eCommerce Lifestyle
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How To Ethically Spy On Your Competitors

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Is there such thing as ethically spying? Well, if you're running an eCommerce store and you're not spying on your competitors, then you're definitely at a disadvantage.

In today's episode of the podcast, I share with you the right way to spy on your competitors.

​If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to ​let me know in the comment section.

What's Covered in This Episode:


Do:

  • Locate all suppliers that your competitors are selling for
  • Check the internet for reviews
  • ​​Find their weaknesses
  • ​Find their traffic sources
  • ​Check for their top content
  • ​Check for their top ads
  • Opt-in to their email list
  • ​​Ask suppliers who their top retailers are, and how many products they sell

​Don't:

  • ​Lie about being interested in purchasing a business to get access to their financials
  • Copy their content
  • ​Pay someone to get access to their data
  • ​Assume that everything they’re doing works
If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The eCommerce Lifestyle Podcast! The podcast is also available on all major podcast players including, Stitcher and Spotify.

Links From This Episode:

This ​podcast is also available in video form. Click ‘Play’ below to start watching. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for weekly updates and insights!

Transcript

So the word “spying” has a really negative connotation associated with it. People think of it as this negative thing. But the truth is, if you're running an eCommerce store and you're not spying on your competitors, you're running at a huge disadvantage. So, what I want to do in today's podcast is show you how you can spy on your competitors, but do it ethically.

And the reason I thought this would be a good topic for today's podcast is because at my company, Drop Ship Lifestyle, we have over 10,000 students from over 50 countries. And one of the things I talk a lot about in the Drop Ship Blueprint, which is our flagship program, is spying on your competitors. But what I realized is some people take that too far. And maybe it's because they genuinely don't know what's right and what's wrong. Maybe it's because I don't know who they are and they don't have ethics. But what I wanted to do is at least try to get across what I believe is right, and what I believe is wrong when it comes to ethically spying on your competitors.

So first, let's go over what you should do, and then we'll go over a few things that in my opinion are not ethical and you should not be doing so. So the first thing that we always do when spying on our competitors and what I believe you should do as well, is check out to see who they are selling for, what brands are listed on their store. You could do this by simply going to their websites, looking for a page that's called brands or manufacturers, or just looking at their products and seeing what the products names are, and then seeing what the brand name of those products is. That way, you can further research those brands and establish your own relationship with them. That's definitely a way you should spy on your competition, and there is nothing that's unethical about doing that.

The second way that we spy on our competitors, and that I recommend you do as well, is to scour the Internet for their reviews. So whatever the brand's name is that you're researching, whether they're a competitor or a future competitor, you want to Google their company name, go on YouTube, search for their company name, and see what people have to say about them.

So you're basically spying on them, trying to find out what people like about them and what people don't like. You can use that information to further build up your business and make sure you're better than them. You can learn from their weaknesses, and you can also learn from their strengths.

So that moves us into the third thing that we do, that is, building on exploiting their weaknesses. And to do that, you need to really drill down and find out what those weaknesses are. This is mostly on their website. So some things you want to look at as you're spying on your competitors are their product images on their product pages. Do they have good images? Do they have bad image? Do they not have enough images? Are their images too big and cause their site to load slow? These are things you could find out just by visiting their website, and you can use the information you find to make your website better.

Another thing you can find as you're spying on them on their website is look at their product descriptions. Are they unique? Are they short? Are they even correct? Are they not helpful? Are they not rewritten as something that would entice the visitor to buy? These are all things again you can learn from them as their weaknesses, and then improve on your own store, 100% ethically.

Another thing you want to check are the promotions that they're offering. On their homepage, on their collection pages, what are they currently promoting that's trying to get people to buy? Again, nothing not ethical about going to someone's website and seeing what products they're pushing the hardest. By checking this, you can learn a lot about how they make money. What are they promoting? Why are they promoting it? Can you do something similar? You're not doing this by trying to trick anybody, you're doing this by going to their website and looking to see what it is they have to offer.

Now, something else you should definitely do when spying on your competitors is look to see what support channels they offer. Are they on email? Are they on live chat? Do they have a phone number? And if you email, does somebody respond? If you click on live chat, is there somebody there? If you call in, is there somebody on the other line of the phone or is it just a number that's disconnected? So, you don't have to trick anybody and email them or call them and pretend you are someone you're not, but you can just reach out and say hi, and see if anybody responds. This will give you a good baseline of, is this company responsive? And if they are, well, we know we better be. And if they're not, then we still better be, so we can have that advantage over them.

One more thing you can look at while you're on their stores, I mentioned promotions before, as in site-wide promotions. You can also go to their individual product pages, the bestsellers, and see if they're offering anything on those product pages to incentivize someone to buy. Are they using bonus offers, are they not? And again, if they're not, then you should be because you'll get the sales. And if they are, you can think, “How can I make mine better?” Again, use the information that's already out there to improve your current offers.

So the fourth way to ethically spy on your competition is to find out where they're getting their website traffic from. And you're not going to do this again by lying, or cheating, or doing anything crazy. You're just going to go to a website that's called similarweb.com, and you're going to put in your competitor's URLs, and it's going to show you a breakdown of where their traffic is coming from. Is it Google? Is it Facebook? Is it YouTube? Is it organic search? And that's going to give you a good idea of how they're driving people to their store, and should open up ideas for you for how you can improve your own traffic, and are there any traffic sources that you might be missing out on?

Now the fifth thing you want to do to ethically spy on your competitors is check what their top performing content is. By content, I mean, things like buyer's guides. This can also be things like blog posts or YouTube videos. And the way you can check is just by going to those blog posts, or videos or content pages, and look to see if it has engagement in the form of comments. Are people interacting with the content they're being out? And if they have 50 pieces of content, what's the top 20% of that? What's getting the eyeballs?

Now, we'll get into the ethics of this later. You're not going to steal their content, but you're just looking at this to see what your audience, their audience if you're competing, is currently responding to, so that you can move in that direction in terms of your own content.

Now, moving on, the next you want to do when spying on your competitors is check their Facebook and Instagram ads, to see what they're currently running as ads and how long they've been running those things as ads.

To do this in Facebook, you can just go to their page. You can go to page transparency. Then there's a little link that says click to see their ads, and you can see all of their active ads and you can see the dates that those ads started running. So the ones that have been running the longest, if the person is good at math at all, are the ones that are most likely bringing in their best leads and their best traffic. So it'll give you an idea of what they're doing on Facebook and Instagram to market that's working for them. Again, that can help you move in that direction, maybe try out a different ad angle that you haven't used yet.

So moving on from that, the next thing I'll say is opt in to their email lists. So go to your competitor's website. If they have a newsletter sign up, if they have an exit intent overlay, whatever it is, opt in, see how frequently they send emails, see what type of emails they send, and use this information to help build your business stronger. But at the very least, just know what they're doing, what they're promoting, when they have new products come out, or anything else they're communicating with their email audience.

So one last thing, it's how you spy on your competitors but it's not directly through them is to reach out to your top suppliers, the brands you currently sell for. Again, not specific if you are drop shipping, using the Drop Ship Lifestyle model. And by the way, if you're not, go to dropshipwebinar.com after this podcast. You can learn more. I'll post it in the description, but dropshipwebinar.com. But what you want to do is talk to your top suppliers and just say, “Hey, we're trying to get a baseline for where our sales should be. Can you let me know how many units your top retailer sells every month? And just see if they tell you, “Oh, you sell 50 units a month but our top retailer sells 500.” Then you can ask them, “Well, who is that? I'd like to see what they're doing.”

And sometimes they'll tell you because they want that competition. Sometimes they might say, “Oh, sorry. We can't give that information.” Either way, at least you asked. It's definitely ethical, you're not doing anything wrong, you're asking a question of them being totally honest why you want it. And if they choose to tell you, which many will, then you have that data, you know who the basically top player with that supplier is, and you can look at what they're doing to reverse-engineer it to beat them. Not copy them but to beat them and do better, and become that number one retailer for that specific brand.

So, that's a bunch of ethical ways that we spy on our competitors. I'm just going to give you a few that are definitely not ethical. The first, and I really don't like when people do this, is when they lie to existing business owners and say that they're actually interested in purchasing their business and purchasing that asset, to get actual financial data, to get access to analytics, to get access to suppliers, to get access to customer databases, but with no intention of ever buying that business, they're just a competitor, and they want their eyes on all that data.

Now, in my opinion, that is as unethical as you can be. You're straight-up lying, and you're disingenuous about why you're actually approaching somebody for a specific thing. So whether you're reaching out to business owners you find on Google or business owners you find through a website brokerage, and misrepresenting what you want in order to get access to their data. Don't do that. That's unethical. I mean, I believe in karma. And if you're going to do that, you maybe you'll have success for a little bit, but it's not going to last at all.

So something else you shouldn't do, it relates to spying on competitors, because I mentioned you want to see what their top content is, that's fine. Okay, you want to know what type of posts people are engaging with, what style of writing. Are they image posts, videos? Are they top 10 lists? You want to check that. What you don't want to do is copy their content, because obviously it's unethical, it's going to get taken down, it's not going to help your brand. So don't copy anybody's content. Obviously, that's unethical. It should never be done. There's literally no benefit to your business, and it's a really good way to guarantee you're going to fail. Again, maybe not right away, but in the long-term, it's not going to help you at all.

So something else. And this one is less talked about because it's really shady. But unfortunately in the world of online business, there's a lot of shady people out there. And this one is paying somebody to basically hack in to get access to a competitor's data.

And again, it doesn't get talked about a lot because it's obviously illegal and it's super shady, but there are different black-hat sites, and unfortunately there are some people in the eCommerce world that'll try to do this. They'll try to get passwords. They'll try to get access to analytics. They'll try to get access to somebody's Shopify backend, just to see the actual numbers and obviously steal it. I shouldn't have to say it's unethical, but it does happen unfortunately. And hopefully you know, if you're listening to this, that you shouldn't do that, but did just want to mention it.

And finally, one more point that I should make. There's all these ways that we ethically spy on our competitors and we do get a lot of great data, but I just want to end this episode with saying, one thing you shouldn't do is assume everything you find works. Because I've seen this before with our own stores, where we'll build a new store or we'll build a new promotion, or we'll send out a new email sequence or create a new ad type, and we're doing it knowing it's purely for testing, having no idea if it'll work, then we'll have somebody literally rip the thing off. And then we'll learn a week or two later that, “Oh, that didn't work like we thought it would,” but scrap that, and then it's already ripped off.

So don't go out there. This is why I say, try to learn from ideas, try to learn from what you see that's historically worked, but never copy anyone to begin with, and never just assume everything you see works and should be copied. You want to do this to get a feel, I would say, or a picture of what your competitors are doing, but don't assume that's making them millions of dollars and you should do the exact same thing. Because again, a lot of times like we do, we're testing all the time, and people copy things that don't even work. So keep that in mind.

So with that being said, guys, if you're listening to this or watching the video version and you're new here, and you want to know how we build highly profitable semi-automated stores, be sure to check out dropshipwebinar.com. And if you're listening to this or watching the video version and you already run a profitable store, be sure to check out ecommercelifestyle.com. That's where we have our higher-level programs that help store-owners go from six to seven figures.

So as always, guys, hope you got value. And with that being said, I will talk to you in the next episode of the podcast. See you.

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