Fact: if you’re an online apparel retailer, an “everything for everyone” experience isn’t going to help you hit top-line or bottom-line goals.

Cowboy boots sell well in Texas, and navy pea coats are all the rage in Boston. So if you’re geotargeting the online experience, in the way that brick-and-mortar managers have long been able to do, you’ll enjoy the fruits of real labor.

But you’ll still have a problem: If the above statements are obvious to you, they’re obvious to your competitors.

Don’t worry—I’ll tell you how to outthink and outmaneuver the other brands in your industry. But before we get there, let’s start with how I discovered the importance of outside-the-box thinking.

Outside of work, I fancy myself a half-savvy investor. (No, the SEC approves of none of what I’m about to say. Indeed, I’m certified to recommend nothing.) But when I’m looking for a good investment, I don’t turn to The Wall Street Journal or CNBC, and I don’t listen to the Oracle of Omaha.

The reason?

By the time it hits the business publications, good news is old news. My competitors (other investors) have extracted nearly all the profits to be made.

So I look for different information in different places: The New Yorker, Time magazine, and the market price to charter a bulk container ship (perhaps the best indicator of global economic health.)

It’s here that my competitors aren’t looking. Indeed, it’s here that there is money to be made.

But back to ecommerce.

Doing the obvious is important, but it’s not where ecommerce companies maximize the dollars and cents. To do that, they need to look for the less obvious, and that means some heavy duty analysis.

In a previous life, I did reporting and analysis for a boutique search engine marketing company. But these two terms— reporting and analysis—have a world of differences:

  • Reporting: What happened?
  • Analysis: Why did it happen? And how do we get more of it (or fix the problems)?

For every hour I spent compiling a performance dashboard, I’d spend three to five hours looking for what to put in it.

That’s where the story is, but finding it isn’t always easy. Somewhere, cowboy boots are extremely popular in a place you’d never believe. That’s where the real profits reside.