One of the more daunting aspects of online business that startups deal with is that fact that no matter how original they think they are, they find a lot of competition out there in their respective niche. Even if you’re catering to a niche inside of a larger niche, you’re going to find that you’re dealing with some competitors. No one has the market cornered online, and if you did, you would find that there’s not much of a market at all.

But instead of shying away from the competition, the smart business startups seize the opportunity and actually learns from their competition. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort in order to thoroughly research those guys offering similar products and services, you can leverage your position in the market in a big way. Here are some of the top reasons that you need to start researching your competition:

1. Market separation

No matter how similar your competition is, and even if you’re selling practically the same product, you can still separate yourself. Find what your competition is doing and take it to another level. Believe it or not, a customer can view two businesses selling the exact same product, and if one has a better rate, a better warranty, more customer support, a more compelling sales page, etc, that customer is going to view the businesses as completely separate, not even focusing on the product. It’s how we’re able to have Tesco and John Lewis on the same street.

2. True inspiration

As a solo entrepreneur, or even if you’re part of a small business, it’s hard to find inspiration around every corner. The odds suggest that you’re always going to overlook something or that you will always miss something in plain view. Research allows you to stay inspired and to participate in one-upmanship. And this is not only for you, but you can also better inspire your customers by one-upping the competition.

3. Pricing and trends

The pricing of your products need to work on the Goldilocks principle – that is to say that the prices need to be just right. Too high or too low will throw the ebb and flow out of whack. Researching competition allows you to always remain in the ballpark on pricing. And, also, if there’s currently any hot trends running, you will spot them and adapt before your competition leaves you in the dust.

4. Necessary improvements

There’s an old saying that carpenters use: “If you’ve made the right cut every time, you haven’t cut enough.” The meaning there is that there’s always going to be a missed line somewhere, a bad measurement, an uneven cut, some burning or splintering. The same holds true with the implementation of your entire business strategy. If you think you’ve done everything correctly, you simply haven’t looked hard enough. By looking at your competition, you have a gauge. Comparing yourself only to yourself will cause you to miss flaws. But when you have a gauge, you can pick up on nuance.

5. Exploiting weaknesses

You’re not only in competition within your niche at the start; you’re in competition for the duration of your business. By constantly researching what the other guys are doing, you can pounce on any weakness. Find something they’re doing wrong, make sure you do it better, and become the better business by exploiting their weaknesses.

Research is imperative to learn and grow in any field. Especially when talking about the competitive nature of online business, you need a keen eye and a willingness to not only research but to use what you find to better your own business.