BIZTALK: Is your 'competitor' actually your competitor?
Naomi Simson joins News Mail as a guest columnist for our latest series, Business Class.
I SOMETIMES wonder who will be the last brand standing. Right now it appears that Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook are winning when it comes to customer insights. But why can't Australian businesses win at this game?
I was in the Margaret River recently speaking to some winemakers. They told me they don't see their competition as the winemaker up the road; competition for them is 'non' wine or wine produced outside of Australia.
I found this sentiment both intriguing and heartening. Perhaps we need to think about competition differently - that is, join forces and create a united front to complete on the global stage.
I have always believed that an online customer is there to be shared and that there is safety in numbers against the big international super stores and online brands who offer better prices, faster delivery and maximum convenience.
The fact is, customers still want intimacy. They also want a world-class experience, and they definitely want curation. And if faced with the choice between supporting an Australian business or an overseas one, Australian customers, in all their parochial beauty, will chose Australian every single time.
In my industry - the world of online retail - things have never been more competitive. And when I consider the realm of 'experiences' we're not only competing with businesses offering physical gifts, but also giant global players who are swallowing up local providers and taking profits, jobs and tax dollars offshore.
This is particularly the case when we look at online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Booking.com. We know that people are opting more and more for experiences over 'stuff', but how, in the midst of this shift to the 'experience economy' can we support local business and suppliers to not only survive, but thrive?
Perhaps it starts by thinking about who is already talking to the customers you want to talk to. Who has the same approach or shared values?
I keep a close eye on competitors, but have never allowed them to dictate my next move. And I haven't ever really considered other experience marketplaces as competition - rather other businesses contributing to raising the profile of experiences over stuff.
And in that, we all win. I believe true competition is when our category or market is not even being considered by the consumer. Attention and consideration is the true battleground.
And this is not just true for market leaders - there is good business in being a 'challenger brand' too.
The dominant brand in an industry may be spending considerable dollars to develop and build market opportunity; and the challenger can benefit greatly from the halo effect of the dominant's marketing spend.
Perhaps the challenger has a strategy of saying, 'we are just like them only cheaper - (or faster)' and this can be a profitable place to be. The point is to make a considered and concerted choice about your go-to-market approach. Leader or follower? Trailblazer or copycat?
From my perspective, I would warn any business about obsessing over the competition. They come, they go, they do what they do. What I obsess about is the seemingly constant changes in customer behaviour, what might be driving that and how I can tune in to deliver the best experience possible.
Naomi Simson is the founder of RedBalloon, and the co-founder of The Big Red Group, the third largest experience marketplace in the world. She is the author of two best sellers, Live What You Love and Ready To Soar, and appeared on Shark Tank for four seasons. In this series we present some of her key learnings on how she grew her businesses.