AI-Powered Competitive Intelligence

How online consumer conversations can help brands analyze their competitive landscape

Putting The Conversation To Work

If knowing that a person is 6 feet tall provided all the information you need to understand their hopes, desires, motivations and the essential nature of their character, you wouldn’t need social analytics.
Sometimes raw statistics are simply not enough. If in any given year Toyota sells more Camrys than Honda sells Accords, that’s a win for Toyota. It’s pure numbers. Toyota sold more cars than their main competitor. And whether you come in first or second, this is a fairly easy number to come up with. It’s a quantitative fact. Good to know, but how valuable is it beyond the prospect of handing out sales awards at the next dealer meeting? It may well be a validation of your product and marketing strategy for the year just ending, but what about next year?

Insight from the consumer conversation changes everything. Because the source material is the almost infinite messaging that takes place every day, millions of times a day, through online consumers talking on social media, forums and customer reviews. And by using artificial intelligence, and human-powered machine learning, you can now query that global conversation for information your business can use with stunning results.  
It’s especially useful when the ‘need-to-know’ centers on competitive intelligence. It gives you access to what real people are really saying about:

  • Your Brand vs Competitive Brands
  • Your Products vs Competitive Products
  • Your Brand vs Your Business Category


Your Brand vs Competitive Brands  When you already have the research on total impressions and demographics, you may also find it valuable to know that Toyota’s use of the ‘live’ spokesperson in their TV campaign creates an impression of urgency and value pricing even when there is no current promotion in effect. Competitive intelligence tells you that.
Your Products vs Competitive Products  You may be surprised to discover that what people really love about the Camry is the way the center console adjusts to fit the driver. Did you really know how important that turns out to be? No doubt, you were thinking mileage and legroom. Competitive intelligence tells you that.
Your Brand vs Your Business Category.  Many people have a credibility issue with claims made by auto manufacturers. Plus, features can be hard to explain and hard to compare.That’s why Chevy just did a campaign on their largest SUV showing that it’s as good at delivering a family of 9 for Thanksgiving as it is at delivering good brake performance. The real life benefit vs the spec sheet benefit. Competitive intelligence tells you that.
None of these insights are likely to surface from traditional question-based research. And because the social conversation is spontaneous and wholly initiated by consumers, you are getting an unvarnished, unmanipulated, purely people-based sample of what’s really going on.
Let’s take a look at some specifics so you can see the depth and the value of this kind of competitive intelligence.

Who’s Getting The Most Love

In evaluating the strength of your brand vs a competitor, knowing who’s selling the most units is only part of the picture. Competitive intelligence through social analytics provides the real world context.

  • Which brand in my industry are people talking about most?
  • What are the positive/negative sentiments on competitive brands?
  • Which brands elicit the most emotional response from consumers?

It’s one thing to know from the social conversation which brands are most liked or disliked. It’s another thing entirely to discover what emotions are evoked by competitive brands. For example, if you score higher on ‘anger’ than your competitor, you may want to take a look at customer service or warranty issues. If you score lower on the ‘surprise’ response than your competitors, perhaps you need to look at how, and how often, you do product launches.

Look Who’s Talking

The brand aspect of competitive intelligence is about what people are saying. The audience piece answers the question “who’s saying it?” An intimate understanding of the audience is a critical element in competitive intelligence. It’s a discoverable reservoir of insight.
Age, gender and geographic distribution are very important. Designing a product, writing a marketing strategy, and doing creative work all rely heavily on knowing your demographics.
This information speaks volumes about who’s doing the talking about your brand, your competitors’ brands and the category in general.

If you’re selling insurance it might make sense to target 30+ adults, first-time home buyers. But if the social conversation suggests that the only people talking about insurance are 55+, you need to adjust your messaging or your product mix. Because of this ‘audit’ of social, you now know that you need to make homeowner insurance more relevant to the 30+ demo?
Discounts for first-time homeowners? No interest financing? Finding the magic button is up to you, but at least you know there’s an important issue to resolve. And just as important, if your biggest competitor ranks higher than you on 30+ first time homeowners, you can ask yourself what are they doing right.
Beyond demographics, online consumer conversations allow you to get to know your audience on an up-close and personal level. Popular issues, interests, likes and dislikes help you refine your offer in the marketplace, and differentiate it from your competitors. And when you start comparing brand affinities, this knowledge can be virtually priceless. Both at the brand level and the product level, knowing what’s important to your customers vs. your competitor’s customers can be the insight you’re looking for to claim a bigger share of the market.

Was it really obvious that what matters to a Honda buyer is very different from what matters to a Toyota buyer? It is now. This information lets you tune up your strategy to gain the loyalty of your current customers as well as gaining insights on how to dissuade customers from your competitors. Whether these insights help you differentiate your product from your competitors, create more targeted marketing, or identify a new audience to go after, the point is the same: consumer conversations are essential for understanding the competitive landscape.
And again, because this information is gathered from consumer-initiated conversations, and because the resource itself is so huge, it comes with a high degree of credibility.   

Turning Intent to Buy Into Buying

In a competitive environment the more you know the better. We’ve seen that the success of a brand, and a deep understanding of the audience for different brands, can be readily accessed with social competitive intelligence. The next question is what can competitive intelligence tell us about products?
A lot. One very useful way is by revealing what words or topics are associated with competing products. For instance, if the word ‘quality’ shows up more often in conjunction with messages about the Corolla than it does with messages about the Civic, that could be a valuable piece of information: for creative, product, and media targeting.
Because machine learning can be extremely precise, social competitive intelligence can create data visualizations called topic wheels that show exactly what words and topics are associated with a product and how often they occur.

An even more intriguing example is how competitive intelligence can display the pre- and post-purchase behavior of consumers who ended up purchasing different brands. In other words, the people who bought your product went through a certain process at a certain rate. People who bought a competitive product had a different experience. With competitive intelligence, you can examine this journey from awareness, through intent to buy, to purchase.

In the above example you can see that even though Apple TV had a  higher awareness, the Roku rated higher in post-purchase chatter and product advocacy.  

The Big Picture

No matter how many resources or how much time and talent you’ve invested in your product or service, you probably aren’t the only ones doing it. In almost every business category, how an audience measures your offering vs the competition may be the most important success factor.
Social competitive intelligence is the breakthrough tool that lets you see your brand and the competition through the eyes of millions of consumers. The entire conversation about your products and your competitors’ products is there for the asking. It gives you info on a brand vs brand basis that you can not gather any other way.  It’s more accurate, more timely and more efficient. And in a totally unique way, it gives you the big picture. Because your competitors are not your only competition.
You’re competing with how people feel and how people live.
Want more information on social competitive intelligence? Check out our latest webinar. 

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