October 10, 2013 | Posted in:Strategy and Tactics



Source: Google Images

A Competitive Analysis of Tim Hortons and Starbucks

In an effort to keep things as equal as possible we will look at the .com addresses for both companies.


Competitive Data From Alexa.comtimhortons.com

According to Alexa.com, Tim Horton’s has a Global Rank of 46, 272 and a local Canadian Rank of 1452.

Their audience demographics are predominantly female with a college or university level education, searching from home.  The majority of search comes via Google.ca by 26.6%, followed by 15.1% coming from Google.com and another 5.7% coming from Facebook.  When on the site, visitors have a Bounce Rate of 42.4%, with an average number of 2.89 pages viewed and for an average time on the site of 2.22 minutes (mm:ss). There are 3,185 sites linking to Tim Horton’s.

This data suggests that the people (mostly women) coming to this site want very specific information rather than spending time on the site to browse and engage (Alexa.com).

Competitive Data From Alexa.com – starbucks.com

In the case of Starbucks – they have a Global Rank of 2077 and a Local US Rank of 444.

Again, their audience is predominantly female with a college or university level of education but in this case there is an even spread of searching from home, work and school.  89.3% of the searches are US based and there is 1.39% of searches coming from Canada.  23.7% of Starbuck’s traffic comes by way of c9w.net – which seems to be a wifi platform supplier that helps with advertising and brand engagement.  The next major source of traffic comes from Google.com at 21.8%, 9.4% from wayport.net and finally 4.7% from Facebook.  Wayport.net is another hotspot/wifi supplier through AT&T.

When on the site, visitors have an even higher Bounce Rate of 61.1%, with even less pages viewed at 2.58 and at an even lower length of time on page at 2.19 minutes (mm:ss).  I find it very interesting that the wifi/hotspot providers are a decent source of search results with the case of Starbucks and are almost non-existent in the case of Tim Horton’s, with the exception of acesse.com.  There are 17,566 sites linking to Starbucks (Alexa.com).

Competitive Data From SimilarWeb.com timhortons.com

According to SimilarWeb.com, Tim Horton’s has a Global Rank of 40, 967 and a local Canadian Rank of 1571.  There is also a Category Rank indicating Industry Players, in this case – Food and Beverage.  Tim Horton’s Ranks 71.  This gives Tim’s the opportunity to look and see what 70 other competitor’s sites are doing right, that they are not already doing when it comes to their online presence.  You also get to see that an estimated 620k people visited the site for the month of September.

Search Traffic Results are broken down to 50.07% from Search – 93.23% of that from Organic and 6.77% from paid.  33.25% of traffic is from Direct, another 10.85% from referrals and finally 3.39% from Social Search, with Facebook responsible for 82.48% of that traffic. (Truth be told, I am still unclear as to the definition of “Search” when it comes to SimilarWeb.com, even after reading the description).  The Bounce Rate according to SimilarWeb.com is 35.99%, with pages views of 3.4 and a Time on Site of 2.31 (mm:ss) (Similarweb.com).

Competitive Data From SimilarWeb.com – starbucks.com

According to SimilarWeb.com, starbucks.com has a Global Rank of 4927 and a local US Rank of 1273.  Their Category Rank is 9, in the Food and Beverages Sector.  Pretty impressive, considering that their primary product is coffee and really not a wide menu like some off their competitors.  There is also a very impressive numbers of monthly visitors around the 4.4 million mark for the month of September.  That number is almost scale, when you consider the size of population in comparison to Canada and the US.

Traffic by way of search is less than half of Tim Horton’s at 22.38%, 38.96% comes from Direct Traffic, 34.17 from Referral and 2.41% from all Social.  89.37% of the traffic to the site comes from the US.  96.86% of Search is Organic and 3.14% is from Paid Search.  65.92% of Social Search is directly related to Facebook and slightly just over 12% from Twitter.  The Bounce Rate is 33.41%, with Page Views at 4.79 and Total Time on Site at 3:01 (mm:ss) (SimilarWeb.com).

Why do we see differences in data?

When researching our two sources, Alexa and SimilarWeb, I did a Google search on each to see which one was more credible.  Surprisingly, having never heard of SimilarWeb and always being told to refer to Alexa as “The Source” for intel, I was surprised to see that many people have commented on Alexa’s poor ability to provide clean data.

In an article titled “How Does Alexa Track Traffic – Do They Really Have a Grasp of Your Traffic?”  It is explained that Alexa gets most of its Traffic from the Alexa Tool Bar that is installed on some people’s browsers.  You, as an individual must choose to install it.  Usually these people are marketers looking to track their own Alexa Rankings.

The traffic data they use is based on their toolbar, so naturally the more people that visit your site that have the toolbar installed will improve your Alexa rank (hint, hint).”

Then Alexa claims to get data from other sources but does not specify which source or sources (Kyle).

Comparatively, SimilarWeb says – “Our data comes from a combination of our powerful crawler and click-stream data from our proprietary panel of tens of millions of users who have installed our apps.  We always try to make sure that our panel will be big and diversified” (SimilarWeb.com).

And in another article, this time from Techcrunch – we are told that it is widely known that Alexa’s results can and are being gamed and SimilarWeb has taken precautions to prevent this with technical fixes that use web crawlers, big data while working alongside real people confirming the information is as accurate as can be.  Some other differences are that Alexa is very US focussed while SimilarWeb takes a Global look at the information available (techcrunch.com).

As for me, I actually liked the look and feel of SimilarWebs website and found the information easy to read and it made sense.  UNTIL I decided to look at the Industry Ranking numbers I mentioned earlier.  I knew where both Starbucks and Tim Horton’s ranked but I wanted to know who was number one and what they were doing on and off site to be in that position.  Competitors in second and third position were easy enough to understand but who was this company in first position?

The number one position is held by a company called Barcaelona.com .  They should not even be on the list.  I am not sure what it is they do but I do not see any relevance for them being there, which leads me to believe someone has already found a way to game SimilarWeb.

The only real reliable source of data is your own sites data.  Sites like Alexa, SimilarWeb, Ispionage and many others, free and paid, will give you fairly reasonable data to get an idea of what your competition is doing.  I don’t think you should totally rely on this information alone.  Take the time to install your own analytics tools, monitor, measure and know exactly what your own data says.  Then you can compare your findings with some of these other sources and make a better, more informed decision of what your data really means.  This will allow you to focus on areas of improvement and areas of success.

Who wins this fight?

Having looked at the numbers from Alexa and SimilarWeb, for both Tim Horton’s and Starbucks, I am left to make a pretty close call as to which organization is doing a better job managing their online presence.  When we look at Bounce Rate, Pageviews and Time on Page from the above numbers, I would have to say that Tim Horton’s has done a slightly better job at keeping their customer engaged.

When we look at the Global Rank and Local Rank for each of these companies, Starbucks certainly has a much better result.  Having said that, by scales of comparison there is a population factor of 10x in the United States alone.  Not to mention that Starbucks has made a concerted effort to be a Global Brand and will inevitably have a broader reach.   So, I would still say Starbucks has done a better job at reaching a bigger audience but Tim Horton’s has done a respectable job too.

Another very strong advantage Starbucks has capitalized on that Tim’s could take a cue from is Starbucks’ offering of “Hotspot” or “wifi” connectivity.  This simple, low cost complimentary service encourages Starbucks’ customers to stay in-store longer and connect through their network.  Their network automatically sends you to the Starbucks Homepage and as the data shows, substantially increases their online strength.

I think Starbucks could certainly take a lesson on how to engage their customers on Facebook better when compared to Tim Horton’s though.  Tim’s has a much better conversion rate when when we consider the number of people they are engaging with.

By in large,  both companies have a very low response via their Social Media Networking efforts, which makes no sense.  When you look at either of the company’s Facebook Pages you will find very high numbers of “Likes to Page” and “Talking About”.  In each case we can see about 10% of the population of each companies respective country has stepped up and identified themselves to these brands and approximately 10% of those people have taken the time out of their busy day to try to engage with each brand… and “what do each of our two brands decide to do with all of this attention?” you ask.   Sell more product and market to them.  I am not saying that you should never try to sell or market to your Facebook audience but I will say that the quicker you can get your audience believing that they are communicating with another person and not just a Company Profile, the better the relationship will be and the better the business experience will be for both sides.

Both Starbucks and Tim Horton’s have very good Facebook Pages when it comes to letting their customers know all about what is new with them (as a company).  I was stretched to find any posts on either company’s page wanting to know more (from either Brand) about what was new with their audience/friends/customers of these Facebook Pages.  I did see very good response times to customer complaints which means that the companies are listening and really do want to help but where is the real and genuine two way conversation?  In short, both companies have great Breadth of Brand but Depth of Interaction is lacking and this is where the battle is won for all Social Media Engagement (Tim Horton’s, Starbucks).

When you just have to have more data, be sure to check…

When you are investigating a company’s strengths and weakness as it relates to online data, you may also want to consider looking at these areas of importance of “onsite data”.

  • Home page. How informative is the home page? Does it set the proper context for visitors? Is it just an annoying splash page with multimedia? How fast does it load?
  • Meta Data. What descriptions are listed beneath the website pages in the search engine? Are the descriptions weak or confusing?
  • Page Titles. What page titles are listed for your web pages in the search engine results page? Are these titles unique and relevant? Do they describe the page content in a compelling and descriptive manner?
  • Search Engine. Where are the website pages appearing in the search engine results page? What keywords can a user search for to find the website pages in the search engine results page?
  • Keywords. Has keyword research been completed to identify the most relevant and highly searched terms in the industry? Are these keywords used in the most efficient manner possible?
  • Link Popularity. How many web pages link to the website? What sources are these links coming from?
  • Search Engine Saturation. How many of the pages are indexed in Google’s search engine? Yahoo’s? AOL’s? MSN’s? AllTheWeb’s? etc.
  • Navigation. Is the global navigation consistent from page to page? Do major sections have local navigation? Is content useful? Is there wasted space?
  • Site organization. Is the site organization intuitive and easy to understand and use?
  • Links and labels. Are labels on section headers and content groupings simple to understand? Are links easy to distinguish from each other? Or are they ambiguous and uninformative (“click here” or “white paper”)? Are links spread out in documents, or gathered conveniently in sidebars or other groupings?
  • Search and search results. Is the search engine easy to use? Are there basic and advanced search functions? What about search results? Are they structured and easy to understand? Do they give relevance weightings to provide context? Do the search results remind you what you searched for?
  • Readability. Is the font easy to read? Are line lengths acceptable? Is the site easy to scan and read?
  • Performance. Overall. Do pages load slowly to quickly? If present, are graphics and applications like search and multimedia presentations optimized for easy web viewing?
  • Content. Is their sufficient depth and breadth of content? Does the content seem to match the mission of the organization and the needs of the audience? Is the site developing its own content or syndicating other sources? Is there a good mix of in-depth material (complete case studies, articles, and white papers) versus superficial content (press releases, marketing copy)? Is too much or too little content provided? Is the information above the fold (i.e. without having to scroll down the page) recognized as more important than content below the fold?
  • Broken Links. Are all links on the website working properly?
  • Contact Us Information. Where is it? Is it on every page? Is it part of the navigation? Does the contact us page include an email link?
  • Products/Services. Where is the information regarding product/services located? Does the user have to explore multiple layers of the site before they find product/service information? Is it easy to purchase products/services?
  • Press. Does the site contain a news/events/press page? What is it called? Is it cluttered with information? How is it linked to the homepage? Are archives of information present? Are there images or video present?
  • Proper Image Text. Is there text displayed when the mouse scrolls over an image or logo? Do all images contain this text? Does this text label the image properly?
  • Breadcrumbs. Does the site provide breadcrumbs for the user so that they are able to follow their path back through the site?
  • Headings. Are headings identified? Are they used effectively?
  • Page URLs. Are page URLs cryptic and full of unreadable letters and symbols? Or do page URLs contain keywords and a relevant description of the URL?(psycray.com)

Now here are some of the things you need to look at for “offsite data” comparison.

  • Do they have a blog?
  • Do they have downloads?
  • Do they use video?
  • What conversion points do they have (contact, live chat, email, phone etc)?
  • Which social networks are they on?
  • What reach do they have on the key networks for your industry?
  • What are their most shared pages?(econsultancy.com)

Not only is it important to know and understand this data, it is equally as important to routinely run an assessment of such to stay on top of possible problem areas with your onsite and offsite effectiveness.  It allows you to keep an eye on what is working for your competition and make the changes needed to be competitive.  Sometimes fixing an issue as simple as your broken links can make a noticeable difference.

All of this talk about Tim Horton’s and Starbucks has made me quite thirsty.  And “yes”, Starbucks won this one but I think it’s time for me to go and get a Timmies!

I hope this helps and please take note of all the valuable source for this article.

Works Cited:

  • Alexa. “timhortons.”. alexa.com. siteinfo. timhortons.com, 08/10/13. Web. 08/10/13.
  • Alexa. “starbucks.”. alexa.com. siteinfo. starbucks.com, 08/10/13. Web. 08/10/13.
  • SimilarWeb. “Timhortons.”. SimilarWeb.com. siteinfo. timhortons.com, 08/10/13. Web. 08/10/13.
  • SimilarWeb. “Starbucks.”. SimilarWeb.com. siteinfo. starbucks.com, 08/10/13. Web. 08/10/13.
  • Kyle. How Does Alexa Track Traffic – Do They Really Have a Grasp of Your Traffic?.. waystoavoidscamsonline.com, June 25, 2013. Web. 08/10/13.
  • “Where does SimilarWeb get the data from.” Similarweb.uservoice.com. SimilarWeb, N.d. Web. 08/10/13.
  • “Would be Alexa killer SimilarWeb raises an additional 3.5 million.” Techcrunch.com. Techcrunch, 09/24/2013. Web. 08/10/2013.
  • Tim Hortons. “Tim Hortons Page.” N.d., N.d. facebook.com/TimHortons. Web. 08/10/2013.
  • Starbucks. “Starbucks Page.” N.d., N.d. facebook.com/Starbucks. Web. 08/10/2013.
  • “How to Conduct a Website Competitive Analysis.” .psycray.com . Psycray Web Design. Web. 2013. Wed. October 9, 2013
  • “Website Competitive Analysis and Review: A Guide for Marketers.” Econsultancy. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2013.


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