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  • Writer's pictureC.E.K. & Partners

Techniques for Analyzing Competitors & Anticipating Future Customer Needs

Who are your competitors? When was the last time you took a close look at them?

Far too often, the team at C.E.K. & Partners, an Atlanta-based, woman-owned marketing research and strategic communications agency, hears from clients that they do not have competitors. There’s a high likelihood, however, that other companies exist that offer similar—if not the same—products and services.

Different type of competitive audits


Conducting a competitive audit can be time intensive, but it is worth identifying your competitors. Remember there isn’t just one type of competitive assessment. And, of course, there are different frameworks that can be used, such as the S.W.O.T. analysis or the O.P.E.N. brand.

Here's a look a couple different audit types:


  • Product audit: An audit could entail evaluating your competitor’s products/solution offering, along with the different features and pricing.


  • Communication audit: Another type of audit assesses competitors’ communications to understand, “what are they saying?” with their positioning, value proposition and messaging, and “where and how are they communicating?” such as with social channels, digital, traditional, events or tradeshows.


  • Awareness, Attitude & Usage (AAU) study: Another way to analyze competitors is through the lens of your current and prospective customers; plus it will offer many more valuable insights. One technique we recommend is an Awareness, Attitude and Usage (AAU) study. An AAU study includes a competitive aspect, but it goes beyond that to capture data about your buyers’ beliefs and how those affect their behaviors. This is possible through a custom-designed marketing research.


What is an Awareness, Attitude and Usage (AAU) study?

An AAU study is a marketing research technique, an online survey, that helps companies gain robust insights into their target buyers and prospective ones. It provides valuable intel around the awareness of your brand and your competitors, your buyers’ needs, along with the reason for purchase, usage/habits, beliefs and likelihood to recommend. As a quantitative study, it provides statistically significant insights instead of directional ones like qualitative research.


Understanding your buyers and their general perception of the category you operate is critical. Market dynamics are constantly changing and influencing buyers’ decisions. Plus, establishing a benchmark allows for annually monitoring and tracking your brand health and the changing attitudes and habits of your customers’ perceptions.


Why take the time to conduct an AAU study?


Gain valuable insights into some core aspects of your brand, competitors and customers:


  • Learn about your customers’ awareness and usage of a particular solution, your brand/product and your competitors.


  • Capture data to understand customers’ reasons to purchase, purchase habits and loyalty.


  • Track customers’ changing attitudes and habits.


What type of questions does an AAU study answer:

  • Who are our competitors and what’s the top-of-mind awareness of different brands/products?


  • What is the aided awareness of the brands/products?


  • Which brands/solutions doe buyers prefer and why? Where does our solution rank?


Purchase drivers
  • What are the key purchase drivers?

  • How often are buyers making this type of purchase, and where?


  • How are people using a particular solution?


  • What areas need to be strengthened to better compete or deepen customer loyalty?


  • How do the attitudes, usage and beliefs differ by customer segment, such as across age, gender or ethnicity?

An AAU Example – Retailer  


While we handle both complicated B2B studies and B2C marketing research,this recent B2C study serves as a great example on identifying customer needs.

A pet retailer conducted an annual AAU to understand the awareness of their brand, its reputation within the market and other retailers considered by pet owners, along with consumers’ overall buying habits and tendencies.


The research survey included pet owners of a certain age range within specific states. The study’s questions asked about the awareness of different retailers and their preferred retailer. It delved into why it was the preferred retailer to understand the attributes that defined the shopping experience, such as friendly and helpful staff, easy-to-use website, or offers brands my pet likes. The research was successful in establishing a baseline understanding of consumers’ awareness of the brand, its reputation, and reasons why pet owners shop at the retailer over the other stores in their market.


The findings provided instrumental data and insights for refreshing the retailer’s brand positioning. It also informed developing a brand story that would resonate with current and future customers, and helped the company identify what customers are seeking when they visit the retail brand from food and accessories to tips for how to care for their pet.



Ready to start making decisions informed by data?

Contact us today so we can start planning for your research study!


C.E.K. & Partners

We’re a certified woman-owned small business designing custom marketing research and strategic communications. We serve a range of organizations across retail, healthcare, oil/gas/energy, technology, financial services and government agencies. We custom design research studies to capture data and insights to help stakeholders make more informed business decisions.

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