The invisible competitors who might be killing you

If you’re like most leaders, you pay close attention to your competitors and how your customers perceive them. But there are other – less obvious – standards your customers are judging you by every day, and you overlook them at your peril.

It’s 2014. Do you know where your competition is?

It’s everywhere. In today’s experience economy we compete not only with other companies and products, but with every moment and revelation consumers have as they go about their lives, discovering new and better things all the time and expecting more from us as a result.

Taken together, these moments are dramatically altering consumer expectations of what great companies look like and how they should operate:

  • When customers use search on your site to find what they need, they’re thinking about Google. The less your search works like Google, the more disappointed they will be.
  • When they log in to manage their account, they’re thinking about sites like and Amazon that recognize them automatically, show them personalized content and let them pick up where they left off last time.
  • When they read your content, they’re comparing the experience to favorite media sites like the New York Times, CNN or TMZ.
  • When they call your customer service line, they’re comparing you to service leaders like Zappos, American Express – and heaven help you – USAA.
  • When they buy something from you they’re comparing you to the Apples and Amazons of course, but also to dozens of innovative new businesses like Dollar Shave Club, Seamless, Warby Parker and Gilt.
  • When they look you up on their mobile phone, they’re thinking about the increasingly real-time and enchanting experiences they have with apps like Google Now, start-ups like Uber and any number of fitness and life tracking apps.

Does your video work like YouTube? Do you deliver products in 2-3 days like the best retailers do? Are you accessible easily, consistently and everywhere like Netflix is?

How to take action

The name of this game is not to be the best at everything, of course, but to avoid falling so far behind the state of the art in your key offerings that you frustrate your customers and damage your brand. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Adopt a more expansive view of how you’re seen in the marketplace, what you’re being compared to and where your customers’ expectations are being set.
  2. Take inventory. Break down your digital experiences into their constituent parts: Search, articles, product pages, newsletters, account history, service and so on. Then compare each of these to the evolving state of the art and assess where you stand.
  3. Prioritize. Identify the features and areas that are most important to your business and focus on these for improvement.
  4. Keep things in perspective. There’s no need to equal or surpass the best experiences of every kind. Instead conceive your own features within the spirit of the best. Unless it’s your core business. Then you should be the best.

Here comes everybody

The pace of change in digital today is thrilling, overwhelming and accelerating; making brands more vulnerable than ever to the constant innovations that are happening in places we haven’t previously looked to for inspiration or seen as a threat. Now more than ever, the devil is in the details.

Customer Experience & ROI

75% of consumers say they have spent more time with a company because of a history of positive customer service experiences. Source: American Express

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