We continue to harp on how important it is to know your competitors’ pricing at all times. Knowing what your competitors' charge for what they sell is critical to the success of your competitive pricing strategy and ultimately to your online retail business. With all the transparency today and the tools to get the information, the more you know about your competitors' pricing -- the better you can compete for each and every sale.
Here are some of the ways you can learn about your competitors' online prices. Most are time consuming and inefficient, but at the end I’ll tell you the most effective, productive, reliable, and timely way to learn about your competitors' online prices. (Spoiler: It’s not a surprise).
#1. Check Your Competitors' Website(s)
You've probably engaged in competitor monitoring -- and missed changes you needed to know about, today. There’s a plethora of information (especially if you’re managing thousands of products), and even if you can find matches, the prices change continuously, might be outdated, or incorrect. Most important, you're spending hours doing this while you neglect your own sales and competitive pricing. Any information you gain is probably scribbled on a sheet of paper you may misplace or lose, even if you could remember what and why you wrote. This "do it yourself" theory is cheap, but very expensive in the end. The amount of effort, the relevance of the information you obtain, and the investment of time probably won't fly far in today’s competitive arena.
#2. Use A Web Search Engine
With Google now making 500 or more algorithm changes or tweaks yearly to its search engine listings and web positioning monitoring methods (sometimes one or more changes a day), you may find your competitors’ information to be more timely, but you’ll have the same problems of collecting and analyzing their data, as in #1 above.
#3. Use A Comparison Shopping Engine (CSE)
In the '90s, several enterprising companies came up with the idea of providing "comparative prices" on items, which they listed on their website. For instance, they would list the price for a particular tire, usually from low to high pricing (that varies), and provide the name and contact information of the seller. The consumer would then "click" on the seller's icon whom they wanted to contact, and go from there. These comparison shopping engines would not charge an advertising rate to the listed sellers, but would collect money for each "click" that that seller would gain from being listed. Several of these have now taken on mega proportions, e.g. BizRate, NexTag and Slickdeals, being three.
What does this all mean to you, the online retailer? It's relatively simple to check these sites. But there's no guarantee that the company you want to access will be included -- therefore you may miss the pricing of your most important competitors. In an earlier blog, I wrote about how comparison search engines can help or hurt you.
#4. Use Web Postings As A Source For Information
Generic web searches may or may not provide the information online retailers need about their competitors' pricing, but here are some better ideas:
- Listen to the industry experts -- They stay on top of the web, and inform others on developments -- in their blogs, columns, and on specialized websites addressing the industry.
- Pay attention to relevant social communities, like LinkedIn groups, and explore topic-related discussions and comments. These might also help identify competitors who are innovating in a specific niche within your market.
- Monitor your terms for fresh content: Real-time tools and news platforms can track what is being said using specific terms that relate to your space -- keywords such as Competitive Pricing, Pricing Intelligence, Price Monitoring, etc., but you'll have to sift and winnow for the relevant information.
- Keep an eye on industry news: Websites providing industry news are a good source for the identifying and learning more about your competitors.
- Remember the customer: The web has empowered customers, enabling them to discuss their needs. Your downside is the amount of time needed to search and read what is offered. But it is an important activity -- if it provides you with insight and information.
#5. Use A Pricing Intelligence Tool
In the beginning, pricing intelligence tools were used mainly by "megatron" online retailers -- until the tsunami of online retailing ensued. At the touch of a button, pricing intelligence tools scan thousands of websites and millions of products concurrently and instantly -- on a daily basis. Now these tools are available and reasonably priced so every online retailer can use one. The most sophisticated and advanced tools also provide graphs, charts, comparisons, sorting, and content information in a multitude of formats. There is no "one size fits all" -- and not all pricing intelligence tools are created equal -- programs are designed for your specific needs.
If you want to stay in business, make sure you have the information you need, to meet, and beat your competitors. Competitive intelligence and competitive pricing are the ways to keep up with -- and ahead of the game. Your competitors are doing it, and you need to do it as well.