A Guide to Understanding Your Competitive Landscape

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It never hurts to know your competitive landscape. But for many companies, the roster of brands elbowing for market share is so vast and varied, it’s hard to identify where to start.

Many of the enterprise marketers we work with struggle with competitive landscape analysis and identifying opportunities for growth. That’s in large part due to the fact that the complexity of competitive intelligence is multiplicative of product diversity.

Competitive analysis is difficult and time-consuming enough when your competitive set is limited to a single cadre of brands. But the challenges of competitive analysis compound for companies with a diversity of product offerings, and a bevy of competitors in each vertical.

Retail Rundown: Target’s Competitive Landscape Analysis

Let’s use America’s second-largest retailer, Target, for our competitor analysis example. When you think of Target’s competitive landscape, the first challengers that come to mind are probably fellow retailers like Kmart, Costco, and perhaps most importantly, America’s largest retailer, WalMart.

Next consider Target’s various departments and product offerings: electronics, entertainment, clothing, health and beauty, sporting goods, etc. In each category, Target has tiers of companies competing for market share.

Then consider the vast number of social channels an enterprise marketer must track and leverage: paid advertising, content marketing, social media, email, press mentions, etc. Each social platform and marketing channel represents a new frontier to establish a presence and connect with consumers.

So take the number of competitive groups, branch them out by the specific competitors, then branch each of those out by the various marketing channels. The taxonomy of Target’s competitive landscape just got more complicated, didn’t it?

Now, how does this competitive breakdown help you identify opportunities for growth? To see this visually, let’s take a look Target’s share of interactions across several competitor groups on a single marketing channel: Facebook.

Let’s begin with the share of interactions on Facebook for Target’s key retail competitors.

Target vs. Retail Competitors: Share of Facebook Interactions (2014)

We can see in the graph above that while Target has seen some growth in its share of Facebook interactions against its retail competitors as of late, Walmart is dominating in the retail space on Facebook. In the retail group, Walmart is clearly the competitor to beat.

However, against department store competitors like JC Penney, Macy’s, Sears, and Kohl’s, the competition for Facebook interactions is more fiercely divided. Take a look at the graph below, which shows the share of Facebook interactions for Target against department store competitors throughout 2014.

Target vs. Department Store Competitors: Share of Facebook Interactions (2014)

Amongst this department store group, Macy’s (yellow) is commanding the largest swath of Facebook interactions, followed by Kohl’s (green). Target, again, saw an uptick in impact on Facebook among this competitive set beginning in late March, but has since lost ground.

But we’ve only just begun to look at Target’s competitive horizon. Often, an expansion of business comes with exposure to a whole new competitive set. Target, for example, has also seen major growth with its designer collaborations. The launch of these limited-edition collections has expanded Target’s competitive landscape to include higher-end department stores like Nieman Marcus and Nordstrom.

Target vs. High-End Department Store Competitors: Share of Facebook Interactions (2014)

As the graph above shows, Target fares better on Facebook in comparison to its higher-end department stores. Since March, Target has steadily built up its share of Facebook interactions and edged itself up against Nordstrom. Again, it appears Target made a shift in their Facebook strategy in March of this year, and that tactic has seen the greatest impact against this higher-end competitive set.

Now, remember Target’s various departments? From Health & Beauty to Sports & Outdoors, every category of inventory has a sub-tier of more specialized retail competitors. For example, how are Target’s marketing efforts stacking up in comparison to electronics retailers like Best Buy?

Target vs. Electronics Retail Competitors: Share of Facebook Interactions (2014)

On Facebook, it’s actually GameStop that is raking in the greatest share of Facebook interactions. Again, Target has seen growth in its share of Facebook interactions since March, and has seen steady gains against Best Buy.

That’s a high-level rundown of Target’s competitor analysis across just a sampling of competitor groups on a single marketing channel. We could go on and on, enumerating Target’s competitive list and grouping them by category and analyzing Target’s share of interactions across every marketing channel…but we think you get the point.

The days of marketing Manifest Destiny are over. You cannot simply isolate a social channel, head West, and stake your claim on market share. CMOs are waging battles and eyeing encroaching competitors across multiple marketing fronts. The more the competitive landscape can be mapped and tracked, the better.

Want to learn more? We’ve set up the ideal competitive analysis template to showcase your marketing performance in context of direct competitors, industry influencers, and best-in-class brands. Download your free copy of the Competitive Analysis PowerPoint Template to help your team prepare, digest, and get fired up about beating the competition.