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For decades some of the largest companies in highly competitive industries have relied on competitive intelligence (CI) to monitor their competitors, develop competitor analysis, craft go-to-market strategies, and predict future market conditions. The largest investments in competitive intelligence come from pharmaceutical giants, Pfizer and Roche. Both of which boast annual revenues of more than $50 Billion and staff competitive intelligence teams of 30+ full-time people. This level of investment is far above the industry average of just under two full-time employees.

Why is the use of Competitive Intelligence expanding?

Competitive intelligence has historically been viewed as a "nice to have" function of market research with a lot of overhead expense. The CI team was focused exclusively on gathering information about competitors and market trends and passing the information up the chain where it may or may not have been incorporated to an overall business strategy. Today's competitive intelligence function is much more collaborative and supports more functions within a company. Yes, supporting the sales and marketing departments with competitor information, while also keeping tabs on the overall competitive landscape is still a key focus. So is tracking new product launches, M&A activities and funding sources as larger legacy companies look for ways to keep tabs on nimble start-ups and leverage new technologies.

In recent years, we have seen an increased interest in competitive intelligence across many industries. Companies want to be the first to market with new solutions and they do not want to be the next case study of a market leader toppled by disruptive technology (ex. when Blockbuster met Netflix).

Gaining Traction in the Automotive Industry

One industry where competitive intelligence is gaining traction is the Automotive industry. Cipher recently partnered with the Auto Care Association to host a webinar for their membership on tools for monitoring competitive trends. Auto Care as an industry is a segment of the broader Automotive industry focused specifically on vehicle parts, products, service and repairs. The Auto Care Association is a forward-thinking organization that represents more than 150,000 businesses and seeks to provide their members with access to the latest technologies, market research techniques, and data sources to help them gain a competitive advantage.

The automotive retailers and manufacturers participating in the webinar sought to gain competitive and market intelligence insights to better understand the scope of their market and define areas to grow. They wanted to learn more about competitive intelligence tools that help track market positioning, identify growth opportunities, and monitor large e-retailers like Amazon as they expand into their market.

These goals are universal across all industries but we find that the suppliers and manufacturers in the Auto Care industry face some unique challenges. As consumers push for more technology integrated into their vehicles and automotive manufacturers race to bring autonomous vehicles to market, the Auto Care industry is faced with the prospect of being lost in the shuffle. Technology like the wireless transmission of data, known as telematics, can be particularly disruptive to the Auto Care market. According to the Auto Care Association, "when cars can recommend a location for servicing, 58 percent of customers today would follow those recommendations." As vehicles become more intelligent, the risk of businesses in the Auto Care industry losing business increases unless they can clearly differentiate themselves from their competitors and develop a strong market positioning.

Gathering Data in a New Era of Competitive Intelligence

Technological disruption is driving an increase in the need for every business to develop a dedicated competitive intelligence function. Market leaders want to maintain their position at the top and take advantage of any new opportunities that emerge. Newcomers look to clearly identify market gaps and articulate competitive differences in order to gain market share. Many industries, like the Auto Care industry, are also facing market consolidation as the top players merge for a stronger market positioning and acquire smaller companies to enhance or expand their existing services.

Competitive intelligence experts like Benjamin Gilad from the Fuld-Gilad-Herring Academy of Competitive Intelligence have noted a "bounce back" in the field as industry leaders look for new ways to incorporate competitive intelligence as part of an overall business strategy. We are also seeing a number of new industry conferences pop up. In 2018, we saw the emergence of Competitive Marketing Summit from the high-tech sector and the expansion of a well-established event in Europe, CiMi.CON, into the United States. These events join staples in the industry like Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP)'s Annual Conference, Pharma CI, and the Competitive Intelligence + Strategy (CI+S) event - now entering its 3rd year.

This increased demand for competitive intelligence is also creating a market for competitive intelligence tools. A growing number of tools to support competitor research and analysis as well as other aspects of competitive intelligence (such as advertising intelligence, pricing intelligence, website intelligence, and so on) are now available and competing for the attention of intelligence professionals, business strategists, and product marketers. Evaluating the different tools can be a months-long process that further delays your ability to take action on competitive insights.

Download: Competitive Intelligence Software Evaluation Matrix

For a glimpse of our competitive intelligence software, Knowledge360®, view our "Competitor Tracking Made Easy" webinar. For more competitive insights, subscribe to our blog and visit our competitive intelligence resource center