Industry

Spying on the Competition: What’s The Best Way to Do It?

By Kexin

November 20, 2018

What is comp shopping?

Comp shopping effectively helps brands and retailers monitor their competitors, forcing them out of their bubble to explore the variables behind their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. It is crucial in allowing businesses to adopt strategies that have been proven to work and to avoid costly ones that don’t.

Traditionally, comp shopping was a laborious process that involved visits to competitors’ physical stores. In the recent years however, brands and retailers have been expanding their presence online in a bid to become omnichannel and behold, a new method of comp shopping arose; a digital one.

What are the differences between the 2 methods? Should one be preferred over the other? How can brands and retailers utilise comp shopping- whether physical or digital- to get ahead? We answer these questions below.

Physical Comp Shopping

The orthodox method of comp shopping requires a brand to scour the brick and mortar stores of competitors to conduct their analysis. Physical comp shopping allows for the review of the visual merchandising and retail standards of competitors; how assortments are presented in the storefront, how trends are displayed, how mannequins are styled and how promotions are highlighted are all important factors to consider.

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, thereby encouraging engagement and purchase.

 

Physical comp shopping specifically takes into account the touch and feel factor. This 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 store, giving them a better understanding of the actual fit of various products.

Besides that, assortment strategies can be identified by studying the mix across stores catering to their specific location and consumer profile. For example, stores that are largely demographic driven would find retail stores located in central business districts stocking more work and formal attires, likely with heftier price tags. On the other hand, stores closer to schools or universities would prioritise trendier pieces with lower price tags to cater to a younger and more trend conscious demographic. Understanding the category mix in stores allows brands to curate core and non-core products effectively that maximises sales opportunities. The average depth of in-store products can also be gauged through physical comp shopping, especially on volume drivers where products are stacked on fixtures within reach.

Brands are also able to put themselves in the shoes of their competitors’ customers and gain qualitative insights by inquiring about key trends or bestsellers while experiencing the store’s customer service. Lastly, physical comp shopping allows brands to monitor the footfall traffic of their competitors; eyeballing walk-ins and conversions by taking note of customers that actually leave the store with shopping bags.

Digital Comp Shopping

However, besides physical comp shopping, an alternative has been on the rise. In line with the growth of digitalisation in retail, there has been a gradual shift to digital comp shopping. Digital comp shopping is a viable alternative when traditional methods are met with restrictions. With more retailers rapidly migrating towards e-commerce to better meet customers’ demands, comp shopping is at its peak of convenience as retailers are able to browse through assortments from competitors with just a click of the button.

Boohoo’s mini dresses display on the website.

A quick view of Boohoo.com’s Dresses page reveals an interesting and deliberate visual merchandising strategy. Each row is carefully curated to create a cohesive product page. In this case, all the above are mini dresses with the centre three sharing even more similarities; all are bodycon dresses with metallic and glitter elements. Solid coloured dresses are displayed on either end of the row to create a balance.

In another example from the Dresses page, Boohoo utilises different styles of photography to keep customers engaged by alternating images of the model in full view with close-up shots.

Digital comp shopping allows for a more holistic understanding of brand positioning and strategy as all items are visible online and easily viewed within a single screen. Valuable information from assortment mix to pricing and markdown information are available in just a few clicks.

Shein.com’s sales banner includes multiple sales displays with call to action on the homepage to lure viewers.

When it comes to promotion visibility, physical stores may not have the capability of conveying the mechanism as clearly. Certain stores may not have promotional items set up during the time of visit, whereas online surveying allows for constant display of such items during its duration. Digital comp shopping also allows daily monitoring which helps brands map out discount cycles of their competitors.

Findings from comp shopping activities are also shared with designers and merchandisers in order to build a strategy around assortment, pricing and merchandising. With digital comp shopping, more comprehensive information sharing methods can be conducted. Clearer and more structured images with accurate measurements can be shared with minimal effort. Not to mention the geographical convenience that online surveying offers, allowing brands to analyse their competitors from continents away. Digital comp shopping also eradicates the restrictions of weather, store operating hours, crowds and even heavy traffic. Essentially, it can be done anytime, anywhere.

Filling in the Gaps

As more businesses start to adopt omnichannel strategies to increase sales, relying solely on physical comp shopping is no longer sufficient, despite its strengths. The gaps of physical comp shopping, can however, be filled with the digital method. Physical comp shopping can be extremely time constrained and restricted, a stark contrast to the convenience that digital comp shopping offers.

Moreover, a limited scope of survey could also be a major issue when conducting physical comp shopping. Brands will have to remain inconspicuous and rely on memory when shopping, resulting to a limited scope of survey of a handful of items per category. Despite its convenience over its physical counterpart, digital comp shopping could also be time consuming given the abundance of online stores available. An solution to that would be adopting an integrated system that serves as a one stop shop for retail data.

Cross compare multiple retailers at one go by analysing their performances and assortments.

The Omnilytics dashboard, for example, solves this by being a data analytics platform for users to study, with over 75,000 brands to choose from.

The Best Strategy

So, which is the best way to conduct comp shopping? Physical or digital? The answer lies within a careful combination of both; beginning the journey online before moving on to physical stores to validate specific findings. How brands or retailers choose to balance between the 2 methods however, is dependent on their overall business and who their competitors are. Ultimately, the best comp shopping strategy is one that harnesses the strengths of both methods.

Want to know more about how the Omnilytics dashboard works to strategise your collection? Drop us an email at info@omnilytics.co and we’ll be in touch!

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