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How to segment your online and offline competitors brainy

| Posted in category Analytics Competition Research Internet Marketing

If you run business offline and online, it is very likely that your offline and online activities are integrated in a great measure. And I’m pretty sure that here you think: oh no, another Captain Obvious article!

But today I am speaking on a very slippery topic, which is not about emergence, or integration, or any other abstract marketing word.

Today I would like to point out some things regarding the confluence of offline and online competitor clusters and ways of analyzing them apart and altogether.

Case Study #1. Nike, or when your partners turn smarter than you

Imagine that you are a Marketing Specialist at Nike. In this case you are able to name your main competitors even if I wake you up in the middle of the night: Puma, Adidas, Reebok. Good!

I believe these brands have severe competition offline. But strong offline presence does not mean a strong online brand. So let us switch to the SERP and see the competition there.

All of those brands sell running shoes. This keyword has a very high competition rate.

As we can see, this SERP for the UK does not have any pages of the competitors listed above. All of the sites represented here are resellers.

For this keyword nike.com results are on 28th position in google.com SERP and off the top 100 for google.com.uk at the moment of writing this article.

Well, at a first glance it’s clear why:

Keywords? Are you serious? What for? Also I don’t see any point in placing 'Nike Store UK' at the beginning, because it’s better to move relevant keywords (like 'running shoes') closer to the beginning of the title. Here we just see auto generated meta tags without any thought about why they are used or at least one tiny attempt to apply a little bit of SEO here.

That is how the product URL looks like:

It takes me a lot not to write 'Are you serious' twice, but Google doesn't like duplicate content, does it?

Okay, this is not a deadly sin. But why do they spend a decent amount of money to design the page, to write all these catchy descriptions, why do they build a huge website with a list of products that can’t be called a short one,  and all of that without any hint of a user friendly URL?

I can guess what comes to your mind here: Nike is a giant company, and they can afford ignoring clean URLs, messy meta tags and not being in the top 100 for the regional SERP.

But just imagine the amount of traffic and additional online sales that could be brought by SEO here, provided Nike can afford a lot – just look at their SMM campaigns.

They do better for some keywords as 'running shoes women' and sometimes appear in the top 10. But again, their main competitors online are Amazon and huge powerful resellers. Which means completely different marketing strategy: although reselling still brings profits, in SERPs you have to compete with those who sell your goods and services and not with brands.

By the way, check this, you’ll like it http://store.nike.com/robots.txt.

The sooner the better

If you are thinking about building your online presence, SEO strategy and Internet Marketing aims, you have to be quick. With the 99% possibility you already have online competitors: there is a big chance that they have already overdone you in SERP, and even if they are small, and you are big, this means nothing on the Internet, because you have to do it from scratch.

The more you wait, the more efforts will be needed to become a strong competitor. While you are thinking whether SEO is the right choice for you, your rivals are overdoing you and conquering your audience.

Prices

Pricing competition is quite harsh on the Internet. Again, you have to compete with your resellers, with giants like Amazon, and also very small and very big competitors.

Back to the Nike case, there are several resellers in SERP who sell shoes even cheaper than the Nike online store.

Price building is different on the Web, and this is a big issue which can’t be covered in a paragraph and deserves a separate article or several of them.

Why do I need competitor segmentation?

Maybe you don't. But if you are an SEO agency or Internet Marketing agency and you meet a client that already has an offline marketing strategy, you have to do a lot of work to get along with it. This seems to be natural, but surprisingly companies pay less attention to that.

Case Study #2. No standard approach for established clients

When I did some marketing for a client that owned a medical center, we decided to outsource some SEO issues to an SEO and marketing agency, the biggest in my country. They made an audit and investigated our SEO competitors, but they didn’t even ask about our real competitors.

The medical center has been working for more than 10 years and had certain competitors that offered the same list of services, approximately the same price range and had the same target audience. Just doing SEO and PPC for several groups of keywords would have been a very naïve strategy.

Ask your client

Talk to your client's marketing manager if any. If your client does some offline marketing, you have to ask about aims and activities, successes and failures, ongoing campaigns, ads, and more. Don't expect the client to do this, ask first and be sure that you get all the necessary information.

Case Study #3. SEO for Branding?

Even if you are not selling products and services online, it’s important to be the first on SERP for brand keywords. And you have to work deep on the situation when your competitors outdo you for keywords that include your brand name.

Here, as you can see, the first place isn't taken by Philips official site. This happens even despite the fact that Google may pay attention to the brand and give the official website some benefits, but this factor works only occasionally in e-commerce:

Here is another good example. Official Puma website is not in the top 10 for Puma shirts keyword, but they have an ad for this SERP:

Competitors segmentation

Online competitors are not always industry competitors.

Industry competitors are not always online competitors.

Okay, I just added some flashy words here. How we are going to segment those competitors?

Steps to segment your competitors

1)      Set up a goal for your online marketing. It may be increasing sales or building brand reputation and awareness. Or both.

2)      Connect it to the goal of your offline marketing, if any.

3)      Build a list of your offline competitors.

4)      Build a list of your online competitors.

5)      Find out which companies are in both lists (area 3 in the picture above). Here you need an advanced research: find out what they do online and offline, try to figure out how they integrate these activities.

6)      Do a standard investigation of your only-online competitors. You have to work with them too.

7)      Pay attention to the possible keywords of your offline competitors (remember they can turn online any time), investigate new niches and be first to reach them.

Advanced online-offline competitors research

So you have a company that appears to be your competitor both offline and online. What's next?

1)      Compare the efforts they put in to offline and online marketing.

2)      Do they have the same target audience online and offline?

3)      Do they do brand activities or sell online?

4)      What type of ads do they use?

5)      Are they successful? This is a vital question. It tells you what to do: to implement some of their strategy points or use them as an example of wrong marketing activities.

6)      How deep is their online-offline integration? For example, how do they represent their offline campaigns on the Internet?

7)      How long are they online and offline? What have they achieved through this period?

Best practice for information gap

The main thing that is born from the borderland of these two circles is complementing two niches with information.

This can be best explained on familiar examples:

a)      Imagine you would like to buy headphones. You can go to the store and try out some, compare how they sound, choose those that fit your head best. But the best way to compare the specific lists of features is to reach them online.

Conclusion: provide exhaustive descriptions on the website.

b)      Customers can try on clothes at the shop, but a website picture of the jacket itself provides poor information.

Conclusion: upload pictures of the models wearing clothes in different positions, indoor and outdoor. Make HQ zoomed pictures for showing details of the item, provide an advanced size chart.

c)       A shop assistant at your store may help your customers to choose a PC mainly for graphic design software usage. How can they define a suitable PC on a website?

Conclusion: provide suggestions ('This PC is the best solution for game players') or arrange online consultation via Skype, online chat etc.

The list of points that add to this customer information gap is huge and it influences e-commerce if compared with offline sales according to the Online vs Offline Competition part for the Oxford Handbook of the Digital Economy.

So let your SEO, SMM and IM campaign complement your offline marketing strategy. In other words, give your online customers experience they can't get offline, and vice versa.

I have no friends and no enemies - only competitors.
Aristotle Onassis

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