Competitor analysis is the very first method of research I undertake when starting a new project. It’s absolutely essential since you want to make sure that everything you design from this point onwards is better than the competitors of the product you are designing. During my work at Monarch Airlines and Aegean Airlines, I was consistently analysing direct competitors of those airlines and comparing the quality of my work to the quality of theirs. In this blog, I’ll explain the best way to carry out a competitor analysis to ensure that your designs are always going to be top of the food chain (design chain?).
1. Find the competitors
The first step to a successful competitor analysis is… you guessed it! Find the competitors! See, you’ll be setting up your competitor analysis agency in no time :P
At first, this might seem like an easy task. However quite often, the competitors you have found might not actually be direct competitors. This was the case at Monarch Airlines where certain airlines were not actually deemed direct competitors due to a range of different factors such as: fleet size, demographic or even base location. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way by jumping straight into the deep end and creating a 20 page presentation for the stakeholders on an airlines which couldn’t be further from a direct competitor. However the past is the past, I learned the hard way so I could prevent you from making the same mistake - I know, brownie points for me.
The best way to find direct competitors is to be open with your stakeholders and ask directly. They might not know that competitor analysis is part of your process (if it’s not then, well, I’m disappointed in you). Chances are they know exactly who the direct competitors are, and are likely even tracking various aspects of them already! Find out who they are, make a list of 4 or 5 of the most important ones. These are now your targets, you will stalk them day and night. Just kidding... Sort of.
2. Snoop relentlessly
Congratulations, you found the competitors. Now’s your chance to take some tips from that crazy ex of yours! You’ll want to make note of certain aspects of the competitors. These may vary from project to project, however they’re usually something like:
Layouts - How have they laid out information? How are their pages laid out? Where are they displaying certain pieces of information? Is some of it hidden? Collapsable? This is important because there might be a lot of information to display and you need to find who does it best.
Navigation - How easy is it to navigate around their product? What sort of navigation components do they use? If it’s some kind of booking path, are they using a breadcrumb? Is the breadcrumb clickable? If not, then that’s already an aspect that you can improve on. You need to constantly find where they fall short and improve on it.
Styling - This isn’t essential since you should be more concerned about their user experience, however it doesn’t hurt to make note of how competitors are styling their products in case there are similarities. For example, if every competitor has a bright and cheerful colour scheme, there is probably a reason for that.
Personality - What sort of language do they use on their products? Is it chirpy and cheerful? Straight to the point? Compare each one, if they’re all fairly straight to the point, then maybe it’s a good opportunity for you to introduce a chirpy and cheerful attitude to your product design to help your designs stand out from other competitors!
3. Understand that it’s an ongoing process
Don’t forget, competitor analysis is not a one-time thing. You should constantly be checking on competitors products as you’re progressing through the project. The goal of competitor analysis is to rise above. Never copy, always innovate. Find out what the competitors are doing and how they’re doing it, then use that as a base foundation to find better ways of doing it. Users like simplicity, make the process as simple and easy as possible for them.