Something I hear quite often from entrepreneurs, marketers and business owners is:

I want a website like x (where x = competitor), since they are doing well then we should do the same also.

Well, here are two reasons why you should not think that way:

  1. Most of the time, x's layout and design is what their web designer came up with. Also, there is a high probability that the web designer just copied another competitor (or downloaded a template). In this case they would have not performed a long, thorough analysis and testing for a more informed and business results driven design.

  2. What works for x might not necessarily work for you.

Copying your competitor is a blind game where the blind are leading the blind.

It amazes me how few people know what they are doing, with the minority knowing what they are doing and the majority being all opinions that are not tested.

My emphasis is that your competitors are not sure themselves what works for them or not. They do not know which part of their website is not working and which part is actually working.

They have done probably what you are doing or about to do, i.e. gathering your team members to look at a bunch of competitors sites and put together opinions of what might work.

The other way is to hire a web design company or freelancer. Oft times this designer (that is not a marketer and has no informed data) looks at a bunch of websites for inspiration. The designer will most likely come up with something that makes sense and looks good but with no business result.

It is tempting, I get it

It is very tempting to copy someone’s perceived formula to success.

An eCommerce site goes for a makeover and comes back with a copycat of their biggest competitor.

That’s not the smart way to do it.

I will start by saying, you do not know what is behind their success. Surprisingly it might not be their site layout, navigation or even the way they have categorised their products. A lot of times, it might be their outstanding team members that have contributed to their business success.

The conflict now comes when you know that your competitor has a better conversion rate, unfortunately this might be as a result of more traffic sources, and more targeted Ads or better still superior customer relationships.

Data-driven approach drives business result

What a lot of people do not know is that you can measure what people are doing on your website. You can measure what they click, where they click, how long they stay for, if they scroll, which eCommerce category pages are performing and which don’t, and where in the conversion funnel your potential customers are losing interest on your website.

The truth is that if it can be measured then you know were the problem is and then you can fix and optimise your website, it is that simple. It is about making your website visitors more successful on your website to drive business results.

If you must copy, then run an experiment first

Now your competitors might be getting some things right but you don’t just know which the working one is.

So instead of just blindly copying, make sure that you don’t just have a site makeover but you are ready to run an experiment.

The thing you copy is a hypothesis – and you need to test it. Run it against your current site and see if it makes a difference.

Once the results are in, either implement or discard.

Cover Image Credit: David Goehring

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