3 Things You Can Learn from Your Competitors: Tips from Pamela Pavliscak

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There are things you can glean from competitor research.

One thing that Pamela Pamela Pavliscak, founder of Change Sciences, wants to make clear, though, is that you don’t want to make copying your direct competitor your strategy. She says copying competitors is ineffective because they have different strategies and a different audience. For instance, a lot of people want to copy Amazon because of its tremendous success, but Amazon has its share of problems too (though its familiarity and brand give it an advantage).

Pamela instead points out things that you can learn from your competitors without necessarily copying them:

Context and User Expectations

If you look at your upstream competitors through analytics, you’ll see where people are coming from and how that’s setting their expectations. Visitors will make direct comparisons if they’re in the same session and looking at one site and jumping to another, and what they have already seen will pre-bias their experience on your site.

Pamela cites, for instance, a music video company whose customers are coming from YouTube. She says these visitors will have certain expectations about how videos are played and how other videos are recommended.

SiteTuners CEO Tim Ash agrees that there’s value in knowing where your visitors come from, as you don’t want your visitors to learn a whole new user interface every time they change web sites.

Unique Selling Proposition

Checking your direct competitors’ web sites will also tell you how you can differentiate yourself from them. Customers want to know what sets you apart from other companies. Visitors make comparisons, and look at not just the price; they look at the tone, the presentation, the credibility of the site, and what you can do for them that others can’t.


Pamela stresses that users can spot when a web site is cookie-cutter, which is why lifting other sites’ look and tone can do more harm than good. She clarifies, however, that when it comes to nomenclature, you can benefit from using certain words your competitors are using that you know resonate with customers. If you call your products unique names, while all your competitors use simply what the product is called, then it’s best to follow suit.

To a certain extent, you want to follow convention. Pamela says conventions work because they’re familiar, but that you also have to track them because they change over time.

By looking at your competitors, you’ll see where your visitors come from, identify what sets you apart from other companies, and learn conventions. You’ll also see opportunities to streamline, opportunities to make the language clearer, and steps (that people think are intrusive or confusing) to take out.

webmaster-radio-1.jpgListen to Tim and Pamela’s conversation online or download the “User Research for Higher Conversion with Pamela Pavliscak” podcast from WebmasterRadio.fm. They also talk about doing user testing effectively and using usability tactics to improve conversions.

First Air Date: June 2, 2014