What’s the best way for small businesses to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace? The answer lies in knowing your customers and your competition. To learn more about how researching these areas can help you come out on top, we interviewed Worldpay’s Senior Strategic Research Analyst Jessie Zhang. Check out a recap of our interview below.
Hi Jessie, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. To get started, what is the most important data businesses need to learn about their competitors?
JZ: The most important data businesses need to learn about their competitors is financial and transactional data. This includes their products, pricing, customer personas, and revenue.
I think it’s also important to understand your competitors’ company information like their business hours, number of employees, and locations. And, what your competitors are doing in terms of marketing and promotions. For example, do they offer a loyalty or rewards program? Do they host events or partner with other organizations or small businesses? How are they positioning their brand?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you understand how your business can compete in the marketplace.
How can businesses use their competitors’ online reputation to conduct research?
JZ: There are several ways businesses can use their competitors’ online reputation to conduct research. For example, you can look at competitors’ websites, eCommerce stores, and social media handles to identify their product offerings and messaging. Look at sites like Groupon and Yelp to see if your competitors run any promotions. And, analyze your competitors’ online reviews to see what they are doing well and what they’re not.
You can use all of that information to create tactics to improve your marketing initiatives.
What is the most important data businesses need to learn about their customers?
JZ: It’s important to understand your customers’ needs and wants. This includes the products or services they need, as well as their payment preferences. You don’t want to lose customers because you don’t take their preferred method of payment. You should also understand your customer demographics and buying behaviors.
For example, a recent survey of small and medium sized enterprises in the UK found that they are missing out on up to $2.1 billion in transactions by not accepting a particular type of payment technology.¹ And, 15 percent of shoppers across all ages said they have abandoned a transaction for this reason.²
Understanding your customers’ purchasing behaviors and payment preferences can help you identify opportunities to better market your products or services. And, it’s something Worldpay can help with.
How can businesses use their own online reputation to compile insights about their customers?
JZ: Online reviews and customer feedback offer powerful verbatim data. You can find out what customers like and don’t like about your business, which employees provide superior service, and identify areas for improvement.
This can be a labor intensive process, but Worldpay makes it easier. Worldpay Insights provides instant notifications when someone writes a review about your business online. You can respond promptly so your customers feel valued. As a best practice, be sure to respond to reviews within one or two business days.
Google My Business is another tool that can help you manage this process. You can manage notifications, which allows you to get updated information on customer reviews, customer insights, questions and answers, and more. If you haven’t set up your Google My Business profile, you should. And check out Worldpay’s four part webinar series to learn more.
What software or tools are available to help local businesses conduct customer or competitive research?
JZ: There are plenty of free tools that businesses can use to conduct research on their customers and competition. One is to simply talk directly with your customers. This is an advantage that small businesses have over larger businesses. You can learn why customers shop at your store, what they think of your competitors, what they like about your business, and what you can improve.
You can also leverage social media as a free research tool. You can do a poll, Q&A session, and start a dialogue with your online community. You can also maintain a customer email list to do surveys or launch promotions. There are other research services like Survey Monkey and Ask Your Target Market. This allows you to send a survey to your mailing list or their database.
One way to keep an eye on your competitors is using Google Alerts. You can enter a competitor’s name into the search bar and receive email alerts when content or news on your competition is updated. This will help you keep tabs on when they change their branding, launch new products, and more.
What Worldpay products can help businesses understand their competition and customers?
JZ: Worldpay offers Insights powered by Womply, which provides businesses with information about how many customers they acquire, retain, and where customers are shopping. Insights powered by Womply provides competitive performance information that businesses can use to improve their services.
How can businesses turn their research and insights into action?
JZ: Based on the information you gather, you can use those insights by implementing actions immediately. You can pilot a trial program with your most frequent customers. This way you can measure the effectiveness and your ROI to see if you want to implement it as policy.
How often should local businesses conduct competitive and customer research?
JZ: Research frequency really depends on your goals and the type of research you are conducting. You can use tools like Google Analytics and Worldpay Insights to track customer and competitor information daily. For major research projects, quarterly or semi-annually is more appropriate.
Thank you, Jessie, for your time. Any last thoughts?
JZ: When it comes to customer and competitive research, it’s hard to do it on your own, especially for small businesses that don’t have a lot of time and manpower to devote to such a task. But as I mentioned, there are a lot of available and affordable options to help. Take the time to check them out. It will pay off in the end.