market-competitor-intelligence

Market Analysis and Competitive Intelligence with AI

Getting market insights and an understanding of what your competitors are doing can be a major advantage. Companies have performed market analysis and competitive intelligence for decades, trying to make sense of their external environment, but the landscape is changing dramatically now.

The reason, of course, is that the Internet—combined with advanced data analytics and AI—can provide so much more information on what others in your field are doing.

With more and more business activities moving online, with most of their activities in plain sight, it has never been easier to gather competitor intelligence.

Every company that is reasonably active online will leave digital footprints that are open for anyone to watch and interpret.

Every company that is reasonably active online will leave digital footprints that are open for anyone to watch and interpret.

If they don’t, their customers, employees, and partners do. At the same time, this creates vast amounts of information, making it hard to digest manually.

In practice, it is almost impossible to keep up.

The process of gathering and analyzing market and competitive intelligence clearly benefits from having the right tools, and artificial intelligence is well positioned to help.

What can AI tools for competitive intelligence do?

In short, they help gather data and turn them into strategic insights you can use as part of your strategies.

Gather data and turn them into strategic insights you can use as part of your strategies.

You can spy on competitors and their products, obviously, but also partners, industry influencers, customers, review or career sites, or other organizations related to your market.

Any information about your industry and those involved in it can be gathered and analyzed at unprecedented scales.

Competitor websites are a prime location to study, including product description pages or press releases on websites and in the news.

Companies often publish information on new customers or new partnerships, events they will attend, financial updates, news on acquisitions, and more.

Monitoring this can be rewarding.

Any information about your industry and those involved in it can be gathered and analyzed at unprecedented scales.

Any publicly advertised or announced hiring, downsizing, or management team changes can provide valuable insights as well. If they hire, what positions are they filling and in which local office? Are they opening or closing any offices? Have they replaced their CFO or a business unit manager?

Data like this may signal areas where they are investing or are dealing with problems.

The most obvious thing to monitor may be the competitors’ product pages. There is often a lot to learn about product improvements, positioning, and market message, as well as pricing and insights into the general business model.

You may also benefit from collecting customer reviews from competing products, product review sites, or product forums. Many companies publish customer success stories and testimonials, or highlight new partnerships.

Finally, social media channels, blogs, and scheduled webinars may provide a wealth of information on what products or marketing resources your competitors promote, what customers say about them, and more.

It’s nearly impossible to monitor this type of information manually for all your competitors and other organizations relevant to your industry, and even harder to generate meaningful insights from it.

Tool support is clearly needed, and there are many options to choose from. Some of these tools can provide near real-time insights as well.

To make sense of the information gathered online, most of these tools use natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) to harvest business insights from text.

Crayon, for example, claims to follow over a hundred different types of signals for each of your competitors. Their system collects information from millions of data sources and uses machine learning to improve the results.

Their tool tracks your competitor’s digital footprint both on and off their websites, thus detecting their activities and what is said about them online. This may range from product and price changes to customer and employee reviews or marketing campaigns.

In essence, it is a digital analyst tracking a competitor’s moves, automatically and at scale.

For example, if a competitor launches a product that is immediately met by criticisms about its suitability or functionality, these systems can provide the necessary data to create your own product free of those drawbacks, thus offering consumers a more attractive alternative.

I discussed their tool with Ellie Mirman, CMO at Crayon. She mentions that often, the most critical updates are those that aren’t announced in press releases, but rather are hidden in subtle website changes or a new customer review.

She is probably right, but sifting through so much detailed data on a regular basis is just not possible to do manually. This needs to be addressed by software automation.

Mirman notes, “With the incredible amount of intelligence data available, it’s critical to surface the highest priority updates to be able to analyze and act on them while they are still fresh. Crayon uses a combination of machine learning and analyst curation to separate the signal from the noise in competitive intelligence.”

Given the volumes of data, the latter may be both important and difficult to solve using traditional software technologies.

By leveraging AI, the system is able to tell the difference between the correction of a typo on a homepage (not meaningful) versus the change of one number on a pricing page (meaningful).

Harvesting valuable insights from vast amounts of data is indeed one of the best use-cases of artificial intelligence, and is becoming one of the most common.

Another vendor in this space is Quid, which can analyze markets and brand perception. Quid discovers patterns and trends, and monitors what customers say in conversations about a company, their products, or the wider market.

Artificial intelligence tools are able to understand the meaning and content of the information they find

While some of the information these systems use could have been gathered by pre-existing content scraping tools, artificial intelligence tools are able to understand the meaning and content of the information they find, turning data into actionable insights.

This is a big difference.

With AI, we not only get help in gathering the data from a huge number of sources, it can also understand what is written and condense the information into the most important insights.