There are hundreds of ways to increase the conversion rate of a website: A/B” testing>, customer” surveys> and usability” studies> are all hugely important techniques. But what about spying?
Have you considered using your competitors and, more specifically, what their customers think of them to increase the effectiveness of your website?
Understanding customers is often the key to a successful website. If you aren’t answering” all the important questions> a customer may have, then you’ll create friction points, which means you’ll leave money on the table.
Removing friction points can be done in a variety of ways. But if you expand your conversion” optimization> campaign beyond your own website to analyze” competitors>, you can make immediate and fruitful gains.
How your competitors can help increase your conversion rate
Like it or not, your competitors will have plenty of paying customers; not only that, they’ll have customers that love them and customers that hate them.
Just because these customers didn’t buy from your website doesn’t mean you can’t use them to your advantage. Many will post their experiences online, providing you with a wealth of qualitative” data> that you can analyze to increase your own conversion rates.
Study competitor reviews to find out what customers want.
First: Pick out one of your competitors (a bigger name in your niche—they’ll have a higher volume of reviews due to the sheer number of customers; you can check out some of the smaller ones later).
Once you’ve picked a competitor, head to a major review site (e.g. Trust Pilot) and locate the company’s review page. Read what customers are saying about your competitor. Don’t concentrate only on negative reviews—find out why customers love and hate your competitors.
Make a list of key points. You’ll start to see patterns and common themes. Then ask yourself, “Does my website address these customer fears? Am I doing enough to make them love my website/customer service/etc.?”
What information will help conversions?
The image above is from a review of an online bathroom retailer in the UK. As you can see, this customer had issues with the delivery, which stopped at the curb. If you kept reading, you’d see the same thing—bad news for them but conversion gold if you’re a bathroom retailer, too.
Now you know that delivery is a real concern for customers, you can use your own delivery page to address all these points clearly. Increase customer confidence, increase conversions.
Remember, don’t just concentrate on the negatives. If you can find out the reason that customers love a competitor, that information can be equally powerful to include in your copy or as part of a value” proposition>.
Where to find reviews on your competitors
- Trust Pilot;
- Google My Business;
- Google (“competitor name” reviews –site:competitorwebsite.com).
Use social media to spot customer hang-ups (in real time).
Not every customer has the time or inclination to sign in to a review site and post their experience, but you can bet your bottom dollar that most tweet or post to Facebook about it.
For tracking mentions of your competitors, Hootsuite” is a great tool. you can add new tab and have several streams tracking competitor mentions in real time. get hectic if your huge brand. study it for few minutes pick up on things like this:>
The picture above is from a florist, a business in which delivery times and communication are key. Maybe, based on this feedback, it’d be worth testing a “request call back” feature. (Some things never change: Test, test, and test again.)
While Twitter is great for spotting real-time customer issues, you can also dive into Facebook and check out competitors’ business pages to see what customers write there. You’ll get more detail compared to the character-limited tweets.
You may also spot flaws in the way they handle customer problems, which again can help you identify the important questions that you benefit by answering before customers need to ask.
Don’t forget the forums.
Forums have been around since the dawn of the Internet, but people still use them, and they’re a great source of information to increase conversions.
People use forums to ask questions about products or companies. They also vent their frustrations and lavish praise.
Information is similar to what you’d find on review sites, but you also get a different angle—customers who are thinking of buying a product or service but haven’t quite decided or don’t feel confident enough to do so. These are the customers you want to analyze.
By analyzing pre-purchase questions about the type of products or services you sell (or questions about specific competitors), you learn a ton about the issues customers face when buying things online.
I guarantee you’ll see a question like, “Has anyone ever bought an ABC from XYZ company?” In many cases, that means XYZ company isn’t doing a good job making customers feel confident about buying from them. Could your website be failing to address those same concerns?
The best place to start for anyone in the UK or Europe are the Money” saving expert forums>. It’s one of the largest consumer groups on the web and many retailers/businesses have threads created about them on a daily basis.
Many industries have specific forums with even more detailed information about the things customers like and dislike. Run a quick Google search and see what you can find for your industry.
A useful tool to help with this is Boardreader,” which is a search engine for forums. simply type in your keyword this case the name of competitor and it will online communities mentions brand. you can gain lot just by reading sentiment forum thread titles that come through.>
Finally, Reddit” is always a good source of product and company conversations long as your target demographic overlaps with to do this information>
- Split test your calls” to action> based on your findings.
- Test different value propositions.
- If price is a real gripe, offer a monetary benefit as a lead magnet (e.g. money off, free delivery, coupons etc.).
- Build a helpful FAQ section that addresses customer fears and hang-ups.
- If your competitors are loved, make” sure your website is as credible theirs>.
- Survey your website visitors about proposed changes based on your findings.
Putting these methods into practice
This technique really excels with ecommerce websites. Let’s take a look at this in action to see how it can:
- Identify what matters to customers in a specific industry.
- Find out why customers love or hate certain competitors.
- Improve conversion optimization campaigns and processes.
Let’s imagine that I’m working for Sheds” warehouse>, an online retailer of sheds, garden buildings, and playhouses. My average order value is somewhere between £250–300, so I know that increasing conversion rates could be very rewarding.
How can spying on my competitors help me do that?
1. Identify what matters to customers in a specific industry.
Rather than starting to read thousands of reviews, the first step is to get an overview of the industry. In this case, run a Google search for “garden sheds” and pick five websites. It can be the top five, a mix of Ads and organic results, or the competitors that you know do really well online.
Once you have five competitors, head over to Trust Pilot and type in the first company name. (Some review sites do better in other countries, so pick the ones that are most heavily used in your location.) On Trust Pilot, you’ll see a long list of reviews along with a “Show more reviews” button. Keep clicking it until you get an extensive list of reviews.
Scrape the reviews for analysis
Delete the square brackets and the number (e.g. “”), then hit scrape again to scrape all the reviews. (The exact process and XPath will vary from site to site.)
Once you’ve scraped the reviews, export them to Google Docs. Then, rinse and repeat the process for the other competitors.
Merge the reviews into one document
There might be a savvier way to do this, but the simplest way I’ve found is to select all the text in each Google Doc and copy and paste it into a giant Notepad text file.
Run a find and replace to remove the brand names and quotation marks. You could also remove words that are likely to appear in every review (e.g. “shed”) if you don’t think it will add value.
Generate a word cloud
With your giant text file of reviews, head over to Wordle,” paste in the text and generate a word cloud.>
You’ll get something like the example below, which in this example is 1000 customer reviews spread across five competitors in the garden sheds industry:
What can you glean from this?
The word cloud begins to paint a picture of what’s important to customers in the industry as a whole. In the case of garden sheds, it’s quite clearly delivery, instructions, and quality.
Perhaps this is nothing ground breaking if you’ve been in the industry for years, but you’d be surprised at how many retailers don’t translate these messages onto their websites.
Analyze product pages to ensure they deliver essential information
From the word cloud, I know that the following things are important to a customer in the market for a garden shed:
- How easy to understand the instructions are;
- The quality of the shed and the panels.
Does this product page deliver all those things? Can you find delivery information? Is there anything about how easy the shed is to assemble or a link to PDF instructions? Is there a mention of the quality or a guarantee?
Some of the information is there, but it’s buried within a laundry list of bullet points or unsubstantiated (“Easy Assembly”). That’s hurting conversions. The key points that we’ve uncovered in a thousand reviews should be clear and credible.
What could you test based on this research?
By combining industry-specific customer requirements with proven” ways to increase ecommerce conversion rates>, you can significantly improve website performance.
In this scenario, I’d look at:
- Informing the customer about the detailed instructions that come with the shed and give them the option of seeing a sample set of instructions.
- Make delivery information much clearer or even test free delivery to see if there’s an uplift in conversions.
- Give some indication of quality—guarantees, manufacturing location (UK manufactured), and the processes involved.
- Incorporate user-generated content onto the page that talks about how great and easy to put together the sheds are.
*Remember: Your potential customers are going to read your competitor reviews, too (people” comparison shop>), so even if they didn’t consider instructions previously, they’ll be conditioned to start thinking about them.
The right analytics setup or mouse tracking can measure the impact of those changes—assessing what people click and what they don’t.
2. Find out why customers love or hate certain competitors.
Once you have an overview of the entire industry across a sample of competitors, it’s time to focus on one them and manually read some reviews.
The word cloud method is a useful blanket approach, but if you truly want to understand the customer and increase conversions, you have to dig a little deeper. That requires reading reviews in full.
In this case, I’ve picked a company called Waltons” based on two things:>
- Their yearly turnover according to filed accounts;
- The number of reviews they receive on a daily basis.
This suggests that they’re making a lot of sales through their website. (They don’t have a physical premises.)
Reading Reviews in Full
By sitting down and reading what customers are saying, you can really find out a lot about them. As you can see in the screenshot above, I was able to pick out some extremely useful information about why customers ended up buying, and also why they wouldn’t buy again.
After reading around 100 reviews in full, I distilled my findings into a table:
|Why customers love them||Why customers hate them|
|Easy to order/Payment options||Delivery service not great|
|Quality of the product||Missing parts quite common|
|Website simple to use||Promise of next-day delivery not always fulfilled|
This analysis helps me see why customers may dislike Sheds Warehouse. At the same time, I can spot the things ShedsWarehouse does already that customers clearly love. I can then determine whether they could do more of it or improve the clarity.
In this case, a couple of customers who reviewed Waltons appreciated that they could pay with PayPal. You can pay with PayPal on Sheds Warehouse, too, but it’s hidden away at the bottom of the sidebar with a low-resolution graphic.
With that in mind, we can test putting the message in a more prominent position to see if it would increase conversions.
Another key area is missing parts. Missing parts are inevitable, but neither Sheds Warehouse nor any competitor mentions it on their site, other than in the small print (which” only person in a>,000″ actually reads>).
This is an opportunity to stand out from competitors and boost customer confidence. I’d test putting some copy together about what happens in the event of missing parts in the delivery.
3. Improve conversion optimization campaigns and processes.
Your analysis of competitors’ reviews can be used directly to increase conversion rates but also as part of much deeper and wide-reaching conversion” research project>.
For Sheds Warehouse, the qualitative data can help structure my exit surveys or aid usability studies. You can also relay findings to your SEO/Content/Copywriting team to help create content around the areas you identified as important to customers.
Sheds Warehouse, for example, could benefit from FAQ section. Even though a shed is a relatively simply structure, findings from the customer reviews suggest that customers have a lot of questions to clear up before parting with their cash.
Just because a product is “simple”—a few pieces of wood and a roof—it’s still a highly considered purchase. It’s up to the shed retailer to ensure that the customer has the confidence that they’re getting something of quality for the right price.
Spying on your competitors achieves several things:
- You understand who your potential customers are; why they bought in the first place; and why some of them will or won’t buy again.
- You find out what a customer looks for when buying the type of products you sell.
- You can tailor your site to show off the things that matter to customers.