Updated: Sep 15
In the Past, it was very hard and expansive to gather insights about your competitors but now you can get tons of insights about your competitors with few clicks on the web. Some of the best Paid and Free tools available in the market for doing Competitive intelligence on the web are Similarweb, Hitwise, Google Trends and Google Display Planner.
In this post, we are going to look at 3 companies Zara, H&M, and Topshop and learn how to do competitor analysis. It's my promise that by the end of this post, you will be totally comfortable to do competitor analysis for any company.
So, let's get Started.
1. Zara, H&M, Topshop Year over Year trend analysis -
If you look closely at the trend lines, you will find a very interesting data in it. Look at the huge spikes indicated by the arrows between Nov and Dec of 2014, and 2015. These spikes are for the early week of Nov in 2014 and 2015 before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday( the Second Spikes) in the US.
You can see that H&M have huge spikes relative to their competitors in 2014 and also in 2015. In fact, during Nov 2015 it had reached the highest point during the entire time period. It looks like that H&M is doing huge discount sales before the arrival of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and customers are responding to it positively.
But in 2016, the spike during this time was totally gone. In 2016, I don't know why? but H&M management decided to stop being awesome and joined the herd with their competitors. A very bad move by the management. You can clearly see how you can use these data from Google trends to avoid these kinds of mistakes.
Even though H&M did a very Rookie mistake, still look at the above pic, they are totally dominating all over the US. Not in one state but in all of them. H&M has more popularity among customers than their any other competitors.
But wait, we are not here to celebrate and talk about the success of the market leader. Right? we want to know how to take down our biggest competitors. How to steal their customers and grow our own businesses. Btw, I don't have any personal preference about any of the companies. Just for the sake of decision, let's assume for some time that we are Zara or Topshop.
2. Traffic acquisition and Engagement analysis -
In the above pic, we are looking at the worldwide numbers. One important thing to remember is that the numbers in the Competitive intelligence tools will never match totally with your actual web analytics tools. Because they all collect data in a very different way. Even if it will not match completely, you can still use this data to make decisions. Don't worry too much about it, Just be aware of this fact.
The total number of visits H&M is getting during Jul to Sep 2017 is near around 300 Million, more than 100 million than Zara and the performance of Topshop relative to H&M and Zara is very low. you can also look at the traffic data break down by device type at the top right. Look how customers preferences keep shifting towards mobile. Nearly 60% of the customers are browsing through mobile devices.
In terms of engagement, Here again, H&M is leading. Though there isn't too much difference in Average visit duration and Bounce rate number between Zara and H&M, which is good for Zara but Average monthly visits and Pages/visits is way higher than Zara. The number for Topshop is also looking promising but they have to work way too harder to catch up with these guys.
We can also see how these metrics are changing over time, not only the visits metric but also other engagement metrics, which is really amazing to understand if you are improving or sucking more over time compared to your competitors.
It looks like there is some drop in traffic during July to Sep 2017 throughout the industry but still Topshop is maintaining their positions during this time when Big players are going down, which is a good news for Topshop.
3. Traffic Sources analysis -
This report in Similarweb will help you understand which channels are working for you and where do you need to improve your performance to beat your competitors, a nice overview of traffic channels.
The major 3 traffic channels for these websites are Direct, Organic search and Referral traffic. The sad thing for Zara is that there isn't a single channel where Zara is beating H&M. When it comes to the web, H&M is the leader.
Referral Traffic Analysis -
In the above pic, you can see which websites are referring traffic to these companies and how much % of total traffic all the companies getting from a particular website and their individual % traffic share from it. If we ignore the traffic from Indeed, both H&M and Topshop is getting lots of traffic from rstyle.me ( www.rewardstyle.com) but Zara isn't getting any traffic from them. This is definitely something Zara should consider. Reward style actually provides influencer marketing program to fashion retailers to increase their sales through leading style influencers and bloggers. Also, the share of traffic from Buzzfeed is very low for Zara.
But looks at the WhoWhatWear.com traffic, Zara is totally dominating here. 85% of the traffic from this website is going to Zara, a total win for them. Omg, I so happy. Finally, something to cheer up after lots of disappointments :)
One helpful tip - Download the data from Similarweb into an excel file and short the table from highest to lowest where your competitors are getting the most traffic to quickly find where you need to focus more.
Social media traffic analysis -
In social, H&M is getting more traffic than the combined traffic of Zara and Topshop. Which is really huge. Few places where they are falling is youtube and Pinterest but Both Zara and Topshop is doing very well on these channels. Both H&M and Zara is getting traffic from Vkontakte but Topshop isn't. So if I was working in Topshop, I would have definitely tried to get some opportunity from here also.
4. Search Traffic analysis -
As we all know it that everything starts with a search. People search more than 3.5 Billion times every day on Google and out of this 15-20 % of these searches are actually new. So nobody can deny the value of search for any companies growth.
And one important thing to remember is when it comes to search, you need a good balance between Paid and Organic search. You just Can't rely on any one, it's not going to work. Because if you only rely on Organic, any changes to Google algorithm can send you down the hill, and Google is totally nuts when it comes to making changes to their search algorithm to serve us better and you can't optimize for each and every keywords with SEO, so you also need paid advertising. And If you only rely on Paid Traffic then you are just renting traffic from Advertisers, Paying for every single visit from search, which you could have got for free. It just doesn't make sense. I hope you get the point.
In the above pic, you can see that both H&M and Topshop have some balance in organic and paid traffic but Zara is heavily relying on Organic Traffic. If you have money, then why not utilize it get more traffic to your website, introduce new customers to your brand. This old methodology completely not gonna work if Zara wants to be successful on the web.
Another area where Zara need to improve is % of traffic between Branded and non- branded search. Customers who use branded search, are the ones who already knew you. But the real opportunities arise when you move beyond the Branded search and into the non-branded search. Because all the category keywords and long tail keywords fall into this bucket. Customers use these non branded search terms when they are not sure of what they want to buy and from where? This is the perfect opportunity for any company to introduce these virgin customers to their brand and turn those customers into their loyal brand ambassadors over time. Both H&M and Topshop doing better than Zara in % traffic split between Branded and non branded keywords.
The Difference between traffic for paid search is huge between H&M and their competitors. H&M is getting way more traffic than Zara and Topshop. The Marketing team responsible for Paid search in H&M definitely deserve a Bonus.
But wait, not so fast. Something interesting is going on. Look at the below pic.
Though they are getting a huge amount of traffic but their engagement metrics like Pages/visit is sharply going down the hill. Either they are making huge mistakes in selecting the right keyword or organizing their ad groups and campaigns more effectively or customers are landing on wrong pages or the messages on the landing pages aren't meeting the customer's expectations. Whatever is the reason, it's just not working at all. Their performance keeps getting worse and worse over this time period.
Things to note, you could have millions and millions of visits to your website or views on your youtube videos but if customers aren't engaged with your website or video, if the content is not relevant to them then you can't convince them to convert. H&M is constantly losing money and they need to fix it as soon as possible. Always look at the acquisition, behavior and conversion metrics to understand the full picture.
Compared to paid search, their organic traffic is working way much better and the difference in Pages/visit in them versus their competitors is almost double, which is really good.
Another great report in Similarweb is % of search traffic by search engines. A great way to understand your competitors organic and paid search strategy and benchmark your performance to theirs. Though all the companies getting at least 95 % of the traffic from google but you can still find some places for improvement like Topshop can focus on getting some more traffic from Yandex because their performance is poor here relative to their competitors.
5. Text and Display ads analysis -
On the search ads tab, you can find more information about your competitor's search strategy like their text ad copy, the keywords for which their ad is showing up on google, those ads average position on Google SERP page and the landing pages of those ads.
For Example, in the second ad for Bikini, you already have a list of keywords for which H&M ads showing up on google with an average 2nd position. You know, what message they are using in their ads and you can see where the customers are landing on their website. With all these data in your hand, you can tweak and improve your own ads to improve its performance and beat your competitors.
You can also go to similar web Display advertising tab to get more in-depth data about your competitor's Display advertising strategies. Things like Which websites are sending most amount of traffic from display ads, which Ad networks your competitors are using in serving those ads to these websites. As we discussed earlier that Zara isn't into paid marketing too much. But look how their competitors are getting lots of traffic from websites like Buzzfeed, Helpfreely, shu.com etc. out of top 5 publishers, Zara is only getting traffic from youtube. You can also look at the distribution of traffic from different Ad networks, both H&M and Topshop are doing good but here also Zara is lagging.
The good thing about the creative section is that you can actually see your competitors Display banner ads just like we see text ads earlier. The number of impressions these ads are receiving and also where they are appearing. Just look at the name of the source in the UTM parameters in the link marked with the rectangle in the above pic.
Wait there is more. just look at the Keyword report.
6. Keyword Analysis -
if you look at the Keyword tab in similar web, you will be surprised, how much amazing data you can get from here to understand and plan your search strategy. OMG, look at those amazing filters. This is just heaven, no more data puking like other tools. Want to know your market share for the unbranded keywords in your industry? you got it. Want to know, which new and trending keywords are sending more traffic to your competitor's website than yours? you can find it here. And how much it will cost you to bid on those keywords? you can get it here. You can even segment by search engines and type of search( regular search, shopping search, video etc.). The more you dig this report in similar web, the more valuable data you can find to improve your SEO and PPC campaigns. It is just a Goldmine for you.
Organic and Paid Keyword Competitors -
Look at both the organic and paid competitor's pics above. The story is totally different here except Asos, which is on both top 5 list. Few surprises on the list are bershka in organic and Bonprix.pl, Floryday, and Zolando in paid Keywords competitors. Next time when you do organic and paid search analysis, don't forget to look at this report and also make sure to compare your performance with some of these organic and paid keyword competitors because sometimes it isn't obvious who are your real competitors in organic and paid search or sometimes we might neglect them.
Related post to keywords optimization - The most Advanced guide to campaigns & keyword optimization with Google Analytics.
Let's go back to Google trends and look at some Geographical data to find new areas of opportunity based on location.
7. Geographical data analysis to increase market share -
The great thing about geographical data in Google Trends is, it helps you to understand things like where your competitors are focusing most of their efforts, customers from which areas are more interested in your competitors than you. Then you can use this data to target those areas with Advertising to crush your competitors.
For H&M -
For Zara -
For example, If you want to bring down H&M, then you can either fight with them head to head on the top 5 regions, which is nearly same in both the list. or you can find places where your strength is weak and target those areas to gain more market share. We can see that H&M has very strong hold in Utah, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Nevada but Zara doesn't. So Zara can go aggressively behind these regions to snatch customers from H&M and at the same time keep improving their performance in Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Florida.
One another strategy you can apply is, look at the geographical interest by category keywords.
All you have to do is go to Google trends and type any category terms like Jacket or Boots etc.
And when you look at the result, most of the time you will find very different results compared to the results we get by comparing competitors name.
Here out of 10 regions, 8 are totally new compared to our previous analysis. Now you know customers from which regions are most interested in Jackets, You can target these locations with your ads to get more sales. If you want, you can also further drill down into metro or city level to be more precise with your ad targetting. This is a great way to optimize and improve your ads performance. Do this kind of analysis for at least top 10 -20 category terms in your industry or the terms which are most important to you. You can also find them in your Google analytics keywords report.
You can do similar kind of analysis on the worldwide level. You can also use the data from Google trends to find insights to expand your business into other countries where people are most interested in you. Or retailers like Zara and H&M can also use this data to understand which cities they should set up their physical stores first in any particular country.
If you want to learn more about how to use Google trends and also how to find product level insights from Google Shopping insights tool, then make sure to read this post - How to increase sales even with a low budget with Think with Google tools?
8. What CI data can't do for you? -
With all these amazing data you get from CI tools like What websites are referring traffic to your competitor's website? where do the customers go after visiting your competitor's websites? or What paid or organic keywords referring traffic to their website and all these kinds of data you get from it, one thing that these data can't solve for you is helping you to understand " Why the customers make the choices that they do?" "Why did they purchase from you or from your competitors?" Understanding what job does your customers are trying to do when they hire your products and services is the best way to get ahead of your competitors. It will allow you to create real differentiation in your industry and help you to gain long-term competitive advantages. It is easy to copy your competitor's strategies from these CI tools but what you can't copy is the experience that your competitor's customers have with them.
Let me give you one example, what do I mean by the job to be done?
One Job that constantly arises in customers life when they purchase from any businesses is they want their issues with the purchase like returning the product or anything else to be fixed as soon as possible without going to your website's customer help section which is hidden somewhere on your website and even when they find it, they have to go through answering multiple stupid questions to see if somebody already have experienced this problem and there is an article about it in their FAQ before getting the contact details to call you or email you. OMG, kill me :) I am not lying, it actually happened with me sometimes. I am not going to tell you the name :) but its real.
If you are a small business, simple things you can do is just show your customer care number boldly on the top of your page. Give them faster access to contact you without going through all the trouble to send you a message. Why not tell your customers upfront on your product page, whether you sell internationally or not and if you sell than what is the expected cost of it rather than letting the customers to add the product to their cart, fill all their address details then realize that holy shit the shipping cost is 60% more than the product I am trying to buy :) Did you see the problem? You can find many more simple things like this, which you can do with going bankrupt to improve the customer's experience on your website.
And If you are a big company or have resources then my suggestion would be to create a Standalone App just for Customer care service. No selling of products, no pimping of sale discounts, just for serving your customers. Once they install the app on their phone and signed into their account, they are done. All of their purchase details will be on the App, no more hunting for purchase or booking id number etc.They can directly chat with you or call you right from the App itself.
Wouldn't that be nice?
The biggest benefit of doing it is that your customers will understand that you are not here for selling only, you also deeply care about them. You respect their time and want to make their life easier by giving them easier ways to connect with you. So try this. Before you have an App for selling products, try to make an app for customers support. You will be amazed by the customer's responses. This is how you create loyal customers, who go above and beyond to tell all the amazing stories about you to their friends and family. Drive the word of mouth for your business so you don't have to rely too much on paid.