It’s classic business wisdom: when defining your strategies and tactics, you need to understand the competitive environment. No business operates in a vacuum. What are your competitors already doing and how will your strategies compare to theirs?
But how can you gain a good understanding of your competitors’ businesses?
Traditional methods of competitive monitoring vary widely. Monitoring news about your competitors, keeping up with financial earnings reports, paying attention to their marketing campaigns and offers, tracking where they have opened and closed locations, and subscribing to industry data sources for insights into industry-level performance and benchmarks are all helpful tactics that rely on publicly available information.
Today, retailers, restaurants, and consumer service brands have an additional tool at their disposal for understanding the dynamics of their competitors’ businesses: location analytics. Here’s how it works.
Using Location Analytics to Understand a Competitor’s Business
Location analytics are based on de-identified GPS data from mobile devices. The data can be used to gather intelligence on foot traffic trends and typical consumer profiles of visitors to a selected study area.
Many brands have started using location analytics as a tool for monitoring their own locations or analyzing properties where they are considering opening a new location, but these tools can also be used to better understand the dynamics at a competitor’s locations.
For example, location analytics can help you address questions such as the following:
What is the volume trend at my competitors’ locations? If your competitor doesn’t publicly release traffic and earnings information, this can be a helpful way to understand how their business is likely performing. If your competitor does release this type of information, you can use the analytics to keep up with trends before earnings announcements.
Do my competitors experience the same type of seasonality in visits that I experience? You may assume that all competitors experience the same type of seasonal patterns as your business, but is that true? Study the traffic patterns over time and compare them against your own. If a competitor seems to be defying the odds and maintaining traffic levels during traditionally off-peak times, that’s a signal that you may need to study their marketing, product offerings, or consumer base in more detail.
Are my competitors attracting the same types of consumers that I want to attract? Consumers are attracted to certain brands based on their lifestyles and the brand’s fit with that lifestyle. Which types of consumers are visiting your competitors’ locations? Are they the same type of consumers you are trying to reach or a different consumer base entirely?
Location Analytics Options
If you are ready to begin using location analytics to better understand the consumer dynamics at your competitors’ locations, it’s important to understand that are several ways to approach this analysis.
For many brands, an on-demand tool is a great option. It gives you the ability to refresh the analysis as often as you want. There’s a lot of variety in the types of tools available. Some tools allow you to benchmark traffic volumes for an entire industry or brand, some allow you to dive deeper by location, and some include the ability to define custom study areas rather than pre-set areas. The level of consumer information available will depend on what other types of datasets are included in the system.
If you don’t have someone on your staff with the time to conduct DIY studies or have very specific questions that can’t be answered with available tools, then a custom study from an analytics provider is likely your best option. The consultant will work with you to define the scope of the study, conduct the analysis, and then provide you with a detailed report on the results.
A note: since this analysis is based on GPS data, it isn’t a perfect fit for every type of business. For example, it’s tough to differentiate between mobile device signals coming from different levels of the same building, so if your competitor primarily operates in malls or highly dense urban areas you may need to consider other options. Still, for many brands, location analytics offers unique insights not previously available.
The Bottom Line
Keeping up with your competitors empowers your leadership team to make smart strategic decisions. Location analytics can provide an additional layer of insights to complement traditional competitive monitoring techniques.