Rethink competitive analysis

Solution owners have the responsibility of performing a competitive analysis for an eCommerce team. It’s the process of knowing exactly how your site compares to the competition. We define if we are ahead, behind, or on par with key features that the industry and customers require. I’ve seen projects justified in the name of competitive alignment and at a larger scale entire strategies formulated in order to copy the competition.

But who says the competition is right?
Are they right because they are your competitor? If a competitor has an eCommerce site with a certain feature does that mean that my site must have it also? The answer is maybe. But it’s not your competitor that defines what is right, it’s your customers.

A better way to perform competitive analysis
First look at your customer input from tools such as surveys, web analytics research, and suggestion boxes. These tools will tell you what features customers value, those they don’t, and those they wish they had. This gives you the success factors or features to use in a competitive analysis grid. In other words, rather than using your competition as the baseline for success, use input from your customers.

It’s a multifaceted solution
When we start with what our customers are asking for first, we get a good view at the important features for the entire industry. This will provide some insight into competive analysis activities for new competitors or competitors with complementary products. Additionally, the will of the customer should be and is a much stronger position for project justification than merely copying a competitor.

Competitive analysis does have merit
With a thorough analysis you can see how you stack up to your competitor in meeting what customers value. You may have advantages in some areas and be behind in other areas. Plus, defining how you differ from the competition is one step towards creating your value proposition for prospective customers and investors.

Solutions ownership and competitive analysis are part of a complete eCommerce organization. See my mind map for an eCommerce organization for further thoughts on this topic.