Get Ideas From Your Competition

Although you may be doing a pretty good job running your business, you can always do better. You have to work harder and smarter to get consumers to part with their dollars. It seems like you have to come up with new ideas all the time to attract new customers and cultivate existing customer loyalty. But where can you get all those new and creative ideas? Steal them! Or if that terminology makes you feel uncomfortable, then just borrow them.

It seems the only thing that retailers notice about each other is how their competition prices their inventory. What's the best way to find out about some new and exciting ideas from other retailers? Go shopping! Most retailers get so bogged down in their day-to-day business that they don't take the time to get out and shop the competition. Although price is more important today than it was before the recession, it's not the only thing that customers factor into a buying decision. So what do you look for when shopping another store?

  1. FIRST IMPRESSIONS are often a determining factor when people are making buying decisions. You feel a certain way about a store when you first walk in.  That could be good or bad. How does your store look, feel, hear and smell to your potential customers?
  2. HOW WELL IS THE STORE MERCHANDISED?  If the store doesn’t carry the merchandise I want, or if I can’t find the items I’m looking for because the placement of the merchandise makes no logical sense, I probably won’t return to that store.  If I can’t find it, I can’t buy it.  By shopping your competitors, you may get some great ideas on how to better merchandise your inventory and pair up complementary items.
  3. HOW IS THE STORE HYGIENE?   Is the store clean or is it a pig sty?  A dirty store tells the potential customer that you have no respect for them and, if they come to that conclusion, they won’t buy from you.   Additionally, they will tell their friends.
  4. ARE IN-STORE PROMOTIONS AND EVENTS OBVIOUS AND ENTICING?  Promotions and events are becoming increasingly important.  Not only do stores need to keep their inventory fresh, they need to create a “buzz” that attracts return visits.
  5. DO YOUR COMPETITORS HAVE A GOOD SELECTION OF MERCHANDISE AND IS IT COMPETIVELY PRICED?  Knowing your customer is critical when selecting merchandise.  Successful stores are constantly monitoring trends and customer preferences.  A retailer’s point of sale system or POS software usually has customer relationship management capabilities that unobtrusively track the buying habits of their customers.  A point of sale system collects data to feed these now necessary business intelligence tools.

Shopping your competition is not a onetime deal. Scheduling the time to shop on a monthly basis is the best way to ensure that it will happen. Don’t go to the same stores every month.  Mix it up.  If you’re afraid you’ll be recognized as a spy, send a mystery shopper.  But don’t forget to take notes, notes and more notes.

You may be surprised at how rewarding shopping can be.


Don Capman is President and co-owner of J.D. Associates, one of the largest distributors of retail POS software in North America. With Retail Pro, Retail-1, Microsoft RMS and QuickBooks Point of Sale in the company portfolio, J.D. Associates offers retail POS software solutions for specialty retailers. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.