It's been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That may or may not be true in the business web design industry, where outright theft of content or a design can ruin your business, but it certainly has its merits. That's because, even though you can't just take what you want from a competitor’s website, there really isn't anything to stop you from finding inspiration from another company.
Knowing that, the question becomes this: How do you know what you should borrow from one of your competitors, and what you should ignore?
Sometimes, the answers are easy to find. After all, the best ideas almost always stand out, which is why every city in North America has a drive-through fast food restaurant, or pizza delivery. Other times, though, it's not as clear whether you should try something that another business has. This is especially true in online marketing, where the costs to experiment and implement a new strategy could be high.
Here are a couple of quick tips to help you decide what to borrow from an online competitor:
Ask your customers. Often, the men and women who buy from you now will tell you what they like about your site, as well as some of the other ones in your industry. Since their feedback comes from a different perspective, and a valuable one, any insight they can give you is priceless.
Don't focus on any one or two competitors' websites. Sometimes, one or two companies can decide to do something that turns out to be a very expensive mistake. If you see several websites trying, however, or even dozens, then it's probably time to get in on the act.
Watch your own metrics. The wonderful thing about marketing to customers over the internet is that the "proof is always in the pudding," numerically speaking. By watching the way buyers respond to changes on your website, you can usually get a quick picture of what's working and what isn't. So, if the thing you're thinking about trying doesn't cost a lot, give it a go and see what the results are like.
While you should never copy content or web designs from your competitors, it's alright to steal a little inspiration now and then. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your own business when you do.