What is competitive UX benchmarking and why is it so valuable?
To celebrate the launch of our brand new UX benchmarking 101 ebook, here’s our guide to how and why you should measure your own user experience against the competition.
Longitudinal UX Benchmarking creates a baseline for understanding the current user experience on your website, app or any digital product. And the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be able to measure and improve the user experience.
However a huge part of optimizing the user experience of your website is knowing how it performs in comparison to your competitors. Sure you can measure and influence improvements and declines in your own performance, and that’s awesome, but you’re not going to gain a competitive advantage if you’re not measuring against your opponents.
Let’s investigate further…
What is competitive UX benchmarking?
Competitive UX benchmarking is a way to compare some metrics of your product with your direct (or sometimes indirect) competitors.
This is great because your boss may often say to you, “Ooooh I like this fancypants new feature that COMPETITOR X has launched, let’s copy it” and even though your own gut might be saying, “No bad idea, bad idea, wrong!!!” and “When’s lunch?” you don’t really have a concrete argument against copying the feature.
So you just steal it, because they’re the boss and you haven’t discovered the joys of competitive UX benchmarking yet and breaking for lunch feels increasingly like a foreign country.
But thankfully now you’re reading this article, you can say, “Good idea BOSS X, I like what you’re suggesting, but before we spend too much money, let’s build a prototype of the feature and UX benchmark it against our competitors, then we’ll see if our users actually like it or not?” That way you’ve either saved the company some money and proved yourself very wise, or you’ve backed up your boss’s idea with concrete data and proved them as very wise, and hopefully in both cases boosted the value of your user research efforts.
This article is adapted from our brand new ebook, UX Benchmarking 101, a free-to-download, 42 page guide to running both longitudinal and competitive benchmarking.
What can you benchmark in a competitive study?
Comparing a prototype or concept with a competitor’s similar feature isn’t the only thing you can do. With competitive benchmarking you can test anything that’s live on your site and compare with any number of competitors or non-competitors (after all, you may find inspiration from outside your own industry).
You could compare the usability of your checkout against another, or you could compare softer metrics such as asking participants, “What is your perception of this company?” before and after the task.
You could conduct competitive benchmark as one snapshot in time, or perform longitudinal competitive benchmarking, where you monitor the performance of your product against your competitors over a longer period of time.
Just remember that if you’re comparing a particular tool or functionality – such as adding a lawnmower to a shopping basket – you have to be confident that you and your competitors will continue selling lawnmowers over the length of your study period. After all, it might just be a phase that FOREVER 21 is going through.
Also bear in mind, the more competitors you benchmark against, the more expensive, time consuming and unwieldy the data becomes. So try to keep the group small and meaningful.
Why competitive UX benchmarking is so valuable
Why you would undertake competitive UX benchmarking in the first place? Here’s an executive-friendly guide to why it’s so rad.
It provides measures of how you’re performing directly related to your competitors
This creates one heck of a compelling argument when you can say to your stakeholders and executives, “This is how we’re performing directly against our competitors and this is what we can (or have done) to beat them!”
You’re getting an entire industry view
This is really helpful, as you can be sure your customers aren’t just your customers (I know, heartbreakers) but also your competitors’ customers. Therefore their expectations of your site and its UX are shaped by this.
Identifying best in class examples
Sometimes this might be you, sometimes it’s not. Either way, it would be good to know, so you can either celebrate or optimise your stuff so you can meet and exceed these SO CALLED best in class examples.
Understand if a competitor’s new feature is worth replicating and iterating
Sure it may look shiny and fancy, but maybe it’s also a huge waste of time. Copying competitor features is a favourite topic of executives, so anticipating these conversations with this type of research can help you save time, money and a few heated discussions.
Competitive UX benchmarking resources
UserZoom offers a huge library of content if you’d like to explore competitive UX benchmarking further. Or if you’d like to see example studies from different industries, just download one of the following to see how it’s helped other companies:
- Competitive UX benchmark report: online banking
- Competitive UX benchmark report: ecommerce & retail
- Competitive UX benchmark report: healthcare industry
We also run ‘UX Battle of the Week‘ reports, where we take two popular websites from the same industry and pit them head-to-head in a rigorous UX benchmark competition. Here are a few of our recent favorites:
And don’t forget you can find out everything you need to run competitive UX benchmarking by downloading our complete 42 page UX benchmarking 101 ebook…
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager for EMEA, which basically means the skipper of the good ship ‘UserZoom blog’. So far his requests for changing its name to the ‘USS-erzoom Blog’ have been rightfully denied. In his spare time, Christopher is a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy, editor of Search Engine Watch, staff writer for ClickZ and features editor of CMO.com.