Who Are The Hidden Competitors You Can’t Afford To Neglect?

As business owners, we know about the competition. But what about hidden competitors? Being (and staying) unique is not easy. After all, it’s possible that whatever you’re doing, there are other businesses doing exactly the same thing. This is open and obvious competition, and most businesses know how to cope with it well.

But what if that wasn’t the only competition we had to face? What if there were other hidden competitors out there who we’re not even aware of? Maybe, because they come from outside our market or industry that they were never even on our radar? This is called hidden competition, and it’s something businesses don’t think about enough – particularly when it comes to products and technology.

The Competition You Don’t See

The idea of hidden competition is simple really – it’s when disruption comes from outside the market or even industry, taking established companies and competitors by complete surprise. The best modern example of a hidden competitor is the smartphone.

It was disruptive enough in the technology space. But it also drove a huge number of other types of products into chaos and even near extinction with its capabilities. Items like wristwatches, paper maps, calculators and cameras. One simple invention caused a huge shake-up for dozens of industries. And the same thing can happen to any other business and market at any time.

A few other examples of the competition you might not see, but will still have an impact include:

  • Neutrogena. Eager to grab the competitive advantage, Neutrogena poured investment into both the AI and 3D printing space in order to develop a product called MaskiD. This technology used smartphone cameras to scan and capture facial measurements and skin data. It allowed customers to create customised products and get tailored recommendations. The next stage of innovation is a custom, 3D printed mask. It gives the 3D printing industry some competition it certainly wasn’t expecting!

  • WD-40. This hidden competition was actually driven by an unlikely partnership. In 2006, hardware brand WD-40 partnered with a major pen manufacturer to launch a product called the No Mess Pen. The idea was to improve the use of WD-40 in hard to reach areas by putting the famous spray in pen form. And then expand the uses of the chemical to things like removing crayons, stickers and other things it might not have otherwise been used for – and was a moderate success.

So you see, competition can come from absolutely anywhere, and it can strike any business out there at any time.

Is There Hidden Competition In The IT Industry?

Of course there is – the problem is we can never be sure of what it is! Thanks to the advent of digital disruption, any business in any industry can make a play for your business in the technology field. For example, in the US, an alarm clock company created a product that included a sleep monitor – a device that costs $100 and can monitor your sleep almost as effectively as a visit to a $3,000 sleep lab could.

Amazon has utilised streaming technologies to compete with traditional TV viewing. Everywhere you look there are examples of software companies who have inserted themselves into consumers lives. And in all sorts of industries where bigger companies had the opportunity but didn’t see it. From DIY and home measurement systems to weight loss and even menstrual cycle tracking. IT is arguably one of the industries most likely to be doing the disrupting of other markets. But that doesn’t mean hidden competition can’t happen here as well, so it’s important to be vigilant.

How Can You Plan For This?

One way to anticipate any potential disruptors that might be on the horizon is to look in two directions. Firstly, at the big-name companies across the board who are pumping millions of dollars into new innovations, rather than expanding their existing lines. These are the companies who are likely to suddenly sweep in with something new and exciting. It is these innovations that can potentially cause damage to your business in the process. For technology, this is currently companies working in the AR and VR spaces, along with those looking into new AI-driven cybersecurity methods.

Another option is to look in the opposite direction, at startups. New companies without an existing product base are more likely to innovate. Especially if their solutions have been in development for a while. Newly patented technologies are a place to look for things like this. These technologies often look at the broader issue of client needs, rather than focus on a specific industry niche. This opens up the field for your viewing and means you won’t get caught up focusing on current competitors who are in the same space as you.

Ultimately, business owners need to include hidden competition in their considerations when planning and future-proofing their business. This all goes back to our last post, which talked all about scenario planning. This is just one scenario to prepare you business for. Because, while you might not be able to predict where the next disruption will come from, you can plan for how your business will handle it. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.