Competitors are an important source of insights and automating competitor monitoring should be part of marketing digital transformation. Watching and reporting competitors can be delegated to software bots, such as RPA and web scrapers, while you can focus on acting on the insights.
In this article, we will explain in more detail what competitor monitoring automation is and 4 places where it can be applied.
What is competitor monitoring automation?
Competitor monitoring automation is an automation tactic that uses automation tools to monitor specific, publicly-available data of your competitors.
- Web scrapers can scrape the data off of your competitors’ websites,
- RPA bots can read, structure, categorize, and put them in a spreadsheet to send it to the marketing team.
1. Price monitoring
Price scraping is the first use case of competitor monitoring automation. This practice might or might not be done with the consent of the targeted website’s owner.
Price scraping is mainly used in businesses with a dynamic pricing model, exploiting the marginal differences between their price and competitors’ in real-time to capture the next customer. The aviation and the travel industry are prime examples of this.
Why is price monitoring important?
Monitoring your competitors’ prices is important because it enables you to capture the next undecided customer by offering a cheaper product.
It is also important because it allows you to move with larger macro trends: If you see the majority of your competitors raising their prices within the same time frame, it might suggest fundamental shifts in the market dynamic.
How can price monitoring be automated?
Web scrapers can be scheduled on specific time intervals to visit a pre-specified list of competitors’ websites to scrape the price data of a pre-specified list of products.
RPA bots will then structure these pricing data and send them to relevant employees for analysis.
Especially given that most businesses today offer their products on their own websites and also on different retail platforms, it takes a lot of work to monitor all websites simultaneously . Automation tools can do that at scale.
Product/service monitoring is monitoring competitors’ websites to get the specifics on their existing or newly-released products.
Why is product/service monitoring important?
Product monitoring is important because it provides the company with data about the competitor’s product line, such as the:
- Messaging & Packaging – how competing products are presented and explained can help marketers improve their own messaging
- Product features – to be used in identifying new product features
- Terms & Conditions – terms like free trial periods can help boost sales
- Ad campaigns – to be monitored over time to assess the effectiveness
- Partnerships – partners that work with your customers can also be effective partners for your own business
On Amazon, for instance, there’s the widely-adopted trend of carry-on sellers mentioning the dimensions in the product description (Figure 1). That could have been a result of competitors monitoring each other’s products.
How can product monitoring be automated?
Web scrapers can be programmed to visit specific product pages to scrape the relevant data to benchmark against the company’s own offering of similar products.
In addition, thanks to product categorization that aims to make website navigation easier, companies can use their web scrapers to scrape the product name in each specific category. Then they can program RPA bots to look for listings that were not there last time, to identify new additions to the product line.
Web scrapers can also take screenshots of products’ images or web pages so the company can see their competitors’ image advertisements. The RPA, thanks to OCR and NLP capabilities, can then structure the data and input it into a document.
- Scholarships they gave
- Faculty and leadership changes (to perhaps poach them, maybe)
- Number of periodic webinars
- Number of online courses
By automating their competitors’ services, they could monitor five business schools simultaneously, gain the competitive advantage they needed, and save money from not having to hire insight analysts.
7. End user review monitoring
Review monitoring is the reviews customers have left on the company’s product page or online retail shops (Figure 2).
Why is review monitoring important?
Review monitoring is important because it helps a company to keep being informed of what the competitors’ customers are saying about their products. Specifically, they can look for positive reviews to see what the competition is doing right, so they can replicate it and get inspired by it.
Or they can use the negative reviews as a basis for not repeating the mistakes the competition has made.
How can product monitoring be automated?
Web scrapers can be scheduled to visit the company’s product pages’ websites and extract users’ reviews.
In addition, they can also scrape reviews off online retail websites, such as Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, G2, or any other online marketplace where reviews are aggregated and which the competitors’ products are sold at.
8. SEO monitoring
SEO monitoring is monitoring efforts where you rank on search engines relative to your competitors, when it comes to a certain product and or service.
For instance, the query search for “running shoes” brings up 2 products from Nike, and 1 from Adidas and Asics each, in the first four results (Figure 3).
The SEO analyst at Under Armour, for instance, might want to look at the reasons why their running shoe doesn’t appear on the first page:
- Is it a certain keyword other ads are using that UA isn’t?
- Is it that the competitors’ product pictures have alt descriptions?
- Does the product’s color have anything to do with the ranking?
Why is SEO monitoring important?
SEO monitoring is important because it gives companies a perspective of what they can do to match the SEO success of their peers. Especially given that the e-commerce market keeps on growing, companies should optimize their placement the search engines to be amongst the top search results upon enquiry.
Not only that, but SEO monitoring also checks if all the links on your own websites are functional and accessible.
Another use case of SEO monitoring is keeping track of how much customers, influencers, and users, in general, are “mentioning” your brand. This gives you insight into your popularity or lack thereof.
How can SEO monitoring be automated?
The main tools that go into SEO monitoring automation are:
- Web scrapers: These bots can visit competitors’ websites and note the webpage loading data, keyword ranking for specific products, scrape alt-image descriptions, take screenshots of their product pages, and more.
- Competitor analysis tools: These tools are more aimed at finding keyword ranking, websites’ traffic, and other such metrics.
- Deadlink checkers: These tools look into your website and your competitors’ for any deadlinks.
We won’t go into too much detail here. Learn more about the main SEO monitoring tools.
For more on e-commerce automation
To learn more about e-commerce automation, read:
- Top 5 E-Commerce Best Practices That Will Improve Your Sales
- The Ultimate Guide Into Digital Shelf Analytics
- 5 Ways Web Scraping can Help Your Products on eBay
And if you want to leverage automation solutions for your e-commerce, explore of our data-driven vendors lists of:
We will help you make the best selection:
Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.
Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.
Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.
He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.
Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
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