Every businessman wants to be successful, no matter what field they are in. Businesses usually get better because they do a number of things right like customer service, marketing, sales, accounting, develop great products, hire the right people, etc. One thing I see businesses do frequently is copy the competition. Does this work? I don’t think so, but anyone can make an argument. Look at Apple and what a great company they are. Samsung has copied them for years, just like other major tech companies have (Microsoft, Google, etc.). These are powerhouse companies, and their success to having duplicated anything close to Apple is moderate. If these huge corporations can’t do it well, what makes you think your small business can?

Why copying doesn’t work

Let’s say you own an ecommerce business for restaurants. Your biggest competitor is Fishbowl. You have some of the best email marketers in the business, and some of them have worked for web companies like Constant Contact, Fishbowl, and Aweber. You are trying to keep up with Fishbowl’s message engagement rate of 65%. You are not even breaking 50% at the time, but think you can get there. The first thing I would advise you to do is to stop copying your biggest competitor. Fishbowl may have better newsletter subscribers, a more targeted audience, better client relationships, etc. It may be a matter of you tweaking your newsletter list. Another thing you could possibly do is test, test, test. Try to find out which parts of your business (i.e. client relationships, audience, traffic sources, etc.) can get better if you make some simple changes and apply them frequently. It might not be Fishbowl’s brand, audience, traffic sources, etc. that are making them so successful. You need to find out what works best for you and your business and make it better.

Use data regularly

Copying can be useless in most cases and a total waste of time. If you have a business strategy that works and want to find ways to be just as successful as your biggest customer, don’t copy their every move. Chances are, they don’t know what they are doing just like you. If you really want your business to be successful you should rely on data because it can be your best friend. With data, you can measure everything from CTR, unique visitors, bounce rates, engagement, where visitors scroll, etc. This should give you ideas where to experiment, and how you can make your users have the best experience. It also tells you what’s working and what’s not working. Data shows you areas you need to improve, and if you’re creative you can optimize user experience.

Improving your e-commerce business by using your competitors ideas is highly unethical and frowned upon by many in the business. Additionally, you can get in trouble with this because you may violate their patents and intellectual property rights. Coming up with an idea that is creative, unique, and intelligent is what you need. You have all of the tools already yourself, all you need to do is apply yourself and those in your organization. It most definitely is a team effort.

You must use data to transform your business, if you depend upon luck you’ll run yourself out of business. Also, you need to know how to use data and when and whether to use it. For example, I can have two list of newsletter subscribers from two different e-commerce companies. Let’s say one list has 100,000 subscribers and the other list has 1,000,000 subscribers. Both lists average 18% open rates and 5% click through rates respectively. However, the smaller list converts at a rate of 3% and the larger list converts at a rate of 1%. I would still rather have the larger list but I can tell the smaller list has been maintained well because of the high conversion rate.

Your data and numbers should be important to you at all times. How can we constantly increase our numbers through our use of data? Numbers will increase by measuring your data, observing the problem areas, and taking action to fix them.

Make yourself unique

One of the best things you can do is make yourself unique to the competition. Put together a product that no one else has that is highly desirable to your users. This is not easy, it will take countless hours from product managers, web developers, and an audience to see if you’re doing it right. You should also constantly ask your users for feedback, try to get focus groups, and find out who your product will appeal to the most. Zero in on those people to see how you can make your offer better and more appealing. Copying is never the key, chances are if someone has already tried something and is doing it at a high level for a number of years. It will be difficult to become a competitor, let alone beat them at their own game.