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How is Competitor Research Different in eCommerce? How to do it right?

Competitors are one of the most influential elements in the external environment of a business enterprise. And every business enterprise is a competitor to other business enterprises in the same market. What you do, affects your competitors, and vice versa. This necessitates that every business enterprise keeps a tab on their competitors and their activities. The objective is to formulate better strategies and decisions for the business. Competitor research is the answer.

Ecommerce is already a fiercely-competitive channel. If you are not already an established brand, it can be difficult for your brand to grab attention. You may think that your business model and business plan is perfect but your competitors could make it shallow with a few strategic decisions. But you also have the same advantage if you have the right competitor research and analytics at your disposal.

In this blog, we shall delve more into the relevance of and strategies for competitor research in eCommerce.

Identifying the Market Leaders and Direct Competitors

It is important to know who your brand is competing against. Three important parameters in classifying competitors are market leaders, direct competitors, and indirect competitors. You should avoid locking horns with the market leaders or the established players. For that, you must know who they are. They need not always be the big popular brands. The indirect competitors could be discarded because they compete for a sub-segment of customers within the same segment. Your emphasis should be on your direct competitors. Their activities have far-direct implications on your business than the market leaders or the indirect competitors. When you carry out a competitor research for your eCommerce business to identify competitors based on, say, domain traffic, the output visuals look as depicted below.

Pic 1:

Pic 2:

In the first visual, it can be seen that Hopscotch is leading the charts with traffic domination of about 97%. The brand has a high traffic volume but the traffic growth is low as depicted in the second graphic. The other nine players share the remaining traffic volume. Even within this share, the top three players are in close combat. Among them, Popees is the fastest growing brand in terms of traffic growth. With these insights, you are in a much better position to ascertain who your competitors are, even if you are targeting a new market with a new product line.

Assessing the Broad traffic Parameters to Individual Competitors’ websites

In the previous point, we saw the competitor-wise break-up of the total traffic volume and traffic growth rate of a list of competing brands. But we also need to see what interesting things happen within the individual traffic data points. Or let us say we seek to determine what audiences are doing after visiting each website. Let us anonymously take an eCommerce website and read its traffic data. The visuals are shared below.

Pic 3:

The total number of visits to the Commerce website stood at over 81k in a certain period. It indicates how times the website was opened. For simplicity’s sake, we are assuming that these are unique visitors. Although 80k visits may sound like a good number, the traffic volume has decreased by over 13% against the previous period. This particular competitor is losing its traffic. The average visit duration is the average time spent by a user on a website. This number stands at 02:12 which does not look sufficient for an eCommerce website. The bounce rate is averaging at 58% indicating the site is good enough to be able to hold back its audience. Lower bounce rates are better but the contemporary average levels are 50-70%. The bounce rate of your eCommerce site should be closer to those of your direct competitors.

Assessing region-wise attraction to competitors’ websites

Region-wise analysis of your competitors helps you in making many important decisions. Most importantly, it gives you a direct hint at where your customers are and which markets your competitors are focusing on. You can assess the data for an individual competitor as well. Take a look at the snapshot below of an eCommerce market research report carried out by YRC.

Pic 4:

Here, you could see that the majority of traction is taking place in the UAE. The other markets are far behind. Now, it is not difficult to guess that the UAE market is all steam. Are you then going to plunge into this market? Or are you going to choose a less competitive market? Of course, these are not stand-alone decisions but knowing which markets are hot and which are not helps you in making this decision. For example, Saudi Arabia has a larger population base than the UAE. If your offering is low ticket and could appeal to a wider customer base, Saudi Arabia could offer you a better market than the UAE.

Competitors’ Organic and Inorganic Efforts

With intensifying competition to grab customer attention on various digital platforms, eCommerce brands do not mind taking the paid promotion route. The inorganic strategies are effective in highly competitive zones. For instance, if you are an eCommerce brand dealing in perfumes in the UAE, organic tactics would not be very effective. But at the same time, if you are catering to a niche segment, say premium-quality affordable perfumes for office goers, you could still have an impressive outreach with organic efforts. See the visual below to see the split up of the organic and paid campaigns of a group of competing eCommerce brands.

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Top-searched competing products

As an eCommerce brand, you should always remain aware of the products that are intensely searched by customer audiences on digital platforms. Searching for a product may not necessarily lead to a purchase. But combined with other analytical insights, you get a decent understanding of the demand for various products in a given market. If you see the visual below Pic: 6, you could see that a particular highlighter is the most-searched product of a particular brand. This is followed by other beauty products along with their desired quantity-based packaging sizes. If you happen to be a beauty and personal care product brand, do any of your products compete here? If you are, you would be competing against these products for online searchability and visibility. If customers are looking for these products, it is worthwhile for you to assess the pros and cons of these products. Ecommerce market intelligence will not only help you in digital marketing but also in product development and determining the desired packaging sizes.

Pic 6:

Competitors’ social media presence

As social media is becoming a mainstream channel of mass communication, it provides a window for the eCommerce brands to connect and communicate with their digital audiences. This could be in the form of on-page advertising, influencer marketing, customer support, shopping platform, back-linking, recruitment, etc. It is a wide-open field out there to creatively and objectively market and manage a brand. With such possibilities, it becomes pertinent for eCommerce brands to assess how their competitors are leveraging social media in the management and development of business. For instance, if you are a sports footwear brand targeting some of the market regions of South Africa, knowing for what business reasons your direct competitors are using social media platforms could be vital information for you. Is it only for promoting their brands? Are they offering the option of selling from their social media handles? All these and other related questions could help you make good use of having a social media presence in relevant ways.

Payment Flexibilities Offered by Competitors

The payment methods offered by your competitors is something that should be readily replicated. This is a plain, straightforward advantage to customers. Nowadays it is not difficult to have in place multiple payment methods. There may be applicable regulatory norms to be followed. If you are delivering internationally, you will have to comply with the regulatory norms of the countries involved. You will also need to check which payment methods are popular region-wise. Ecommerce competitor research gives you a clear view of the payment methods you should consider.

Delivery Outreach of Competitors

Some eCommerce brands deliver internationally. Some international brands establish subsidiaries in other countries. Some are domestic brands. Some deliver only locally within a state. Depending on who you compete with and what markets you target is a determining factor of your delivery network coverage. If you compete with a brand that delivers across the country, your delivery chain must eventually develop that kind of outreach. If your competitors have limited delivery coverage, you stand a chance to capture a larger market share at the domestic level. Assessing the delivery of your competitors helps you adopt a better competitive stance.

UGC and Reviews on Competitors’ Products

UGC stands for User Generated Content. To enhance traction with audience and algorithms, social media handles of eCommerce brands encourage their followers to create content. For instance, giveaways are one of the most common tactics for creating UGC. Here, followers are asked to tag their friends, post a comment, use particular hashtags, etc. to become eligible for the giveaway prizes. These activities shoot up the popularity of the social media pages and enhance the pages’ visibility to a wider audience. Knowing how your competitors are creating UGC could help you come up with better ideas for the same to achieve better results.

A far more direct approach is analysing customer reviews on competitors’ products. Products with high ratings and a high number of raters almost always draw in new and repeat customers. How customers are rating the products of your competitors? Do the reviews seem authentic? Which products have maximum reviews? There could be hardly anything more genuine than customer ratings and reviews. This is needless to say that eCommerce brands do try to hide poor reviews and ratings. For YRC’s eCommerce market research experts, it is not difficult to draw the line and bring out the relevant insights.

No one could tell you what is going on in a market better than your competitors. This is not to villainize other players. You are also a competitor to others. The point is that their activities and actions are telling a story. Are you listening? Are you contemplating carrying out an eCommerce competitor research for your eCommerce venture? With experience in market research spanning over 10 years, Your Retail Coach has the team, the talent, and the contemporary eCommerce market research tools to guide you right through this.

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PROCESS AUTOMATION

The idea of having Ecommerce Consultants on-board from the beginning itself points towards reducing the involvement of the promoters in daily operations. Ecommerce Businesses willing to be a brand reaping profits & sustaining the competition must ensure that most of their processes should be automated. The more the manual intervention, the more would be the errors.

In Ecommerce business, you get only 1 chance to impress the customer & if you mess up there, you lose the customer for long.

Process automation in respect to all the activities pertaining to customers from order receiving to order fulfilment is a must for a seamless experience for the customers.

Task Management is another grey area where most deadlines fail as 90% of the tasks are assigned manually & are forgotten, unheard, misunderstood or mistaken.

YRC Team of Ecommerce Management Consultants helps to make maximum of the processes system-driven to ensure minimalistic manual intervention.

VIDEOGRAPHY & PHOTOGRAPHY

No matter how good your product is, the customer would know only if it looks good.

Photography includes the following steps:

  • Cataloguing your products
  • Cataloguing your images
  • Backup your images (A few cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa, Apple’s Cloud Storage etc.)
  • Choose the right camera & lens (You may also outsource the photography to a third party agency)

DIGITAL MARKETING

Digital Marketing includes SEO & SMM. SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization includes activities like back-linking, meta tags, blog-writing etc. to ensure your website ranks on the 1st page on Google Search.

Next comes SMM i.e. “Social Media Marketing” which as the name suggests including promoting your products on all the social media sites, email marketing, influencer marketing & several other BTL activities.

These activities are going to be recurring & would decide the traffic on the website, the conversions, whether the right target market is tapped, the likes, the views, the orders, the reviews & much more. YRCs Ecommerce Consultants create a budget for digital marketing right from pre-launch to launch & for each month thereafter.

Building digital marketing strategies in coordination with the agency, selecting them to signing them off would be the role of YRC.

This ensures seamless coordination, detailed interactions & desired execution as it is always advisable to work with a single agency than multiple of them.

IT INTEGRATION

Selection of the right software for smooth functioning of back-end operations right from production to webstore display would be suggested and integrated by YRC Team.

YRC’s Team defines SOPs of Product Movement, maps it with the locations & people. They then create a blueprint of all the features required in the software & help in shortlisting & selection.

IT Integration involves connecting your offline inventories with real-time online webstore so when a sale occurs, inventories get deducted real time across offline as well as online platforms.

This helps in accurate inventory management, maintaining the MOQs, re-order levels & achieving the optimum inventory levels.

Some popular software include unicommerce, viniculum for your front-end website management & Genisys for your entire back-end Purchase, Production, Accounting, Invoicing etc. management.

WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS PLANNING

  • How many cities or countries you wish to sell in?
  • Where should your Warehouse be located?
  • Should you have one warehouse in each country or city?
  • Should you be having your own delivery team in your base city?
  • Would the 3rd party vendors be reliable? What happens when they lose or misplace your product during delivery?
  • How should I manage the logistics if my goods are coming from different countries?
  • How should the goods be stored and barcoded?
  • How much space do I require for warehouse?
  • I am sure several such questions must be haunting you while you think of starting your own fashion ecommerce brand.

 

At YRC, our warehousing and logistics experts can help you devise a strategy for all of the above mentioned queries and much more.

We design the layout of the Warehouse considering the inward, goods processing, software entry, barcoding, outward, goods return, scrap storage, goods stacking & much more.

Logistics route plan is devised considering the manufacturer to your warehouse and from there to last mile delivery locations.

UI & UX DESIGNING

This Step involves 03 distinct parts:

Part 1: Choosing the right Platform:

From several platforms available in the market right from Shopify to magento, woocommerce, prestoshop, wordpress etc. you must choose the one that fits best for your business

Part 2: UX Designing:

“UX” denotes User Experience, which if put in simple language is building the functional requirements of the website.

UX Designing includes designing the features required in the website, customer journey map, website features, the browsing features, navigation features, ecommerce order management process flow, checkout cart features, catalogue management, ecommerce payment system, cross selling features & much more.

“As per statistics, 68% of the customers abandon the carts before payment”

An interesting UX ensures the customer sticks on to the website for a longer time.

Part 3: UI Designing:

UI stands for User Interface, which means designing the look and feel of the website. UI includes using the right colours, elements and the entire aesthetics of the website.

A good User Interface ensures the user completes the task that he has come for. It navigates the user through the journey of the brand in the simplest but most effective way.

The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements.

If User experience is the bare bone, user interface wraps it up with an attractive cape.

At YRC, our team if experts can help you develop the entire User Journey to ensure it is engaging!

SAMPLING & PRODUCTION

This step follows the “Designing” Phase, whether you have an in-house design team, freelance designers or an outsourced design company. It is one of the most exciting phases, as here you see your designs turning into products & your ideas turning into reality.

In most start-up cases, production is outsourced i.e. brands tie-up with the established manufacturers/ job-workers to get their products manufactured.

Sampling involves multiple 04 Stages, Fit-Sample, Prototype Sample, Pre-Production Sample & the Production Sample.

Prototype Sample is the first sample provided to the buyer. It can be in any fabric/ colour. This sample is just to understand whether the product design looks equally great in reality.

Fit Sample, as the name suggests is prepared to check the fit of the garment i.e. the various sizes, length, width etc.

Pre-production is made by the actual production line. Here the stitching quality and other aspects related to manufacturing are checked. This is the last stage where rejection can be accepted.

Production Sample is made before the production which is the replica of what is going to be finally produced.

Once you are through with all this, you are good to go ahead & get your goods manufactured.

PRODUCT DESIGNING / SOURCING

Product Designing or Sourcing is the heart of the Ecommerce Fashion Brand.

Product Designing / Sourcing can be done in several ways, as follows:

  • In-house Design Team
  • Freelance Designers
  • Outsourced Design Team
  • Ready Product Sourcing (From Manufacturer or Wholesaler)

At YRC, we evaluate your business strategy & business model to arrive at the decision, which of the above ways would be best-fit for your business. In certain cases, product sourcing may be a combination of the above.

These are the people who are going to build your brand! Whether they are the designers or merchandiser, your brand look is going to be in their hands.

If you are designing each garment from the scratch, the sourcing would play crucial role in developing design identity of your brand.

Sourcing includes fabric, trims, lining & all the raw material required to build the garment.

BRANDING

Branding is the “Look of the Brand”, right from logo to tagline, the colours used, the brand story, the brand communications on social media, the packaging & all the other aspects which speak directly or indirectly to the customers. Branding constitutes the look & feel of the brand & hence must be thoughtfully planned to match with the product that we are selling.

Branding must appeal to our target audience. Example : A golden colour logo depicting finesse, art, richness, premium, however beautiful it may be individually cannot go with a brand selling affordable kids wear products. So, your logo must be in-line with your brand positioning, whether you are an expensive brand or a luxury brand or a value for money brand, it must be depicted from your “Branding”.

It is an integral part to attract the target audience.

ORGANOGRAMS & SOP’s

Organogram is the “HR Blueprint” of the business which is created at the onset, to map out the team required across each function at various stages of the business. At the launch, only key people need to be got on board to ensure the project gets started & at this stage, all of them need to multi-task. Similarly, certain financial as well as operational goals are set for addition of the further team. Example, for the operations team, we hire 1 operations manager during the pre-launch phase & we add 1 more only when the business kicks-off & we reach a volume of selling more than 1000 pcs/ month or a turnover of more than 0.1 million USD.

SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures, a bible to run the entire organization right from Sales, Purchase, HR, Order receiving to Order fulfilment, Inventory Management, Accounts, Warehouse, Logistics, Supply Chain, Production & all the other relevant functions for the business. Business must be organized from its first day of operations; only then the tasks can be delegated.

At YRC, we design the organization structure, the processes, and approximate time taken to execute each process, job profile of every member within the organization, their KRAs, KPIs & the Reporting Structure.

CRITICAL PATHWAY

Critical Pathway Analysis (CPA), is a project management technique which cannot be overlooked while launching an ecommerce fashion brand. Brand launch process is cumbersome with multiple inter-dependent & time-bound tasks involved, which need to be tracked to ensure the project remains on track.

CPA outlines key tasks across the project, their turnaround time (TAT) & the dependencies of tasks upon each other. It identifies the sequence of tasks, their interdependent steps from inception to completion, their criticalities, and their dates of onset, target dates of completion along with the key responsible person for the respective activities. Critical Pathway helps in understanding the unimportant & not urgent tasks which may jeopardize the execution of the project because of an unexpected snag! It also maps out the potential bottlenecks which might be posed because of the dependencies of tasks upon each other & cases where the next task cannot be commenced before the completion of the previous one.

CPA detects the minimum & the maximum time involvement of a particular individual or team to execute the task, thereby arriving at the overall deadlines associated with the project.

At Your Retail Coach, we design the Critical Pathway & review it periodically to ensure the project is on track & the progress is measurable.

BUSINESS STRATEGY & BUSINESS PLAN

Business Strategy includes the vision, mission, goals, business model, business plan & strategy for all the functions within the organization.

Business Strategy is a well-defined plan that outlines who, what, where, why, how & when for the company; for example, who would be the target market, how to attract the target audience, when to launch new products, where to operate from, how to handle competitors, what would be the USP, what would be long term goal of the organization & several other answers to the 5Ws of Strategy.

Business Strategy aligns the organization towards a common goal. Business SWOT helps company to identify & overcome their weaknesses & focus to sharpen the strengths. Business strategy forecasts future risks and helps business in building skillsets to overcome the potential threats.

YRC’s Business Plan focuses on creating a “Blueprint” of the business, thereby deriving the feasibility of the concept & gauge whether the opportunity is lucrative to invest time, energy & effort. Business Plan creates cash flow understanding i.e. building inflow & outflow cash projections from Week zero to week 60 i.e. 05 year projection. Business Plan calculates the capital investment, operating costs, one-time costs, recurring costs & all the other numbers relevant to obtain the breakeven sales, return on investment, return on capital, internal rate of return & several other ratios. Business Plan is also one of the important requirements if you are targeting the “Investor Route”. Fund raising becomes extremely transparent & channelized. With business plan panned out clearly, the business will know until what point must it be stretched & where to stop, which reduces the probability of unplanned investments.

MARKET RESEARCH

Starting the concept of Ecommerce Fashion brand with Market Research ensures we get detailed understanding of the industry & this research report also acts as a social confirmation for your concept. Market Research helps in understanding the target locations, their population, potential online buyers for your product, competitors for each category, and top selling products of the competitors, competitors’ price range, offers & their responses & much more. Market Research helps in thorough understanding of your brand position as compared to our competitors. It helps in identifying gaps in the market, in your category along with the scope of the said product in the desired market. This will help in validation of your concept & prevents you from making the same mistakes as your fellow brands, eventually saving your time, energy & efforts. This phase is also a make or a break phase, as the market research study may at-times come up with some eye-popping numbers & statistics which might compel you to re-think on your product or category that you are planning to sell or alter your entire concept itself!! Market Research Reports analyse the competitors’ webstore for their traffic, conversion & sales. This is extremely valuable information to derive our inventory budgets & projections, which takes us to our next phase.