Would it surprise you to learn that most major retail operations have entire departments within their company whose main purpose is to “spy” on the competition? It’s true.
It brings a few thoughts immediately to mind:
- There must be some value in doing this. It must add to the bottom line.
- I’m happy to be online where visiting similar businesses is just a click away.
- No wonder unique new ideas are so rare… they just copy each other.
As you can see, the last idea is a little bit contradictory to the first. Here’s another contradiction for you: the idea of similar businesses being called competition is wrong for creative online businesses. They are just similar. They aren’t you, and nobody has to lose for you to win. There is no competition. (read more)
So no further use of the word “competition” on this blog.
However, there is so much to be learned by watching what others do! Especially when those others are experienced and have paid the high price of learning the hard way. To not go out there and take a close look would be really kind of foolish.
How to learn from similar businesses
Reaching back to the comparison with a “real world” retailer, imagine yourself as the person assigned to “shop” the store down the block. You head over there, pull into the parking lot, and do your thing.
The key to doing your thing well is in being very, very, very observant. Every input your five senses receive can teach you something from the moment you approach the property.
We talked the other day about finding out who your customers are by looking at the customers who buy from similar businesses. But that’s not all you see when you visit.
- How are the products arranged and presented?
- Is the feel of the store more discount or more luxurious and high-end?
- What is the apparent quality of the products?
- How does the pricing compare to the quality?
- Does staff welcome you?
- Are you drawn in, or do you feel the urge to leave?
- Is the store bright, or darkened for mood?
You also see who’s buying.
- Who are the customers?
- What do they wear?
- How old are they?
- Are they predominantly male or female?
- Observe how they interact with the store and the products.
- Observe everything you can about them.
Are you still with me? I’m giving you the keys to the kingdom here. I know you can daydream about shopping. Do it! I know you might not see the correlation between a real store and an Etsy shop, but trust me, there is one and it’s not tiny.
Imagine the job of shopping a real world store, or even go out and give it a try if you’re serious enough about this. Then you can bring that experience online.
Then when you visit similar shops to your own, you’ll know what to look for.
When you find an area that you see in the real world, but not online, such as “Does the staff welcome you?”; ask yourself this:
“How can I?”
“How can I make it feel like someone is welcoming people to my shop?” You’re creative, you’ll figure out something awesome.
Learn about your target market, but don’t stop there.
The genesis of this post was a discussion on identifying your target market. The great news is that you can learn much more while you’re out looking around.
Find and visit similar Etsy sellers. Read similar blogs. Pay attention to items similar to yours in regular stores while you’re out.
The whole-entire-time let your brain be a sponge for information. Absorb everything you can about what you like, what you don’t, and why.
Then, when you put your own unique and personal creativity into it and put it all together, you’ll end up with something far greater than you ever would have imagined!
Go for it! Pretty soon, you’ll be the success story and new sellers will be shopping you for ideas!