in Marketing

5 Benefits of Tracking your Competition’s Online Footprint

Getting comprehensive data on your market can be expensive. You either have to gather and analyze large amounts of data yourself, or pay for someone else to do that.

Those services can cost hundreds of dollars a month depending on how in depth they are. While this information is certainly valuable, the price tag can be prohibitive for most startups.

Many companies can make great progress without comprehensive information. They run experiments, track data, and establish their own insights into their market.

I recently did a blog post on Measuring your Market Share as a SaaS Company. I built an app that searched for widgets used to install customer feedback tools. It saved the url of websites with these widgets installed and gave a total user count for each SaaS company.

Given time to reflect upon the post I realized that it only scratches the surface. Since the app I ran also saves the urls of companies in our csv we can go even deeper and learn about each company’s install base. Let’s take a look at how much can be learned running a new app using e-commerce tools as our market. Below is the code we used.

require 'zillabyte'
require 'csv'

app = Zillabyte.app "ecommerce_tools"
input = app.source "homepages"
tool_use_stream = input.each{
  prepare do 
    @cat_snippets = CSV.parse(File.open('widgets.csv'), :headers => ["company","snippet"])
  end
  execute do |page|
    @cat_snippets.each do |row|
      if page["html"].to_s.downcase.include?(snippet.downcase)
        emit :url => page["url"], :company => company
      end
    end
  end
}
.sink do
  name "ecommerce_tool_finder"
  column "url", :string
  column "company", :string
end

If this looks familiar, that’s because it’s similar to the app I previously used. You can use this app to analyze any market with an online footprint with minor modification. Feel free to use it as a starter program and test it out yourself.

We also updated our CSV file with E-Commerce companies and snippets of their code. Even running this over a sample size of five million domains yielded a lot of interesting information. Here is what the tool distribution looks like:

ecommerce

From our sample data we see that Aweber is a strong leader, with almost a quarter of the market. There are several companies close to tied for second place, and then installations steadily decline.

On the surface this is nice for a high level view of the industry. However, the app gave the url of every website with these tools installed. You essentially pulled a list of their customers and have a local copy of the information.

Owning that information can be invaluable as your company looks for opportunities to grow. Here are some other examples of how to use this data:

Analyze and Segment Users

First, if you have not already segmented your own users beyond cohorts, service tier, and level of activity this is a great opportunity to do so. Initially segmenting so many users can be a bit arduous, but when it’s in place you gain deeper insight into your users and your competition’s as well.

You can first segment based on industry. This is the most time consuming, but knowing who your competition caters to can help you respond to the market. Are you great with retailers, but want to acquire more SaaS clients or do you want to dominate one segment? You can see who your competitors are working with most and figure out why.

Maybe their marketing is better targeted towards SaaS, or they have features that make their product an easier fit. Knowing who their customers are will help you gain these insights and better position yourself.

Evaluate Needs

Another segmentation could be on common tools customers use. There are a few reasons to do this but they all boil down to understanding their needs. Do your customers all use the same general set of tools? Are certain groups of customers using different sets of tools?

If your product has features that meet those needs, you should send them an email showcasing the feature. If you have an integration for some of the tools, or are planning to have one, that would be another benefit to showcase. It can also help you better target customers using your competition.

Closely Track Market Changes

Running this app once gives a snapshot of the market on that date, but you don’t have to limit yourself to only one use.

You can run this app every month, or even every week. Each time you can see changes in market share.

This can be great for evaluating your campaigns with more than internal metrics. You can see if you actively took more market share, and where it came from. Did the market size increase, or did you take customers from your competitors?

You can check your updated customer lists against the last snapshot and see where customers are going if they change services. This can help you predict the flow of the market and take advantage of trends. The last suggested use is my favorite though.

Lead Generation

This is easily one of the most requested uses of Zillabyte. Rather than scrape Yelp or Linkedin (which would likely invoke a new age of spam), this app takes a laser focus to people who would actually use your product.

By tracking changes in the market, you can target two valuable groups: customers who recently switched services and customers totally new to the market. Both groups are likely to be on a free trial to test out the tool they signed up to use.

Towards the end of that trial you can email them offering your own promotion. If you have gone through the effort of segmenting groups based on industry and needs you can easily send an email catered to what they need.

Of course, having a list of your competitor’s customers gives you more leads than just new users. They are likely the easiest to convert. You can be as aggressive and focused as you like. It all depends on what your team wants to do with the data you now have.

Summary

With this simple app you can gather information on an entire industry. We covered how to find users of E-Commerce tools and several uses for the data. This app can be used for any industry with an online footprint. The only thing standing in the way of most companies and this information is actually building an app to track it.

It sounds like a lot of work, but really writing a 26 line script isn’t too difficult. The code used above is a great starting point. If you want to find this market data for yourself and own it in-house then you have a great starting point. Find the answers your company has for the web.

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