Who Are Our Competitors? To Whom Should We Compare Ourselves?

Much has been written regarding the illogical decisions we make as human beings, but I’ve been thinking about some associations and comparisons we make that are equally as odd.

It always bugs me that if you wanted a car with a manual transmission and leather seats, those are almost always two options you cannot get singularly, rather they are usually part of a pricey option package where you often pick up dissimilar items that you’re probably not interested in paying for. Different car manufactures treat them differently as well just to add to the confusion. Want a manual Subaru Impreza with leather? Unless you’re buying the more expensive sport models, you can only get a stick with the strippo model. If you want leather in the sport models, that’s only included in the most expensive versions, along with Sirius, nav and well everything else you can think of.

Contrast this with BMW offering manual transmissions in almost all their lines. Yes, you can get a simple stick and leather seated car.

Then again, I can’t really compare the Subaru with the BMW, since they have so many other things that are dissimilar to one another, right? Therein is precisely the point I’m trying to make - we make associations that are quite a reach when there isn’t an obvious comparison on hand to use.

When we build an application, we compare it to a lot of similar or competitor sites. Should we? How alike are our comparisons? Do our customers actually compare these same sites as well?

When I worked at a school, we used to compare what we were doing to what a lot of other schools were doing. I think its good practice to know what others are doing, and what we could be doing, but I don’t necessarily think our users were comparing us with other schools. They already made a commitment to us in paying their tuition! It is more likely that students were comparing us to Google, Facebook and other sites they used every day.

In hindsight, “how do we stack up against Facebook?” is a much harder comparison to make, because where did it align with what we were doing and what we were not?

Once a customer is using your site to pay for something, view some content or  connect with some other person - think about how other sites handle this same functionality. Matching the mental model for what someone already knows is a shortcut to gaining adoption, not confusing people, and generally getting to the point where you users are happy with a piece of functionality.

Because our competitor does something a certain way, does not necessarily mean we should as well. This is particularly true if people are using the feature as our already registered customers.

Just remember that kids, dogs and cloth seats never mix well.