Inspiration can come from anywhere, including the competition. Getting great ideas from your competition doesn’t mean stealing their ideas. Instead, you can use what someone else is doing as a springboard for your own original creative implementation.
You can start by identifying your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, then uncovering your own competitive advantages. As you dig into a competitive analysis to identify your competitors’ strategies, strengths and weaknesses, list the different types of competition you’re facing. These include direct competitors that sell the same types of products, indirect competitors that specialize in other areas but sell the same products we sell, and replacement competitors, which don’t offer the exact same products or services but compete for the same customer base.
When examining direct competition, I recommend focusing on new competitors who have recently entered the market as well as established competitors. The newest locations are more likely to be implementing new, innovative technologies. The newest market entrants typically have the latest and greatest equipment, especially when it comes to cashierless point-of-sale technology or contactless solutions.
It isn’t that older, established locations are doing anything wrong. It is simply that for many existing locations, investing in new technology and innovations can be costly. However, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from well-known locations with an established customer base.
Whether you’re examining an existing location, a new entrant or those competitors who may be on the fringe of our industry, be sure to actually shop the location and not just walk through. Physically go and get a soda or a Snicker’s bar and go through the process of buying that item. It is one thing to walk into a location and another to go wait in line and place an order. Sometimes we might think a location is really cool and executing really well based on our observations, but when you do it yourself, you may realize the customer experience is quite poor.
This also applies to downloading a competitor’s app and actually using it. I know from personal experience that some quick-service apps are more user friendly than others. And, once you’ve had a stellar experience, you can easily spot those that don’t work. You don’t want to highlight someone who is doing it really well, go and replicate their solutions, and realize it is not user friendly or a good customer experience.
Also, remember it is important to put your own unique spin on even the best ideas. Just because something works for one location, doesn’t mean it will work for you without customizing it. Look at your customer base and consider how it compares to your competition’s customer base.
Strong competition can make a business better, and competitors can help you as you work to develop new and creative offerings.
5 Tips to Spur Creative Inspiration:
- Attend Industry Meetings
Whether they are virtual or in person, conferences and workshops are a great place to learn of new innovations.
- Shop your Competitors
Don’t just check out what others are doing. Really experience it. Shop the store, order a sandwich and try out the app. Identify what worked, what didn’t and how you could improve.
- Ask For Suggestions
Ask industry vendors for tips on who is executing innovative solutions well. Our industry vendors have a lot of knowledge and they are happy to share it. Once you learn who is impressing the vendors, go and visit those locations.
- Browse Social Media
Today’s shoppers value reviews and like to interact on social media. Check out your competitors’ social media pages and see how competing brands are communicating with customers. Also pay attention to what platforms they are using, such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. How often do your competitors share posts? What kinds of posts, such as videos or text? What time of day are the posting? How long do they take to reply to comments?
- Ask Your Competitors What You Want to Know
Idea sharing is popular among NATSO members. If you have a question, it can’t hurt to ask. Even if someone in your geographic region won’t share specific answers, you could reach out to a fellow NATSO member that operates in a different part of the country.
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