Branding Operations

3 Ways To Track Your Shopify Ecommerce Competitors5 min read

Do you know who your competitors are?

Are you researching the tactics they use to attract customers?

As a Shopify store owner, you have competitors – end of the story. There’s always another business trying to sell to your customers. Sometimes they do it better and sometimes you’re the top dog.

Whatever the case, an understanding of your competitors can help you. You can improve your marketing and sales tactics by looking at how your competitors do business. You can use their own strategies against them to attract customers to your store.

Understanding your competitors goes beyond looking at their recent ad campaigns. You need to dive deeper.

What exactly should you look for when you research your competitors? Where should you look?

We’re going to discuss the best methods you can use to monitor your competitors and use their own strategies to your advantage, helping your store keep customers and attract new shoppers.

Types of Competitors

As an online retailer, you have numerous types of competitors to deal with.

These include direct competitors, indirect competitors, and substitute competitors.

Direct competitors sell the same products you do, using similar channels. They’re also a Shopify store owner, they also use social media marketing to promote themselves, and they might even advertise to the same group of people.

Indirect competitors sell a similar product to your own, using different channels. They may market their product to a different audience or demographic.

Substitute competitors sell an entirely different product than your own, but it solves the same problem.

As you might expect, direct competitors should be your primary concern. They have the strongest ability to impact your business.

Naturally, you should monitor indirect and substitute competitors as well, but they’re less likely to have an effect on your sales. Focus your most in-depth research on direct competitors.

Keeping An Eye On Competitors

Now that you know which competitors to look out for, how can you keep an eye on them?

There are dozens of ways you can track your competitors. Some are more difficult than others, and some will take more time. We’re going to look at 3 easy ways you can monitor your competitors to understand their strategies and apply them to your own store.

Tactic #1: Watch Their Website’s Metrics

We’re not just talking about the newest sales they posted on their homepage.

No, to truly understand your competitor, you need to look much deeper.

  • What are their traffic volumes?
  • Where are their customers coming from?
  • What’s their website’s bounce rate?

This information can tell you a lot about your own site, with a thorough analysis. This is particularly helpful when you analyze competitors who have more customers than you. You can see exactly how you stack up, and you can find ways to improve your own website.

A quick Google search will bring up dozens of tools you can use to analyze website metrics. Many of these will include information like:

  • Traffic numbers
  • Engagement levels
  • Bounce rates
  • Traffic demographics
  • Sources of traffic
  • Other sites people visited
  • Organic vs. Paid reach
  • Details on social traffic

My favorite tool is SimilarWeb. The developer offers the tool in both a free and paid package, with the paid package offering more metrics than the free version. There are other great tools on the web, so browse around until you find one that best fits you.

Tactic #2: Pay Attention to Insights

Every social media platform offers insights. Insights refer to post metrics, such as how much engagement a post received, how many people saw it, and so on.

Your competitor’s social media insights say a lot about the effectiveness of their marketing tactics.

How can they help you improve your social media marketing campaigns?

When you monitor your competitor’s insights, you see what works and what doesn’t. Which posts get a lot of engagement? Which don’t? What do high engagement posts have in common with each other? How can you implement these tactics into your own social marketing efforts?

Facebook’s insights page will direct you to pages similar to your own. It’ll compare your insights to theirs, and give you an inside look at the attention their posts garner. This isn’t a tool you should look over as you strive to understand your competitors.

You may also look into Google AdWords insights to better understand your competitor. Google’s Keyword search tool makes it easy to see which keywords are attracting high bids, and which your competitors may be using for their advertising campaigns.

Tactic #3: Infiltrate Their Camp

Okay, we don’t mean this literally. But to better understand why people shop from your competitors, you too should become a customer. Or at least, a perspective one.

So how can you do this?

It’s simple: navigate to their website and do everything you would if you were interested in doing business with the company.

  • Sign up for their email newsletter, and take note of how they execute their email marketing strategy
  • Make a small purchase. Look at their checkout process. Pay attention to their shipping options and prices. Note how the product is packaged once you receive it.
  • Become part of their social media tribe. Read comments. Examine their posts. Pick apart their social media strategy.
  • Visit their physical store, if they have one.
  • Check out their website regularly. Notice any changes, and see why they made them.

Use everything you learn as a customer to better understand your competitor. Try to understand why people buy from them, and apply what you learn to your own store.

This process is only necessary for your direct competitors. It doesn’t work with indirect and substitute competitors because of the differences in your product, but it’s the ultimate strategy to understand your direct competitors.

This article was originally published by our friends at Internet Retailing.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Obsessed with ecommerce, entrepreneurship, and Shopify. If you have the desire to learn and implement what's working today for Shopify brands, I'm excited you're here! This industry blog and podcast is my digital brain where my guests and I share cutting-edge marketing strategy, must have Shopify apps, and marketing platforms that will help you grow and scale. To do this, I'm on the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus and host of the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast.