How to Gather Competitive Insights to Boost Your Business

How to Gather Competitive Insights to Boost Your Business

Written by Leong KexinMay 20, 2020

How to Gather Competitive Insights to Boost Your Business

Competitive insights are pivotal information to help you reach your business goals. In monitoring the competitors’ positioning, brands can identify opportunities and risks and grasp what consumers are engaging with.

It is crucial to adopt strategies that maximise sales – and to avoid costly ones that don’t.

Traditionally, brands acquire competitive insights through comp shopping – a laborious process that involves visits to competitors’ physical stores. In recent years, however, brands and retailers have been expanding their presence online in the race towards omnichannel.

A new method of comp shopping arose: digital comp shopping.

What are the differences between the two methods? Is one better than the other? How can brands and retailers utilise comp shopping – whether physical or digital – to get ahead? Are there other methods that could provide a more accurate understanding?

We answer these questions below.

Gathering Competitive Insights Through Physical Comp Shopping

The orthodox method of comp shopping requires brands to scour competitors’ brick and mortar stores. Through physical comp shopping, brands are able to review competitors’ visual merchandising and retail standards.

Visual merchandising goes far beyond just window displays. Strong visual merchandising has the ability to draw customers in with its strategic use of colours, patterns and product placements.

It also takes into consideration the flow within the store itself to create a better shopping experience, which encourages engagement and purchase.

The touch and feel factor is at the core of physical comp shopping. This analysis validates the actual materials of products, styles and features and can be cross-compared with prices. Buyers or merchandisers can also try on items in the store, giving them a better idea of the actual fit of various products.

Analysing the category mix in stores allows brands to understand the demand for different consumer segments. For example, stores that are largely demographic-driven are typically in central business districts and stock more work and formal attires, likely with heftier price tags.

On the other hand, stores closer to schools or universities would prioritise trendy pieces with lower price tags to cater to a younger and more trend-conscious demographic. 

Brands can also gauge the average depth of in-store products, especially on volume drivers where products are stacked on fixtures within reach. Additionally, brands can get a feel of the overall customer experience through the store’s customer service.

Lastly, physical comp shopping allows brands to monitor a store’s footfall traffic. Eyeballing walk-ins and taking note of customers leaving the store with shopping bags provides an estimate of conversions.

A Different Perspective with Digital Comp Shopping

More brands and retailers are migrating towards e-commerce, and consumers are shopping online at a record rate – especially in a social distancing era.

Digital comp shopping is now necessary, and not only when the physical counterpart is not feasible. It is especially crucial for brands with an online presence to gain an edge on the competition.

Digital comp shopping consists of online surveys – browsing through the competitors’ retail website to gain findings.

Gathering competitive insights through online survey
Cohesive visual merchandising strategy. Source: Boohoo

A quick view of Boohoo’s new-in page reveals an interesting and deliberate visual merchandising strategy. Each row is carefully curated to create a cohesive product page.

In this case, product images in each row are of the same backdrop. Moreover, each row consists of products of the same pattern or styles for a visually appealing consumer experience.

Gathering competitive insights through online survey
Grouping similar products together. Source: Boohoo

In another example of Boohoo’s thematic visual merchandising, each row focuses on a specific category. Face masks are displayed together while reserving animal print and leather – a classic pairing – for their own row.

Gathering competitive insights through online survey
Stay on top of your competitors’ promotional activations. Source: Shein

Digital comp shopping is superior when it comes to promotion visibility. In physical comp shopping, promotional items are not always visible during the time of visit, whereas such items are on constant display online. Daily monitoring of digital platforms also aid brands to map out discount cycles and key promotional periods of their competitors.

Brands can share clearer product images with accurate measurements with designers and merchandisers through digital comp shopping. The geographical convenience is also a bonus, permitting brands to analyse their competitors from continents away. Digital comp shopping also eradicates the restrictions of weather, store operating hours, crowds and other disruptions.

Filling the Gaps with a Competitive Insights Platform

As more businesses go omnichannel to capitalise on increased online traffic, relying solely on physical comp shopping is no longer sufficient.

Digital comp shopping provides a more holistic view but has its drawbacks. With the abundance of online stores available, drawing conclusions from online surveys is a time-consuming task. 

Crucially, neither method validates the retail strategies employed by competitors or consumer demand.

While physical and digital comp shopping help brands understand what their competitors are doing, it does not reveal what consumers are buying, as each brand or retailer employs its own assortment, pricing and merchandising strategies.

To drill down on the right tactics to emulate that would drive sales, a data-backed solution is necessary to fill in the gaps.

Competitive insights platform
A competitive insights platform pulls up the data most important to your business for easy navigation. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

A retail insights platform like the Omnilytics dashboard provides an integrated system that serves as a one-stop-shop for competitive insights. With data from upwards of 75,000 brands in over 40 countries, in-depth competitive insights can be acquired in just a few clicks.

Data can be surfaced for a high-level overview of the competitors’ performance, with additional features for increased granularity.

Build a commercial assortment and identify the right prices, effective discounting strategies and distribution channels to accurately meet consumer demand and boost sales.

Further Reading: The New and Improved Fashion Competitor Benchmarking for Speed and Precision

The Best Strategy

So, which is the best way to attain competitive insights? Physical, digital, or the data-driven approach?

The answer is a mix of all three.

Physical and digital comp shopping remains relevant, but validate the findings from these methods with data before going to market. 

Ultimately, the strategy is one that harnesses the strengths of all three methods.

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