result they chose.
3. Test competitor sites yourself
It can be difficult to keep an open mind when reviewing a competitor’s site, which is why user feedback is so important, but it still pays to record your own user experience when performing tasks such as moving through the sign-up process, or completing a purchase via the checkout. Make sure to note down any perceived barriers to conversion, as well as anything you particularly like, for instance, a method of cross-selling that catches your eye.
4. Compare communication of value propositions
Your main selling point, your value proposition, the thing that makes you attractive to customers, should be the most memorable aspect of their visit to your website. To be in with a shot of standing out in the crowd, you need to know what your competitors are saying and how they’re saying it. Note how they describe the things you’re already offering, and how they describe the things you’re not currently offering.
5. Identify commonalities
… and how you might break away from them. Just because “everyone’s doing it”, doesn’t mean you should be too. Changing up your homepage’s appearance, or adjusting your landing page’s layout could be all it takes to make you more memorable than the competition. Maybe you’re making the navigation more simple, maybe you’re delivering a message in a more engaging way, or maybe you’re simply improving the user journey.
Competitor analysis is not about copying
There are those that make their own plans and won’t deviate, ignoring the competition, but they risk not understanding the threats they pose to business. On the other hand, it’s easy to become obsessed with tracking what your competitors are doing and blindly copying them, but that shows a complete lack of imagination, and could spell trouble if what you’re copying doesn’t actually work.
Instead, be inspired by what you see, and use your knowledge of what competitors are doing to regularly fuel test designs. If you see something you like on a competitor’s site, don’t just nick it and use it yourself. Instead, devise a testing hypothesis and run an a/b test to determine how best to implement what you like, to make sure your users like it too.