How to conduct a competitive analysis with the help of surveys

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Customers are more curious and have more choices than ever before. For businesses to thrive, getting ahead of their competition and remaining relevant is a necessity—and it’s only possible if you have an in-depth understanding of your marketplace. It's key to learn about the scope of the competition and the characteristics of the key players, know who your competition is, and anticipate their moves. 

While this may sound a little overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be with the right tools and resources. You can get a grasp on your competition through a survey-driven competitive analysis. SurveyMonkey can equip you with the tools and surveys to help identify how to better position your business, so you can better serve your customers. 

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What is competitive analysis?

Competitive analysis is also sometimes described as competitor intelligence research. The purpose of this type of research is to identify each of your competitors, gather, analyze and apply business information, and to perform an in-depth assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. Through competitive analysis, you might focus your attention on aspects of your competitors’ offerings such as their:

  • Websites
  • Product and service offerings
  • Pricing strategies and pricing effectiveness
  • Marketing strategies and campaigns
  • Social media presence including 3rd-party review sites and customer reviews

Your focus should be on tracking products, prices, staffing, research and development, and other factors to provide granular and actionable insights that you can use to your advantage. By gathering a range of information like this, you can get an understanding of your competitors’ strategies and tactics in order to obtain insight into their day-to-day operations, improve your own core competencies, and make smarter business decisions that give you a strategic advantage.  

Why is competitive/competitor analysis important?

The importance of competitive analysis can’t be overestimated. Industries are dynamic, everchanging, and always subject to external forces—like the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. Because the market is always evolving, it’s important to proactively and routinely measure the business landscape that your company operates. Given the fast-moving pace of the market, successful companies are those with large-scale competitor analysis programs built into the foundation of their marketing strategies. These companies can capitalize on the weaknesses of their competitors and hone in on their own unique strengths.

Benefits of competitive analysis research

Set benchmarks

Although it focuses on what competitors are doing, competitive analysis research gives you an overview of your own business, and helps you to benchmark its performance across multiple levels. It can help you answer questions such as:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your products, services or brand, compared to those of your competitors?
  • Are you performing better or worse than your competitors?
  • What is unique or distinct about your products?
  • What could you be doing differently or better?
  • How can you get ahead in your market?

Gaining answers to these questions and more can help you gain a stronger understanding of the market and improve your ability to target customers and identify prospects.

Learn more about SurveyMonkey benchmarks and how you can set your own.

Predict changes in the market

The market knowledge you capture through competitive analysis is crucial in helping you to identify patterns in competitor and consumer behavior and emerging trends which you can use to make predictions about the way the industry is going. It also makes it easier to spot whether, when and how competitors are responding to new trends and innovations, and can help you to develop strategies for setting yourself apart from the competition. Carrying out in-depth market research therefore gives you critical foresight into the market’s potential, which you can use to make operational, strategic and tactical changes as part of your overall competitive strategy. 

Finetune your overall business strategy

Defining your business strategy is notoriously challenging. Get it right, and you’ll put yourself ahead of the pack, but get it wrong, and the costs are enormous. Competitive research can help you take the guesswork out of the strategy formulation process because you’ll learn what your competitors are doing, and whether their strategies are working. For instance, if you find that a similar sized competitor is managing to grow sales by maximizing leads from its website every month, you can use that as a guide for building your own growth strategy. So, competitive research helps bring clarity to your strategies, and help you to better understand what you’re doing well and what’s keeping you lagging behind rivals.

Optimize decision-making

Once you’ve conducted competitive analysis, you’ll be armed with a wealth of valuable information about what your customers want (and don’t want), whether their needs are currently being met, and how well your competitors are performing, relative to you. This is vital information in developing things like your pricing strategies, marketing materials, brand positioning and more, increasing the chances that your strategies will resonate and drive success.

Improve your returns on investment (ROI)

All business initiatives, whether cost-cutting exercises or new product developments represent investment that comes with some degree of risk. Armed with the right data about your strengths and capabilities relative to your competitors, however, you’ll be better placed to direct investments towards those initiatives that have the best potential for success. When risk is reduced and indecision removed, you’ll soon see greater returns on your investments. 

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How to conduct competitive analysis

So, if you perform comprehensive competitive analysis, you’ll be in an excellent position to build strategic advantage. But, how do you do it? Follow these 4 key steps to conduct a successful, insightful competitive analysis:

Step 1: Build a framework

When undertaking any type of market research, your first step should involve building a framework for what you want to find out. The key to effective strategic competitive analysis research is gathering enough information that will help you to understand your competitors’ current strategies and actions. In the first case, you’ll need to define who exactly your competitors are and understand your competitors’ offerings and value propositions. We recommend defining all major competitor attributes such as their name, website, sales pitch, mission statement, products and/or services offered (with pricing), strengths, weaknesses, and their key differentiators.

Step 2: Select top competitors

The next stage of the process is to select the competitors you’ll be focusing your research on. We recommend distinguishing between the following different types of competitors: 

  • Known, direct competitors: These are mostly competitors that are most similar to you. Not only are these the ones that sell similar, substitute products to yours, but they’ll also be the ones that are most similar to your business in terms of size (e.g. employee numbers), number of resources and market positioning. Gathering data on these competitors will help you identify opportunities for gaining a competitive edge, for differentiating yourself, and for appealing to the same customer base.
  • Indirect competitors: These are those that are in the landscape are those that may offer similar products or services, but which may be in an aligned industry or which may differ from you in market positioning and size. For instance, exercise classes and dieting books serve some of the same clientele but are in disparate industries. Collecting data on competitors like these can help you learn more about customer preferences shaping demand and sales, new trends and opportunities and best practices of competitors. 
  • Industry disruptors: As well as focusing on industry incumbents and key existing players, don’t forget about those new entrants to the industry and those posed to enter. These businesses are often bringing with them new technologies, new processes and new ways of working that have the potential to change the face of your marketplace. It makes sense to keep an eye on them and track their moves.

Step 3: Extract information and gather data

In step 3, the hard work begins! This is the point where you collect competitor data by utilizing a competitor analysis survey sent to your target audience.

Competitor analysis survey 

A competitor analysis survey is an online survey that helps businesses find out how competitors perform in several key categories of their business when compared to you. It gives actionable insights on how customers perceive your business and your competition, helps you understand your competitors’ position in the market relative to yours and helps you to identify perceptions of your competitors from the perspective of your customers. And, if you’re unsure exactly who your customers are and how to access them, SurveyMonkey can help you find your target audience from which to gather survey data. 

Questions to ask on a competitive analysis survey

Let’s focus on some of the questions you can ask in your competitor analysis survey. You can also get more ideas from our competitor research survey >

Product-related questions

The livelihood of a business is its products or services. After all, these are the sources of sales and profits. So, it's crucial to use your competitive analysis survey to collate information on your competitors’ product range, prices, and quality, as well as any special offers or loyalty programs that they offer. Consider asking questions such as: 

  • Are these seen as high-end or low-cost products?
  • How does the online experience differ from brick and mortar stores?
  • If they chose a competitor’s product, what made them choose to do so?
  • What features or aspects of the product / service impacted their decision?

You can also incorporate conjoint analysis to examine the bundle of product features that your customers value from competitors’ offerings. For deeper insight, you could also use a Usage and Attitudes (U&A) study to find out what your customers are buying, from where and how often, and how this is affected by their opinions and attitudes. 

Sales-related questions

It's not just what your customers are buying that’s important, but also how they’re buying. Use your survey to try to locate information on your competitors’ sales data and processes, which you can use to understand what’s driving sales in the market. Consider asking questions like: 

  • What channels did they interact through during your purchasing process?
  • Does Competitor A offer regular discounts or promotions and were these a factor in the decision?
  • If they decided not to purchase from Competitor A, what were some of the main factors?
Marketing-related questions

It’s worth showing respondents a selection of marketing materials from different competitors to understand what’s working well for them and what isn’t. The good news is that the SurveyMonkey platform allows you to incorporate both static and rich media like images and videos that you can then present to your audience to support questioning. After showing the audience the marketing materials, consider asking questions such as: 

  • How did it make the customer feel?
  • What was the main takeaway?
  • What key benefits did they understand from it?
  • Would they be more or less likely to buy after seeing this?
Brand recall and positioning

An excellent way to learn more about where your competitors sit in your industry relative to you is to conduct some brand recall and recognition research. One approach is to ask customers to freely recall one brand in a specified industry. For example, you might ask your audience:

  • Please list all of the brands you can think of in [INDUSTRY]

You can then use the results to compare how frequently your brand was mentioned, compared to those of your competitors in order to make inferences about your competitors’ strengths relative to yours. To get an idea of your competitors’ relative positioning in the industry, you might ask your audience to rank yourself and your competing brands on dimensions such as product quality, customer service or value for money.

You can also consider incorporating questions about competitors’ marketing and advertising campaigns like:

  • Do you feel that [BRAND NAME] represents the product accurately?
Intent or loyalty

A key piece of information you can glean from competitive analysis research is how willing your customers are to switch away from your competitors. This can help you shape your customer acquisition strategies. So, use your competitive analysis survey to learn more about customer intent and loyalty when it comes to your competitors.Consider asking questions like: 

  • What would make you consider a different solution to [COMPETITOR’S PRODUCT]?
  • How much would you pay if [DESIRABLE FEATURE] were offered?
  • What do you like most about [COMPETITOR NAME]’s brand or values?
  • What do you like most about [YOUR COMPANY]’s brand or values?
Gaps in current offerings

What do your customers wish your competitors were providing that they currently do not? Or, what features are they most dissatisfied with? Learn where there are potential gaps in competitor’s offerings so you can capitalize on this weakness Armed with this knowledge, you can seize on opportunities that your rivals are missing out on. Consider asking questions like: 

  • What do you expect from [PRODUCT OR SERVICE] that you are not getting from available solutions?
  • What features or offerings do you desire from [PRODUCT OR SERVICE] that would excite you more?
  • Are there any brands that you can think of that are doing this well?
  • When you think about the features you use the most, is there anything you are dissatisfied with?

It’s also important to be alert to any unexpected information. Good competitive analysis research often throws up new and unanticipated insights that will be vital for you when developing future strategies. 

Don’t have the time or resources to conduct your own competitive analysis research? Reach out to us about our Expert Services

Step 4: Analyze data

Once you’ve implemented competitive analysis research, the real work begins. It's important not to ignore or overlook the results of the research but to use it to your advantage. If you find something that your competitors are doing very well, you’ll want to react accordingly by revising your own strategies. Identified some competitor weaknesses? That’s great. Now, identify how you can capitalize on that. In any case, it will be necessary to regularly perform competitive analysis research so that you can track the impact of your initiatives. 

Businesses do not operate in a vacuum, and so the success of your business strategies, and how you are perceived by your customers is informed not only by what you do, but also by what your competitors do. As we’ve seen, competitive analysis research can be immensely powerful when done right. Let Momentive help you get a handle on your competitors with real-time, in-depth competitive intelligence research.