Handy "How Tos"

How to track your competitors’ email marketing strategy and tactics.

  Gregg Blanchard     February 19, 2024    

Once upon a time monitoring your competitors' email campaigns was a daunting task. Sure, signing up for a competitor's emails was easy enough, but Gmail and Outlook are designed for reading emails not analyzing their strategy. So millions of marketers (like myself) signed up for other brands' emails with the best of intentions but...well...eventually only ended up with a more bloated inbox rather than the insights into their competitors' email strategy that they were hoping for.

Luckily, today there is a better way to do this thanks to SendView; an inbox built to answer the questions email marketers are asking when their sign up for other brands' emails.

Instead of subscribing to your competitors' emails with you own, personal email address, SendView creates a special tracking email address for each of your competitors that you can use to sign up for their emails. Instead of all those campaigns going to your inbox, though, they are analyzed by an engine built for understanding the marketing strategies behind emails and then displayed along with key stats, trends, tech, and tactics in an interface designed to help you identify marketing ideas and opportunities. Here's how it works.

What the heck is competitor email monitoring?

Actually, before we jump in, let me answer this question so we're on the same page.

Competitor email monitoring is tracking what email campaigns your competitors send in a way that lets you analyze and learn from the strategies they're employing every time they hit send. That middle part - being able to analyze those campaigns - is important and the distinction between competitor email monitoring and simply subscribing to your competitors' emails. Lots of marketers subscribe to their competitors' emails with their personal email addresses, but they're not actually learning anything. So, yes, they are subscribed to their competitors' emails, but you aren't really monitoring their marketing strategies.

Don't believe me? Head to your Outlook inbox, find a brand you're subscribed to, and try to figure out the average time of day they send emails. I'll wait...

See what I mean? It's just not built to answer even basic questions like that. SendView, on the other hand, is.

time of day competitor analysis report

In this guide we're going to talk about how to do proper, real competitor email monitoring so you don't just subscribe to their emails, but learn from the tactics they're employing in each email campaign.

Okay, let's jump in.

1) Create an Account

The first step is to start a free trial of SendView. This should only take about 2-3 minutes. No matter which plan you choose, you'll get 10 days to try it for free that gives you full access to all of our competitor email monitoring tools. You can cancel at any time right from your account without talking to another human.

screenshot of sendview account creation screen

2) Add Your Competitors

Add your first competitor whose emails you want to monitor by choosing the name of the competitor you want to track. You can also get more specific here by adding some additional detail like where you subscribed (newsletter, new account, etc.) Don't worry, you can change this later or delete this competitor if you change your mind or add more details in the "Description" box once you add this competitor. If you need a little help there's a short video walkthrough you can watch.

When you add the rest of your competitors the form will look like this.

screenshot of sendview add a competitor form

You'll also notice a few more controls for each competitor you're tracking:

  • You can add a description or notes about the competitor
  • You can have SendView autoopen emails to ensure you don't get flagged as inactive by the sender
  • You can assign tags you can use later for filtering reports

Click the Edit link to change an existing competitors' settings or choose these advanced features whenever you create a new competitor.

3) Sign Up for Each Competitors' Emails

Once you add each competitor to your account, you'll get a simple confirmation screen showing you the email address you can use to sign up for this competitors' emails. Copy that address, head to their website, and sign up however you'd like. You can add a competitor a few times if you'd like to track them in multiple ways such as their newsletter, an abandoned cart, or a lead gen form. We have some users who sign up for the same brand's emails 5-7 different ways each time? By interacting with each campaign differently they can reveal insights into how they segment and target their subscribers.

sendview competitor confirmation screen with custom email tracking address

4) Check Your Competitor Inbox

As emails start coming in, your inbox will be the best place to watch your competitors' emails all at once. Keep in mind, however, that this isn't your normal inbox. You'll be able to search emails using advanced filters (e.g.; find all emails that contain Gmail Annotations code or were sent via MailChimp) and toggle on/off a dozen columns like ESP, spam score, DKIM/SPF, and other simple, at-a-glance insights into each campaign your competitors send.

screenshot of sendview competitor inbox

What happens if you click on an email? Instead of just seeing the email itself, you'll be able spy on all those key stats broken out plus controls to:

  • Preview the email on mobile
  • See if this campaign is responsive
  • Check the DKIM/SPF status for the campaign
  • View the source code
  • Download the source code
  • Add this email to your favorites / collections
  • Edit the email in Parcel
screenshot of competitor email detail screen

Want to quickly toggle through the campaigns in your inbox? Use the Next / Prev buttons at the top or just use the left and right keys on your keyboard.

5) Check Competitor Intel Reports

As more emails come in, the next place to explore will be the Reports tab. This will give you a high-level view of trends across all of your competitors around things like:

  • Average time of day your competitors send emails
  • Most common day of the week your competitors send emails
  • Average work count, link count, and image count
  • The most common ESPs your competitors use
  • Which ESPs your competitors use to send emails
  • How many of your competitors are using dark mode code

For example, here's what the report looks like for a handful of brands I track before, during, and after Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2023.

sendview competitor trend reports screen

6) Competitor Dashboards

If you want to spy on how each competitors' strategy looks on an individual level, you can do that on the dashboards screen. There are three main areas of insight: email campaign timing, email contents, and the tech stack each one uses to send emails.

The timing area shows you how often they're sending emails campaigns, which days are most popular for them to send, and even the times of day. The contents analysis digs into their use of keywords, emoji, and what kind of links their templates include. The tech column explores some of the code and meta data behind each campaign.

sendview competitor email dashboards

You can also compare multiple senders side-by-side using this same dashboard to see how these insights look at this level one competitor versus another. Just click "Compare Mode" and use the drop-downs to add up to two other competitors to your comparison.

sendview competitor comparison mode

7) Collection Ideas and Favorites

You'll notice throughout the interface places where you can add individual email campaigns to collections or simply click the star icon to add them to your favorites. Whether you group your competitors' best email campaigns by type - abandoned cart, newsletter, upsell, etc. - or the thing you like - great imagery, fun animated GIFs, solid copywriting, etc. - or some other factor, this is a great way to collect an inspiration board your team can use when brainstorming future campaigns.

sendview favorites tab for a collection of the best competitor emails

You can manage these Collections and Tags from the main Competitors screen. You can create as many collections or tags as you want to easily segment your competitors and their campaigns on many views throughout the app.

8) Competitor Email Tactic Alerts

As you can see there are many other features you can use to track your competitors' email strategy, but the last one we'll mention are alerts. Every night the SendView system automatically scans all of your competitors' campaigns for anomalies whether that's a big drop in email volume, a spike in spam score, a change in ESP, or a big shift in the timing a specific competitor sends emails. You'll see this red dot with the number of unread competitor email alerts in the main navigation. Just click that and all those alerts will be displayed in a tray that slides in from the right.

sendview competitor alerts screenshot

At the top you'll notice controls that let you filter these alerts by a specific competitor or the type of alert - spam score, ESP usage, timing, etc. - to really drill down into the insights that matter.

Bonus: Sharing Competitor Email Insights with Your Team

If you're part of a larger team, being able to share the things you learn while monitoring your competitors' emails is really important. SendView provides a few ways to do this:

  • You can add other users to your SendView account (additional users are free)
  • You can share individual campaigns using the share links that are auto-generated for each campaign
  • You can subscribe multiple people to a monthly PDF report that summarizes activity across all your competitors

All of these help every member of your team learn from your competitors email marketing tactics and apply those lessons with every campaign they send. And if you're an agency, you can actually whitelabel these reports before sharing them with each client or even automate these reports so they can easily download whitelabeled reports. You can even whitelabel the app itself and put it on your own domain!

customized email monitoring reporting

The Best Way to Spy On Your Competitors' Email Campaigns

SendView is the best way to monitor your competitors emails campaigns because it gives you full control over every step of the process:

  • You can subscribe to the exact competitors you want
  • You can subscribe to each competitor exactly how you want
  • You can dig into your competitors' email strategy from any angle you want
  • The system will help you identify competitive opportunities

If you've tried to subscribe to your competitors emails before but been frustrated by the lack on insights you gleaned from those attempts. try SendView for 10 days and see what you think. I think you'll be excited by how much your team learns about your competitors' email strategies, tactics, and campaigns that open the door for you to send your smartest emails ever. And even after your trial ends, if you're not satisfied just holler. We'd be happy to help.

If you have any questions or would like any tips for tracking your competitors' email, just reach out. We'd love to give you a hand. And if you want to learn more about SendView, you can head to our homepage.