1. Manual Competitor Monitoring
Manual monitoring, typically employed by start-up retailers, is certainly more eﬀective than completely ignoring the competition and carrying out no monitoring activities at all, but this creates a range of potential problems.
The most prominent issue is the incredible amount of time that manual monitoring can take. Start-up retailers generally have minimal human and ﬁnancial resources, with the operational demands of running a business leaving little to no time for eﬀective competitor monitoring.
Aside from the time commitment of gathering initial data, the task of correlating it all manually introduces yet another level of potential human error, where something as simple as a transposition error could hide a potentially lucrative sales opportunity or create a falsely positive impression of the state of the market. Even combining manual monitoring with some of the general tools available to bargain-hunting consumers could still prove an ineﬀective method.
The problems of manual monitoring are further compounded by the fact that prices change regularly due to factors such as promotional discounts, inventory changes, new product releases and the price monitoring activities of other retailers. The time investment required to manage all of this is a consistently heavy drain on resources, and it ensures that important opportunities will be overlooked.
Why Automate Competitor Monitoring?
Automated competitor monitoring overcomes almost all the issues created by manual competitor monitoring. By taking advantage of technologies developed speciﬁcally for competitor monitoring, any retailer can quickly correlate hundreds, thousands and millions of products, prices and promotions across an entire industry while simultaneously keeping tabs on ﬂuctuating inventory levels and media mentions. The beneﬁts of a comprehensive competitive monitoring truly become apparent. Over time, retailers can use the competitor data gathered to spot trends and patterns automatically presented as graphs and charts, allowing complex data sets to be easily understood and future trends predicted with greater accuracy.
2. Self-Service Automated Competitor Monitoring
Self-service monitoring is a good way to explore how competitive monitoring strategies can be implemented while keeping cost outlays at a minimum. For small businesses with limited resources or in retail sectors where there isn't a great deal of market ﬂuctuation, this is often the approach that oﬀers the best return on investment.
However, the self-service method does have several issues that limit the eﬀectiveness of the monitoring. The largest issue is the time investment required in order to manage the monitoring data, as every product to be tracked must be manually entered into the database. A slight change in the conﬁguration of a competitor's website can completely block the software from continuing to monitor it, creating an unreliable dataset that can lead to ﬂawed conclusions.
3. Full-Service Automated Competitor Monitoring
Full service monitoring is the most thorough competitor monitoring solution available, combining all the beneﬁts of automated monitoring with a dedicated account manager who helps to analyse collected data and highlight potential opportunities. Full-service monitoring empowers businesses to use the data to turn prospects to customers and users into buyers.
The only drawback to full-service monitoring is that it may be outside the budget of smaller retailers, who may ﬁnd that a self-service automated solution is more attuned to their needs. Full-service monitoring can always be adopted in the future as a business grows and the need for a more thorough monitoring solution outpaces the ability of an in-house team to manage it.
Competitor Monitor oﬀers a full suite of intelligent tools designed to monitor the ﬁve major elements that form a comprehensive competitor monitoring strategy: available products, pricing, relevant promotions, available inventory, and customer reviews / media mentions. Account managers are on hand to help conﬁgure the various elements to be tracked, and then to help analyse the data and highlight potential opportunities. Sophisticated autonomous software continuously collates relevant data and ensures that tracking data is always up to date, regardless of how the competition changes their online presence.
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