How to Leverage Competitive Auditing to Make Customer Experience Your Key Brand Differentiator
By Ron Welty, Founder & Chief Client Officer
In today’s marketplace, why do customers choose you over your competitors? For many, customer experience is the deciding factor. Walker reports that in 2020, customer experience has overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “Customers want a positive experience, not just a transactional relationship, with the brands and companies they engage with.” As today’s business leaders increasingly value customer-centric strategies, they’re investing in data, like mystery shopping and voice of the customer tools, to understand and optimize their customer experience.
As you explore the customer experience solutions available, it’s crucial to also take the time to understand who your competitors are and what they’re offering. Here’s how competitive auditing can help give you the edge needed to drive growth at your organization.
What is a Competitive Audit?
A competitive audit is one of the best ways to understand your competition. To put it simply, competitive auditing is the process of identifying your competitors and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses against your own. By conducting a competitive audit, you’ll be able to:
- Identify your competitors
- Understand market trends
- Compare and contrast customer experiences
- Recognize what customers truly want
- Identify your brand’s unique identifier
Conducting a Competitive Audit
Often times, brands conduct competitive audits for marketing, branding, advertising, and product innovation, but sometimes forget about the customer experience. Yet, Temkin Group reports that 73 percent of companies with above-average customer experiences perform better financially than their competitors. Consistently delivering exceptional customer experiences can increase customer retention and acquisition and sales. Brands with superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that lag in this area.
Competitive audits can shine light on the critical differences between you and your competitors, evaluating customer experience every step of the way. When conducting a competitive audit, here are some areas within your customer experience that you’ll want to assess:
Website User Experiences
In today’s digital-first environment, your website typically serves as the first interaction a customer has with your brand. Pivotree, a global commerce and information management services firm, found that 79 percent of customers who run into any kind of website performance issues will be less likely to conduct business with that brand.
When customers visit your site, are they able to easily navigate your sitemap, digest your content, and get a good feel for your brand? Or, did they go to your competitor’s site while your homepage was in the process of loading? Understanding your website performance and how it compares is a crucial step to improving your e-commerce customer experience.
Personalization is a winning strategy for brands looking to build better customer relationships. An Accenture study found that 91 percent of customers are more likely to buy products from companies that use their name, provide personal recommendations, and know their preferences. When it comes to these personalization tactics, how does your brand compare?
Many retailers provide recommendations online based on the products a customer viewed and their purchase history. Yet, initiatives to personalize the in-store customer experience can sometimes fall through the cracks. Walgreens, for example, takes their personalization efforts a step further by using digital screens, cameras, and sensors in cooler doors to recommend products based on age, gender, time of day, and the weather.
Customer Loyalty Programs
Converting customers to your business is likely one of your reasons for conducting a competitive audit. When you consider brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Verizon and Sprint, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, though, it can be challenging to convince customers to leave your competition. What might make a loyal customer leave?
According to NewVoiceMedia, the top reason customers switch brands is because they feel unappreciated. Consider your customer loyalty program and how it stacks up to your competitors. Which aspects of your program would compel customers to choose your brand instead? Perhaps it’s a simple rewards methodology or more personalized rewards. Competitive audits can help you understand the most important elements to include in your customer loyalty program.
The customer experience doesn’t end after a purchase has been made. The post-purchase experience, which can include shipping, delivery, unboxing, online reviews, customer support, and returns, can be just as important.
A competitive audit can help benchmark your post-purchase experience against the competition. In response to Amazon Prime’s two-day delivery guarantee, for example, brands like Wal-Mart and Target recently expedited their shipping policies as a way to remain competitive.
Behind every great brand is a team that is dedicated to delivering exceptional customer experiences. It should come as no surprise then, that the associate experience is a crucial part of your customer experience.
According to Temkin Group, companies that deliver significantly better customer experiences than their competitors have more engaged associates. As you seek to improve the associate experience, compare pay, benefits, and your company culture to what your competitors are offering.
Find the Right Partner
IntelliShop has the customer experience solutions needed to give your brand an edge over the competition. When you partner with us, we’ll provide detailed insights into how your brand’s customer experience stacks up as well as create an actionable strategy to help set your brand apart from the rest. Contact IntelliShop today to request a consultation.