14 Oct 2019 / David McBride, Joseph Sursock and Bhavneet Kaur Sekhon / Digital
Have you found yourself in meetings where before making a decision, someone asks what is our competition doing? Do you wonder what all the information about the market implies for your company? If yes, then this podcast is for you. Tune in to hear David McBride, Joseph Sursock and Bhavneet Sekhon as they talk about competitive intelligence.
Welcome to the podcasts from Course5 Intelligence Episode 1 competitive intelligence. Have you found yourself in meetings where before making a decision someone asks what is our competition doing you wonder what all information about the market implies for your company if so then today's podcast this for you we're gonna talk about competitive intelligence. I'm David-McBride SVP of Digital Solutions and Consulting at Course5 Intelligence joining today by Joseph Sursock, and Bhavneet Sekhon.
Two of my Course5 colleagues Joseph has expensive experience in the data spear at companies like Sterling Software it's an email and now Course5 and the media of Course5 with the mission is across the Sale, Marketing, HR and Customer Success Management.
Thank you, David. Lovely introduction delighted to be here today.
Good to have you.
Bhavneet is an Analytics and Data product expert with experience in companies including CISCO and now is AVP at Course5 digital leading product development and product management or Course5 compete for our competitive intelligence offering. Welcome Bhavneet.
Hi David, Happy to be part of this podcast.
Thanks for joining.
And thank you listening as well we're going to have a great conversation today about competitive intelligence use cases, case studies, tools where the market then where it's going and we're all going to be so smart by the end of today's podcast right.
Before we get into that I want to say something about the name of our podcast. The podcast needs a name it does right but when you have to get the podcast you have to come up with the name before you start recording or before the end of the first episode.
It's sort of like when you have a baby and your hospital you haven't picked out a day and finally name for the baby your wife wants one name you want another name but mostly you just want to take the baby home but the nurses will let you leave the hospital until you get the baby name for turns out you can take your baby home without a name but the nurse who don't want to deal with the paperwork but to avoid making all that a problem to avoid making the resist the urge to call your attorney and you let your wife choose the name that she wanted which somehow thinks fit it and then she let you choose the name of the next baby so it all worked out. Well all this to say we're gonna have a name.
By the end of the day podcasts we're not leaving the hospital and then what you're not going home we're gonna keep recordings not because we can't go home but because I don't want to deal with that how awful later on but more on that later we'll talk about ending toward the end.
Let's talk about competitive intelligence also known as CI
You know actually I've got a question for you Bhavneet about what we name when we say compatible intelligence did you find a space for us.
David, there are quite a few different ways describing competitive intelligence and I will refer to one commonly used and referred by Wikipedia that is competitive intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analysing and distributing intelligence about your products, customers, competitors. And really any aspect of the environment needed to support the executives and managers and strategic decision making for an organization.
And here I like to call it that you know we often we see that competitor analysis and competitive intelligence and so diffuse interchangeably but the two different concepts competitive intelligence is more about analysing your competitors each really embraces the entire environment and stakeholders including your customer's competitors distributors and other macro-economic data.
Within competitive intelligence is well there are a couple of variations one form of competitive intelligence it's what we call as strategic intelligence which focuses more on the macro the longer-term view of the organization.
It really helps answer questions like what should be the strategic direction of the organizations three years, four years or five years down the line and therefore what are the strategic risk and opportunities facing the organization.
On the other hand, we have tactical intelligence which is primarily focused on providing information.
Around improving short-term decisions you know which are focused on either improving your bottom line or your top line and you know this is more often related with intend of growing again your market share revenues.
And therefore it covers your five peace of marketing you know which is the product, price, promotion, place, and people.
Quick question for you on all that everything you're describing sounds like it's completely above board and I want to make sure that we're clear on this point I've heard the term competitive intelligence and industrial espionage used in the same category sometimes but there really are different things that we're talking about competitive intelligence is it entirely legal and above board from publicly available sources that is that a fair way to describe it.
Absolutely David and you know this is the common set of question or dilemma where when you're talking about competitive intelligence. Competitive intelligence is actually a very legal business practice as a cost of industrialist finance and therefore everything that is set of connections in terms of data is related to publicly available data that really what constitutes competitive intelligence.
Yes If I could add couple points of first of all referring to your kick-off David yes I do appreciate the analogy with the hospitals I got four kids and we always had delayed naming crosses in our household and you'll distinction between extra hours and competitive intelligence there is a good case to bring to bear some of the industries that Bhavneet mentioned more in the E-commerce space such as travel and leisure retail and there's a case somewhere in the late 90's possible no actually mid 2000 where Ryan Air which is a with the biggest short whole airline in Europe, went to the high court in Europe because of their definition of competitive intelligence and access to public information.
Essentially they were complaining to the regulators and to the authorities that too many people were coming to their website to scrape their prices that a product availability that flight and consequently impacting the performance of the website and they would find to stop the practice in order to keep that competitive advantage because a lot of it was on price and still is leading with the price of advantage and that case eventually got thrown out of the court and that set the benchmark rest of Europe and other regions just send this is publicly available data available for others to use and there is a responsibility for anybody selecting data not to interfere with other people performance on the website there are no Legal standing would get in the way of at the moment.
Yeah I I'm sure of the court had in mind when they made that decision the president that they would be setting and thinking through a scenario where they might have ruled in favor of the company where were then you could go to a website to assess what a competitor doing what when we sure we hamper not just corporations but also in the middle what they can do I think the court made a good decision there.
What are that's an interesting question like if you're visiting a website in straight into the site more about doing this one data source what are some of the other typical data sources or maybe even some of the obvious non-obvious data sources that are considered in use in competitive intelligence stuff for.
Referred within competitive intelligence as well you know there's two way off looking at that information or Intelligence that really looking at house strategic or what is the end goal of that information and then set up the more practical part of it which is related to you know short term business goals and I think of When you talk about the data sources we can divide them with respect to this two variations you know for the strategic intelligence you know there are multitude resources available for both secondary and augmented device some of the primary software's as well and that traditionally falls within the market research function or functions that are closely associate with you know strategic decision making aspect of the organization So You know looking at research third party research primary research that's being conducted looking at some of the secondary resources both online and offline I would say could constitute. Strategic intelligence wire for the tactical intelligence part which is you know related more to type b or the product which largely look at online data sources and you know that has also involved last few year looking at the preparation of digital and mobile and the destruction that it is causing digital has become the set up the channel of choice for our customers and that's made people chase process or decisions starts. And therefore they're online data sources and it could be online e-tailers like your Amazon, eBay and best price of the world it could be the .com of brands and could also be customer forums customers are becoming really aware and intelligent in talking about their pre-purchase, post-purchase, experiences and sharing it with the community and therefore these are some of the largely common data sources like I said again competitive intelligence is looking at collecting data which is publicly available therefore you know these are few more data sources, I don't know Joseph if you'd like to add to that.
Yeah sure, so to pick up where Bhavneet left off, there's been some trends in the industries we work with a closely over the last again probably over the last ten years where the predominant B2B players typically a little more liberal with some of the informative they shared some of the online, some of the in print catalogues and then as a world vetted a lot more tools digital and transparency over the information, some of the information's actually gone back into the business and it's difficult to get hold on so you got to find them creative ways to compete not space that's when the secondary and primary systems and she went to get direct and so then that's going one way and then the more traditional airlines retail insurance aggregate this market places they also reduce the practice they had ten years ago when they would have a catalog that would be some promotions some prices and then online that would be a smaller catalog and all that has converted and so now you've got a very healthy and consistent view of businesses and products and promotions online.
So anybody who's operating you know in any B2C or B2B2C and then for the B2B then you'll definitely relying on primary and secondary research because they're aware that some of the businesses they conduct they would prefer not to share the details in any sort of public function so there's been that's what bifurcation of mention but at the same time everybody's competing online so as Bhavneet said sometimes the discussion of the debate can happen in an in a classic e-commerce environment from times it's in social media environment sometimes it's agriculture or a market place like Alibaba and so these places are not they are not getting smaller they getting broader and bigger. Now we talking about some of the IM and WhatsApp and others are thinking of bringing out e-commerce transaction so that's where the transit for the more day to day retail services.
Interested, you mentioned both of you mentioned data types that I think might be challenging for some systems to acquire on like the promotion side of things I'm not gone the first there need to understand what an image not quite so image recognition would become important for mining customer forms tax through natural language understanding become important so this makes me think about the relevance of her the importance of AI in the space would you like to talk about what are some of the ways that AI was assisting with competitive intelligence.
OK David that's an interesting point that you make and on you know a way you were talking about example I was relating to a couple of set of experiments they'd be done with clients in the recent past with respect to the Image recognition and some of the Cases and definitely one of the trends that is very quickly in involving within the CI spaces is really looking at the application of AI for some of these use cases and here at Course5 we have very strong AI practice we have an A. I. Lab and over the last eighteen months we actually start out to wall out and a very owned framework for image recognition, we call it the computer vision framework. You know it's set off based on the cutting edge on indeed that's being conducted within our A.I. lab in collaboration with certain global AI authorities and essentially what we're trying to do here is really understand that, say for example when I use or upload a product image, the A.I. Engine will then sort of compare that creative with visually similar ones from the database so there is a lot of supervised and unsupervised learning that set of gone behind the building this model and you know this would really help the user then know if that created was visually similar to probably campaigns that have performed in the past that are pretty loaded. Keep the eyes for each of these creators that are bad in the database. So we develop this framework. We've had a couple of interesting use cases one with a large apparel brand. Oh, you know where they wanted to use this at one of the matching criteria when identifying you know if set of resellers are selling some of these products below what we say the minimum advertising pricing can be easy to identify.
It's really hard within the apparel space to the set of matches to get exact matches on the product. So, therefore, this was a key advantage that clients had sort of looked at to be able to undertake this activity. And the second that we've seen this really in the social context you know what I think we're talking about what are some of the images that are coming up and how can we sort of match this and identify emotions or gestures related to some of these images.
Bring in sort of a related but tangential point since you brought up technology David probably Course5 is you know a provider of such a solution and there's are in the marketplace that does that do similar things I think when we're talking to clients we find that when the when the conversation of technology and automation artificial intelligence it's funny but some of them would prefer it's not sort of a bifurcated but would prefer a lot of focus on the connection and automation and an eye on the collection side and then others actually prefer it on the downstream which is the analysis and the deployment of the inside so as Bhavneet said when you're dealing social media sometimes dealing with unstructured data and you go to make sense of that and that's with downstream to collect the data how do you break that down how do you draw sense out of it how do you draw conclusions from it and they you can use algorithms and again built systems to take unstructured text and turn that into a lot of variables that can be worked on and so the point I'm trying to draw is that upside and the downside and each corporation the way they set up the teams where they set up their view of competitive intelligence partner as somebody like Course5 and often they focus more on one than the other and so you need to call jumble sites.
It kind of reminds me a scenario where I work at American Eagle outfitters apparel company that we were looking at I remember sitting up in a meeting and you're trying to figure out what promotion we should do for the upcoming weekend we had been looking at data works similar promotion in the recent past and somebody ask the question why did we do the same week it was a holiday week why did we do the same week a year ago and it took us a long time to go through the archive of our email and figure out where we the proportion work start looking but we didn't have eyes on the actual image. And so we pull that up and we saw okay most of our email that week with going off of memory here but it was highly emotional what percentage off it wasn't really around lifestyle and select the kind of informs will maybe we should do the same thing again and the results from the previous year and someone brought up the question what about what the competition doing last year and what have they been doing recently and we had we were able to look at the recent stock but we didn't have this archive of what they were doing in the past you see that there is potential for using the tool I course5 compete to have that archive and also what trended view based on a mix collected information about what your competitors are doing how have they been talking about themselves liberated channel email what type of damages have they been using and you can even tell you don't have to access all their internal numbers but you could tie that to their publicly available financial results and if there's any correlation there. Are those types of scenarios the sort of thing that were a need to address with a tool like Course5 compete.
Yes David. And you know that is an integral part of the entire product. So when we look at product like Course5 compete they're basically three elements and they've all been one of the most critical and data not just with respect to having a site of what is happening today but also having the ability to look at historical data to sort of than arrive at some of these conclusions or insights that you were referring to earlier during your experience at American Artificial is to really say what has happened in the past how you know, what are some of the trends that we need to keep in mind and Course5 compete does give you that ability what we are doing as an organization is we are also collecting a lot of the data on an ongoing basis or some of our top articles that we are focused on as an organization Retail CPG and Hi-Tech being three of those top four. And you know we are continuously on a regular basis rather on a daily basis collecting data. With respect to pricing, promotions, product information and real information on products reviews as well to be able to give that ability to our clients towards or have this view and then be able to compare and take some of these decisions for their future. And you know in my recent engagements with clients this is sort of becoming a critical differentiator when they talk about competitive intelligence because you know you're not just looking at these data in isolation but this data is also automating a lot of other initiatives around analytics and insights within an organization and a couple of examples from our own experience, we engage with a large global technology player where they're sort of using the promotions data from Course5 compete to actually augment their three and models to understand how changes in promotions or promotions are you know sort of having a positive impact on that and sort of giving than ability to further strengthen some of those insights from the model and you know you've seen some of these two cases in the last 24 months wearing you know competitive intelligence database might just have looked at in isolation to say oh you know am I more price-competitive than my competition. Should I have more promotions but really you know how is it affecting the mind how can I use this data within my larger analytics initiators as well. So really looking at competitive intelligence has set of a third leg.
If you consider the phrase not just in isolation I think is really important in moving these data types together It's something that we often talk about in the analytics sphere and so it seems to me that competitive intelligence and analytics should be natural partners and in the right insights to grow in revenue or cutting costs or improving satisfaction or other business priorities. Are you seeing any best practices with regard to remaining competitive intelligence data analytics practices more closely into alignment with each other?
Absolutely. I mean it's a change that's happening. I think it's, Today it is sort of driven by market forces how some of the changes happening with respect to digital and mobile is disrupting your older business models that are running the business. But I think today it's not as a natural ideally like you mentioned it needs to be natural fed we still see those silos. It's going to be a while could going to takes a while for all of these different data types to come together for the analytics practice and CI for of the business to come together and stitch up the story which is going to enable faster decisions for the organization.
But we do see that happening and again in a ply and it really depends upon where they are in their journey. You know with respect to competitive intelligence or analytics some of the clients we've just said have embarked on this journey I'm still started of figuring things out and trying to put you know context around how is this information with respect to price promotion or you know product can be used within the various marketing functions or for you know some of the other decision-making initiatives for others were slightly more evolved I have moved from traditional business models that just operating in the offline space to probably being a B format retailer kind of organization with both an online and offline presence.
We see that change happening. We see in fact the analytic or the insights organization driving this change and set of bringing all of these elements of information or data competitive intelligence being one of them together and then sort of stitching that into the story and going back to the business uses for consumption. So you know it's not just informed today that clients are looking and but sort of intelligence information in the form of quick actionable insights. Just don't tell me what the data looks like or what the data telling me but tell me as a business what action I can take bases on this information and then I think that's where both these analytics and CI functions are sort of coming together naturally.
That seems to be over destruction or opportunity there but maybe we'll get back to that but I'd like to dig into the case study concept or here's some examples of scenarios where you've seen competitive intelligence work too.
Joseph, you mentioned the Ryanair scenario that was maybe a country case study. Are there other case studies that you're aware of regulations that are really doing a good job with competitive intelligence.
Sure. I think it's where also bearing in mind something that we refer to as the clock of the company. So if I was to take the run the airline and car rental sort of sector they clock in this domain would be daily so they'll be checking prices promotions availability literally on a daily basis.
And for car rental it'll be many times a day. So that clock is a very very quick few hours. If you go to a CPG example their competitors are not altering their products on an hourly basis daily basis not even on a weekly basis. They may have some very aggressive promotions but typically that clock is between weekly and monthly used to be quarterly but that's also changing. So when we look at case studies it varies considerably about the value that you can draw from these solutions in competitive intelligence.
I know of a few cases in travel and car rental where they were able to intercept sudden changes in their competitors and the competitors were changing their strategy on price and availability because it's a stock that they will be carrying but you couldn't see that well you could see was a price change rapidly escalating in various airports. And so they were able to intercept that and interpret that as you know that condition.
In more sort of retail apparel. I think they're the more common use case is about tracking what's happening and channel. So if you're a big brand and you are selling you your closing line or your shoe line or your hotline and you're both doing direct and indirect for your own dot com as well as maybe through an Amazon or maybe an eBay or Alibaba then you might find that the way your business is built up you might have several countries with their own dot com and then presence in one of these marketplaces. And so competitive is that space could either be tracking the price and ensuring that there's a bit of adherence to the compliance that the company wants to adhere to on price and productivity with and so on. Or it is also tracking you know at the country level for competitors so comparing like for like within the same country to track any deviations. Ironically that's a bigger sort of ROY that we have seen in that sort of large apparel environment has been more about compliance and regulation and adherence to a pricing policy so they can minimize messages or miscommunication to clients. So to that to the larger public when a price sort of deviates they catch early in the channel and then they fix it so that they keep that consistency. And then in sort of the organizations where the catalog is not that broad so they've got maybe 100 products or maybe 200 as supposed to 70 thousand. There you can see ROY in pure David. So there you can get the price right and your promotion right in the channel and that can be varying by season by certain aspects of the marketplace. There you can see revenue kick in reasonably quickly. And we have examples where clients have taken their online revenue from a few hundred thousand dollars and move that to many built many million and in some cases billions in less than six years and five years. And the big instigator or the big facilitator in that is keeping a very close eye on for competitors what they were doing across a range and then being very smart about product launches about promotions and about pricing in charge.
So I did want to come back to a point that was made earlier which was that linking from competitive intelligence to analytics what I've seen is where the client is beginning to realize how important personalization is how important messaging is and consequently the marketing team is interested in the competitive intelligence of the promotion is interested in the competitive intelligence of the placement and channel. And so there's a natural synergy there So there's a lot of ROY because that value now is beyond just competitive intelligence for pricing a product. But now we're giving value ads to other parts of the business that do not have that transparency and suddenly they have access to that. And Bhavneet and I work on a couple of those. And then the last hour why a case that I can think of the top my head is one where like the large CPG company is trying to intercept a large initiative by a competitor.
So you can imagine the very large GM as many of them from the Pepsis to the Unilever's Dan owns to the record and Benckiser and they're typically are moving you know in certain waves of activity and they keep a very close eye on category as well as an individual product. Are they trying to own category they're trying to dominate categories but anybody trying to make a move in a category they want to know about. So we sometimes work with strategic directors and these companies we're trying to intercept. One of those waves and catch early. And there are ways to intercept and translate that across countries across certain channels and then when they have that then they can you know have the marching orders internally so either balance it out or counter it or to keep a very close eye on it so they can interpret exactly what their competitors are doing. Is that compared to doing a test in a country or area they truly going across several countries with a new launch of you know Category changing launch. So those are some good examples of what we've seen in terms of return on investment.
It seems like the ability to look across geographies or across countries is really useful because just having that it would take an army of people to manage all of that. But we can use the power of machines here or these tools to keep an eye on potential competitor movements in particular geography and see almost like a fad the extension which that the customer is expanding that effort.
Exactly. Yeah, you got it.
Interesting. So I think we need a whole lot more we could talk about and maybe we'll I think we'll do another episode to bring one of our customers who is using our tools and get their thoughts through dealing with these sorts of matters on a daily basis.
We'll do that in a future episode but to wrap up I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on where we expect to evolve what's in store for the next twelve months or so in the competitive intelligence.
David, I think one of the key trends that are in that have been merging and we'll continue to set a good deal both in terms of possibilities and the impact is really how is really the contribution of AI and technology within CI space as Joseph referred to earlier you know it's really at looking at AI both in terms of you know upstream and downstream in terms of how we can apply AI instead of accelerating the entire data collection processing instead of analysing bits of it and how can it enable that faster insights back to the business as well so I think AI and technology are going to be key to sort of providing agility and speed of these insights to the end customer or the business users. And I think it's one of the other key changes is really in terms of the relevance of competitive intelligence. Traditionally the competitive intelligence function or the insights from CI have been looked at with a very specific use case. Those use cases are evolving very very quickly. So as an example you know we recently worked with a customer a large set of e-cigarettes and vaping brands back in the States when they're non-e-commerce business reached out to us and you know as an organization we've traditionally worked with that e-commerce business.
And it's really they're not e-commerce business marketing team reached out to us to help them put in place a strategy of engaging a set of digital partners online. They really want to do a understand, How is competition positioning, selling on online, even though they've been the non-e-commerce business who've sort of traditionally worked with you know offline partners sold through you know retail formats offline. They're really were looking at you know to get it gathering competent intelligence around activities of their competition online and then marry that data or you know with some of the data that Web site upstream and downstream data is provided by the tools like jump shot or similar web you know marry this data and to then come back to them to say you know you know when we look at your top three or four competitors these are the Web site channels that they're adapting to ease sell this is how they're pricing, this is how they're positioning it. And this is really how they're driving traffic or promoting their product our product Course5 compete has the ability to seamlessly integrate with some of these third-party solutions as I said and we spoke about that competitive intelligence data and in itself may not hold the relevant that it has traditionally it needs to set up work with other data sources and then sort of come up with those insights or stitch that story which is going to be relevant for the business users.
It sounds like an exciting twelve months ahead. Joseph any predictions for the next twelve months or so.
I think Bhavneet points are very very sort of founded on a lot of history and software where at the end of the day a lot of the expectations are Can I have more and faster, please.
And so the interfacing with other specialist modules that can add a layer value will always be welcome. In a sort of pure competitive intelligence view so taking that lens I would count three things One is that added value adds through interfacing I think the more well quick turn around times both on the collection and on the analysis that comes out of it. And then in competitive intelligence because of what we talked about in the podcast today which is we are seeing some movement towards a lot more varied datasets and data structures moves towards collaborating with other partners in the business.
I think the third leg of the future is gonna be to stand back every now and again and bring in specialists and talk about how to best use competitive intelligence for the next twelve years twelve months twelve weeks. And that's somebody like Course5 we've got the consultants who can do these once a year twice a year. Discussions to unlock some of these things and to be a good conduit for these conversations. I see three legs. The API and extending the reach of the platform the platforms themselves moving faster and more accurately. And then thirdly providing an additional.
A strategic view that allows people to step back a bit and go through some of this stuff is moving fast. While competitors are moving fast what else can we do as opposed to little incremental things. Those three legs.
As a listener you might be asking yourselves what can I do next. How can I open more spots that I'll share here. There's the strategic competitive intelligence professionals professional group the FCIP. Check them out check out their website as events play. If you're too interested in the space you may already be involved there. But if you're new to space it's worth taking a look at what they're offering. First, you wrote a new tech report in March of this year. Of course, the site was featured in that report as having a mature recommended solution so take that take what that.
You can also contact us and learn more about Course5 compete by visiting www.course5i.com and looking at our products and of Course5 compete there you can review content about our solution you can schedule a demo you can reach out to us and we can connect there and of course you can reach out to me to meet Joseph Linton. We'd love to continue the conversation with you on this topic but before we wrap up let's circle back to the issue of naming this baby podcast of ours. I've got a name in mind but Bhavneet, Joseph would either of you like to propose a name.
So you know I'm not somebody who leaves things for the last minute so when I had my baby you know has the name in place. We got to buy it stakeholder by end it was just a matter of right. In fact, I'll take a shot at it you know I propose competitive dial.
Oh interesting. Okay Joseph How about you.
Well again I think we've all got views on this don't come up. But if you were to I mean you got to ignore this recommendation that you can have like a C-Section intelligence but no ignore that.
No no I'll leave it to you David. Let's see let's do it first.
All right those are those are good suggestions. The name I'm I'm gonna write down on the podcast birth certificate form is data for fun and profit. Maybe we'll just call it data for fun. That's what I'm sticking with for now. But we may change that and if it does stick one of you guys can make the next podcast. Sound Okay.
Well thanks for joining Joseph, Bhavneet it has been a really exciting conversation and thank you, dear listener, for tuning in. This has been episode one of Course5 data for fun and profit podcast. We've been talking about competitive intelligence. Continue the conversation by reaching out to us at www.course5i.com