Attack the Gaps: What Is Gap Analysis?

As the name suggests, a gap analysis (also called a white space analysis) is all about studying the space that exists between where you are, and where you want to be.

For retail brands, gap analysis is a powerful tool for identifying opportunities and developing a roadmap to improve your performance, both within your current product categories and potential new categories.

By examining your current positioning and where you and your competitors have left room for growth on the table, you can craft marketing strategies that help you broaden your reach and drive sales.

What questions does gap analysis answer?

A gap analysis helps you determine your current standing in your product category and chart a course for growth. It addresses:

  • Where your brand ranks in terms of perception against your competitors.
  • What causes satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) and where your brand can focus to improve.
  • Which perceived benefits are underdeveloped and require a strong brand stance.

Gap analysis also points to new categories where consumers would be likely to embrace your brand’s expansion, and it provides important clues for how to succeed.

The insights a gap analysis generates are the key to formulating plans for winning within your product category, offering new products in adjacent categories, and crafting more effective positioning and messaging strategies.

How does gap analysis work?

Gap analysis begins by taking stock of the status quo. The first step is a thorough analysis of the product offerings of all key competitors, both online and in brick and mortar stores. This includes understanding:

  • The attributes (features, benefits, price, etc.) of all relevant products.
  • How these products deliver against their brand positioning or brand promise.
  • An assessment of the portion of the target universe for whom the product exists.
  • The tradeoffs that were made to accomplish price points.
  • How value is added by the inclusion or combination of attributes.

Once you’ve done a thorough evaluation, consumer learning can begin. Qualitative research in the form of conversations is the best way to learn what you don’t know – these conversations are also the best place to start your gap analysis.

In-depth interviews with 12-15 product purchase decision makers and users should provide unique insights into how products are used, what attributes are valued most highly, the acceptable tradeoffs and any functionality or combinations of functions that are currently missing in the category.

With the information gleaned in the first two steps, you can begin to develop effective quantitative surveys. These surveys should look deeply into consumers’ attitudes, behaviors and satisfaction with the product lines offered by your brand, as well as competing brands. By evaluating key category requirements like product application and feature/functionality, we can derive the missing product attributes and the value of those attributes.

The result? The unmet needs of the market – and critical insights that establish the potential for your brand to fill those gaps.

How to use gap analysis for growth at retail.

Gap analysis works in tandem with your larger body of brand research to inform targeted marketing and product development strategies.

A critical part of the quantitative research is understanding the different types of customers and the specific needs of those your brand is targeting or should be targeting. If you’ve already conducted a good behavioral segmentation study, simply including a typing tool will be sufficient. If there is no segmentation to lean into, you’ll have to take great care to understand consumer behaviors well enough to divine your brand’s target audience.

To get the most out of your gap analysis, you may want to consider partnering with a consumer research company that is capable of interpreting your findings in the context of your target audience. By deeply understanding your prime prospect’s relationship to your brand, you can make more strategic choices about how to pursue the growth opportunities the gap analysis reveals.

Understanding where your brand falls in the consideration set relative to competitors and where your brand has a license to attack the gaps is paramount to unlocking strategies for new product development, positioning, messaging claims and more.