The New Year is a great time for self-examination and self-improvement and the same rings true for your website.  If you’re not sure how to improve, taking a look around at the competitive landscape is a great first step. Often it’s difficult to take an objective look, but there are a few places to start. As you look to answer these questions, take notes on the differences that matter most to your business.

First Look – Customers don’t spend a lot of time on business websites, they usually go with a purpose and then they get out. This is key when looking at home page of yours or a competitor’s website. Here are some questions to ask about your website’s first impression:

  1. When you enter your competitors’ website, what is the first thing you notice? Is it a photo? A promotion? A top-selling item? Their contact information?
  2. Are you offering the same items or promotions? Are your promotions stronger or more appealing to the consumer? Is it a banner for free 2-day shipping on all purchases? Can you make the same offer or offer something even better.
  3. Do they advertise your top selling item or is it buried in their site?
  4. Is their information organized well and easy to locate?
  5. Are you missing something key that they are capitalizing on?

Content – The old saying is that “Content is king”, and as mentioned above, consumers are typically on a mission: they are looking for specific information and then they move on. Here are some questions to ask in reference to your website content marketing:

  1. What is your content saying about your business? What is your competitor’s content saying about their business?
  2. Does your site cover the same key items?
  3. Is there a way to elevate your company above your competitors based on the content you are displaying?

Branding – This is the overall feeling customers get when they enter your website. Visual elements like colors, white space and photography all give clues as to the tone and mission of the company. Here are some questions to ask about the competitiveness of your websites’ look and feel:

  1. What do you feel when you enter competitors website? Is it professional or more light-hearted? Is it inviting and warm or are they shouting sales messages at customers? Does it convey trustworthiness?
  2. Is your competitor looking to elicit an emotional response from customers?
  3. How does their logo, color scheme and font choices stack up to yours?

Functionality – How the site functions, how many clicks it takes to get something and the ease (or difficulty) of accessing pertinent information are all keys to functionality on a website. If a potential customer can’t find what they are looking for, they move on quickly. Here are some good competitive assessment questions to ask about the ins and outs and paths throughout your website:

  1. Are you able to find information on products and services quickly and easily?
  2. What is the number one thing you want your customers to do? Is that call to action easier to find on your site or their site?
  3. Where is their content in reference to yours?
  4. If you compete in the e-Commerce arena, how much information do they list on each item?
  5. Are the items easy to add to a cart? Is the check-out process one step or 5 steps.  How easy is your checkout process in comparison?

Value Added Extras – Sometimes words and imagery aren’t enough to make a sale, but there are many other ways to engage customers and present your business as an industry leader. Here are few things to consider in assessing a competitive edge:

  1. Is there an option to start a live chat with a salesperson?
  2. Is part of your customer base Spanish or French? If so, do competitors have a Spanish/French language site – or do you?
  3. Is there a newsletter that site visitors can sign up for?
  4. Do you or the competition have a corporate blog?  If so, what kind of information is being posted to it?
  5. Is there relevant content that presents them or you as an industry leader?
  6. Are there opportunities for fan incentives or special benefits for people who engage with you on social media, or “membership clubs” as ambassadors of your brand?

Taking a hard look at what your company is doing in comparison to your competitors is a great way to improve business and leap-frog ahead of the competition. Often companies are frustrated because they are lagging behind a competitor, but this can be seen as an opportunity.

There is a famous example of an underdog assessing their weakness and coming out on top. Back in 1962, Avis was the #2 Car rental company in America, with only 11% market share. They took this underdog status and touted it with an advertising campaign that spoke to how being number 2 made them work harder to prove themselves and gain customers – in essence making them better than the big guy. Within one year of that campaign their market share increased three-fold.

It is always good to know where you stand competitively, how you can improve and take action on mapping out a way to get to the top. And if you need a little help getting there with your web presence and online marketing, Bayshore Solutions is always here to provide expert consultation and service.

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