If you think about it, it’d be great if all marketing plans include competitive research strategies. After all, your competition is exerting tons of effort to take business away from you.

This is especially true if they’re a well-established business with a strong online presence.

Luckily, no matter how new to the online world your business is, there are ways to seek your biggest competition.

And from there, you can identify how they’re promoting their own brand and glean some ideas for your own marketing plan.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to find out who your competition is so you can check out their marketing tactics and build your own business.

1. Define Your Competition

It’s not a good idea to lump all your competition into one large group.

That’s because there are two types of competition out there vying for your target audience:

Direct Competition

Direct competitors are companies that market and sell the same exact products and services as you. These are the businesses your customers will research when comparison shopping.

How you stack up against your direct competition influences people’s purchase decisions.

Indirect Competition

Indirect competitors are companies that don’t sell the same products and services as you but compete digitally for site traffic and your target audience’s attention.

This type of competition publishes similar content and likely uses the same keywords as you.

Before you try to find out who your competition is, it’s a good idea to know the different kinds. After all, you’ll want to make sure you’re studying the right competition.

If you spend all your time monitoring indirect competition, your sales might suffer.

Rather, you need to hone in on those that are selling exactly what you’re selling to make improvements to your own product line, email campaigns, and social media posting.

When you need to make improvements to your site’s content and rank higher in search results, that’s when you should focus on those that are targeting the same keywords as you.

There is a distinct difference when it comes to your competition types and knowing the difference will save you a lot of time and effort. Plus, it’ll bring you the results you want.

2. Ask for Customer Feedback

One of the best ways to identify your direct competitors and see what they’re doing is to ask your current customers.

Soliciting customer feedback using a tool such as WPForms is a great way to find out which businesses or products/services they were considering before they decided to buy from you.

After you find this information out, you can begin your research into their marketing techniques to see why they were on your customers’ radar in the first place.

You can also ask what kinds of things influence their purchase decisions, what you can do to improve, products and services they’d like to see you offer, and so much more.

There are also other excellent survey form solutions such as SurveyMonkey that can help you discover where your customers may have purchased from so you can dig into why.

3. Check Online Communities

84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

But do you know where your target audience is going to find those recommendations?

Besides the obvious (visiting business websites directly), your customers are often visiting online communities like social media, Reddit, and Quora asking others for advice.

Reading through conversations that relate to your industry can help you identify direct competitors that are selling what you sell too.

For instance, let’s say your customer wants to buy some women’s shoes online, but they aren’t sure where to find the best sales.

They might check Quora for recommendations.

From the first answer, you can already see that Nordstrom is being recommended as a great place to find a sale.

And to top it off, there’s a marketing strategy nugget right there in the answer:  sales are an everyday thing for some online businesses.

Knowing that sales are an everyday thing with some eCommerce stores can help you improve your own sales promotions and secure you more online sales.

After all, businesses that offer deals to their customers often generate more money and create loyal, repeat customers.

Better yet, knowing what your competition is offering as far as discounts are concerned, and beating them at their own game, is an effective way to convert more customers.

If you need to dig deeper, check out the Related Questions section on the right and see what other people are recommending.

4. Analyze Google Search

Identifying indirect competitors is just as important as finding out who your direct competitors are.

Sure, they don’t sell any products or services you do, so they aren’t stealing customers away from you in that sense.

However, they are stealing potential site traffic that could land on your site instead and convert as customers.

Besides performing keyword research using tools like SEMRush, Ubersuggest, and Ahrefs, go right to the source itself – Google – and find out what websites are publishing content that relates to your business.

To start, have a good idea what your business’ main keywords are, as well as the value proposition your company holds to be true.

Then, enter your keywords into a simple Google search and see what pops up. Ideally, your website’s content, products, landing pages, etc. will be number one.

But we all know that you can’t land the number one spot in Google every time.

When you enter your company’s keywords into the search box, you’ll see information such as:

  • Places to shop online, complete with product images
  • Nearby physical stores that may or may not have an eCommerce site too
  • Top search results ranking based on keywords, traffic, site speed, relevancy, and other SEO ranking factors
  • Paid ads encouraging people to click and buy
  • Related search results that others looking for your keyword enter into Google when they don’t find what they’re looking for.

But the main thing to focus on when you perform this strategy and are looking for indirect competitors is the content using your keywords to drive traffic to their site.

As seen in the example above, when searching the keyword “best women’s shoes,” the blog post 30 Best Walking Shoes for Men and Women 2018 pops up.

This is an indirect competitor that does not sell women’s shoes but may draw potential leads away from you by enticing people to read their blog content and look elsewhere to buy.

Make sure you read the content that you find in these kinds of search results.

Then, create content that’s bigger and better to outrank them in search results and draw people to your site instead.

And lastly, find out which direct competition they’re recommending so you can spy on their marketing techniques too.

5. Discover Best-Selling Items

If you have a Shopify store or a dropshipping business, and you want to find out who your biggest competition is, you can start by entering site:myshopify.com ”yourkeyword” into Google.

For example, let’s say you sell tennis shoes in your Shopify store. You’d enter site:myshopifystore.com tennis shoes into Google’s search bar.

When you click search, the results will display Shopify stores using that particular keyword.

Once you determine which Shopify stores are direct competitors, you can add /collections/all?sort_by=best-selling to the end of their Shopify URL.

You’ll then see what that Shopify store’s best-selling products are so you can compare them to what you offer in your shop.

This technique is especially helpful for those using the dropshipping business model and a dropshipping management solution like Oberlo.

Here’s how:

  • Oberlo provides online shop owners with access to trustworthy suppliers worldwide so you can select from thousands of great items and add them to your store.
  • Oberlo also gives you access to in-depth product statistics on trending products, so you know the ones you choose to sell are already popular.
  • If you pair Oberlo’s marketplace insight and supplier access with the Shopify strategy outlined above, you’ll have an entire arsenal of top-selling items to pick from that you can add to your online store that you know your target audience will love

It’s not enough to know what products are selling well in the general eCommerce landscape.

You must dig deep into what your competitors are offering customers and sell those same items, but at a better price.

Final Thoughts

In the end, knowing who your direct and indirect competition is will help guide your own marketing strategies.

After all, if you know who is selling or promoting what you have to offer, you can check out their blog content, landing pages, value propositions, social media networks, ranking keywords, and more to get ideas for your own business.