"Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

And think about how a runner on first base can disrupt the pitcher’s concentration from throwing a strike to a batter.

The result in both cases? Distraction from what you’re trying to accomplish.

Competitive analysis fits right into this category -- when developing digital strategy, creating new digital products and creating new web portals.

Look to Your Customers First

Gaining knowledge about your competitors is no doubt important. Understanding what works for them, what doesn’t work and what they are planning is vital, but not the whole story -- especially when competition comes from sources outside of your industry. With more frequent announcements about established companies going into “new” businesses, like Walmart going into banking, Apple going into healthcare, Amazon going into TV production and start-up ventures like Uber that create new business models, it's not enough to only look at what the competition does.

If you really want to focus on success, look first at your customers, not your competition. Maybe organizations take their knowledge of their customers for granted. Or they think they can't afford the investment in understanding their customers. Either way, competitive analysis appears to be higher up on the priority list than getting a deep insight into what customers really want. There's a fear that current business models prevent giving them what they want -- and that if we did, it would be too disruptive to the overall business.

But if your organization views digital channels and the digital experience as a way to transform how it does business, obtaining a deep understanding of the digital customer experience is a pre-requisite for enabling organizational digital transformation.

The Chief Listening Officer post offered an approach that focused on using market research, digital behavioral analysis, A/B and multivariate testing, and customer data to understand more about the customer and using the results to create new digital experiences and products. There also needs to be elements of feedback, dialogue and interaction between you and the customer, as illustrated below:


Learning Opportunities

Unexpected Returns

Ilse Kristensen at the Danish Red Cross successfully executed this multi-disciplinary listening and learning approach. In preparation for a major site relaunch, Kristensen and her team reviewed site analytics, conducted interviews of all stakeholder groups, developed surveys and reviewed competitive sites and organizations to really understand what stakeholders wanted in a new site and digital communication experience. The results significantly different from what the Red Cross expected and what they were offering.

The beauty of this “listening” approach is that the data from Red Cross volunteers about what they wanted from the site, what they thought about the organization, what was important to them about being members of the organization, all fed into the new site design, information architecture and site applications. The personas that were developed from the visitor segment analysis figured prominently in determining site use cases, functionality and task identification.

The organization's leadership, who initially had very different ideas about how the site should be developed, were convinced by the depth of understanding the web team discovered about the volunteers. They agreed to go with the team’s design, content and navigation recommendations.

This initiative took longer than expected, but they were committed to to learning about their audience and building the site with their audience's interests and requirements as the central focus.

Thinking about how to use digital to transform your business? Start by asking your customers. They’ll give you the direction and wisdom to set you in the right direction. Focus on them -- not your competitors -- to stay ahead in the game.

Title image by phoca2004 (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license