There's no shortage of interesting tools that can be combined to understand our competitive online marketplace.
Quantcast is one such tool. Type in your URL. The tool estimates your daily traffic, monthly unique visitors, the websites your visitors frequent, and various demographics. Directionally, it isn't a bad tool.
By looking at the websites that your visitors frequent, one can apply the concepts of Multichannel Forensics, yielding this "map-in-progress" (click once on the map for a larger image) of the relationship between various online retailers and the visitors who frequent their sites.
At first, I was looking at two dozen apparel retailers --- then the project expanded, resulting in nearly 120 online apparel businesses, as well as businesses closely aligned to the apparel industry.
While the individual observations yielded by Quantcast are undoubtedly biased and somewhat incorrect, the relationships depicted in the map are largely intuitive.
Higher-end department stores "anchor" the middle-left area of the map (Saks, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales). Visitors frequent these sites, and also visit sites in a circle around the department stores.
"North" of the department store "anchor" you find businesses that appeal to the upper-end of the Baby Boomer generation.
"South" of the department store "anchor" you find businesses that appeal to younger customers. You can almost see the "Marketing Digital Divide" at play here, as Zappos, Piperlime and Endless appear in this general area --- along with other youthful brands.
Moving across the map to the right, you see a department store transition occur --- from Saks to Dillards to J.C. Penney to Sears/K-Mart/Wal-Mart. Kids and Shoe retailers appear just below and to the right of this general progression.
Most interesting to me is the competitive bloodbath that occurs in the middle-left section of the map. Surrounding the department store "anchors" are largely catalog-based (above) and online-based (below) websites. Because these retailers are plotted close to each other, the map suggests these retailers "share" the same customers. Quantcast suggests that website visitors are visiting many of these sites.
Quantcast is suggesting that these businesses largely share the same customer base. Marketing, merchandise assortment, price/value and creative/branding strategy become key differentiators among similar businesses with similar customers.
Multichannel Forensics can also be used to demonstrate that the competitive forces illustrated in this map occur within your very own company! In other words, the same competition/cooperation that occurs between Gap and Gymboree in this map also occur between the products, brands and channels that you use to sell merchandise to consumers and businesses.
Intuitively, we understand the competitive forces that happen between companies, and across industries. Within our own businesses, we sometimes have a harder time conceiving these trends. And yet, it's these trends that give us the opportunity to think strategically, to consider what is best for our customer, to chart a path to increased sales and profits.
Over the next decade, as we cross the Marketing Digital Divide and manage web-based businesses, we'll need to better understand external and internal ecosystem interactions.