Email is a key communication channel for businesses to engage with customers. And those emails often contain a lot of information about the products and services being provided – so how can you use that information through email competitive intelligence tracking to help your own business?

What is email competitive intelligence tracking?

Email competitive intelligence tracking is looking at what your competitors are doing in order to engage with their customers. The key benefit of tracking your competitors (specifically in the inbox) is learning from their successes and mistakes and using that information to optimize your own marketing programs.

Not only can you see examples of their products and pricing, but you can also gain insight into how successful their email campaigns are in driving customer engagement – what subject lines work best, what cadence do they normally stick to, what’s getting the most clicks?

How can you gather data from your competitors’ emails?

First, you could just sign yourself up to all your competitors’ email lists, and then go through the emails manually… However, this is time consuming and can only give you an idea on their products and services and nothing about how they structure their email campaigns.

What you really want is to be able to look at data gathered from multiple sources, which can give you an idea of how a competitor is actually running their campaigns.

Systems designed for this specific function use a few different methods to gather email competitive intelligence:

  • There are tools that can use data provided directly by a customer’s mailbox.
  • They also use seedlists to sign up to emails.
  • Complex algorithms can analyze the data and fill in the gaps.

So, what can you track & how can you leverage the data?

Email competitive intelligence tracking helps you monitor things like:

  • Campaign volumes & frequencies
  • Customer engagement
  • Campaign segmentation
  • Subject lines
  • Email design
  • Competitor overlap

According to The Relevancy Group, “companies using competitive intelligence applications generate 3x more revenue than those that don’t!” So, let’s drill into some of these areas and dig into how you can leverage the insights from email competitive intelligence.

1. How large are your competitors’ mailable audiences?

This stat will reveal the number of potential customer impressions your competition has in their database. This can expose whether you may be underperforming in relation to a comparable size and market footprint.

With this insight, you can perform your own contact acquisition and list health audit to discover audience development and retention opportunities.

A table showing estimated list size for an email sender

2. How often and when do they send campaigns?

Understanding others’ send cadences can feed your team critical knowledge about the extent, nature, and timing of competitive email programming. This can identify strategy and program gaps and opportunities.

You may schedule your own email event and campaign planning around this information, and it will likely inspire time-of-day and day-of-week testing and optimization.

A graphic showing how often and when an email sender sends campaigns

3. How often does a campaign touch the customer?

How often do you email a single contact within a given week? Insight into how your peers handle this will empower you to build competitive contact strategies. Emailing a subscriber too frequently creates retention risk, but communication that’s too infrequent suggests an opportunity for increased contact.

Competitor benchmarking is helpful for contact frequency testing and optimization.

A table showing an example of an email sender's weekly contact frequency.

4. What is the average email list size per campaign?

Are their campaigns targeted for customers? Understanding this data will feed your team critical knowledge about a competitor’s campaign reach. It suggests their degree of sophistication in audience selection. How are they segmenting their database per campaign? I.e. How targeted and personalized are they getting per send? Do they have a relatively large number of deployed campaigns versus relatively small overall send volumes?

This insight can in turn inform your own event and campaign planning to ensure your targeting strategies are up to par. Enhanced sophistication in segmentation and targeting can give you a big leg up against competitors.

A sample table showing an email sender's list size.

5. How are their read/open rates compared to yours?

It’s always critical to know when and to what extent your competitors are doing anything better than you are. If your competitors have significantly better email engagement from their audience – that’s something to be concerned about.

But never fear. Insight into their programs can help you document the business upside to audience and message optimization, so you can improve your own program and audience planning. You may glean some best practices from their campaigns so you can better diagnose your emails and set some benchmark goals.

A sample table showing an email sender's read rate.

6. How many of their customers are also yours?

This data reveals which other brands are competing with you for attention in your customers’ inboxes – because we all know the battle in the inbox can be fierce.

This will help you calibrate your mailings to match (or surpass) the quality and sophistication of key competitive mailers. You can also leverage list overlaps for new audience acquisition and engagement.

7. How are their subject lines structured?

A good subject line is absolutely crucial. Before you can get a conversion, you first must pique someone’s interest to open your mail. The wording, length, and symbols used can impact engagement.

Quantitative data as well as insight into competitors’ actual subject lines will inspire your own subject-line testing so you can be on your email A-game.

An example table showing an email sender's subject line data.

How else can email competitive intelligence add value to your marketing programs?

Well, successful email competitive intelligence tracking helps you:

  • Develop your unique selling proposition (USP), in turn improving your messaging and strategy.
  • Improve SEO & keyword targeting.
  • Understand industry problems and common pain points.
  • Gain insight into customer complaints, user issues, and unhappy clients – which can then inspire your content strategy.
  • Identify gaps in competitor products that you can fill.

And to wrap up with a shameless plug… SparkPost’s Competitive Tracker delivers comprehensive email competitive intelligence just like I detailed here. If you’re interested in analyzing your email programs against your industry and top competitors across a variety of metrics and elements – like inbox performance, read rates, send times, contact frequencies, degrees of segmentation, subject lines, and creative – get a demo and discover your use case today.

SparkPost also offers professional evaluations, including a detailed presentation with a comprehensive competitive intelligence report, so you don’t have to do all the work yourself!

~Jess Hill

Senior Tech Support Analyst

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