"Understanding your industry and anticipating its future trends and directions gives you the knowledge you need to react and control your portion of that industry," Kenneth J. Cook explained in his book The AMA Complete Guide to Strategic Planning for Small Business. "Since both you and your competitors are in the same industry, the key is in finding the differing abilities between you and the competition in dealing with the industry forces that impact you. If you can identify abilities you have that are superior to competitors, you can use that ability to establish a competitive advantage."
The ease of entry into an industry is important because it determines the likelihood that a company will face new competitors. In industries that are easy to enter, sources of competitive advantage tend to wane quickly. On the other hand, in industries that are difficult to enter, sources of competitive advantage last longer, and firms also tend to develop greater operational efficiencies because of the pressure of competition. The ease of entry into an industry depends upon two factors: the reaction of existing competitors to new entrants; and the barriers to market entry that prevail in the industry. Existing competitors are most likely to react strongly against new entrants when there is a history of such behavior, when the competitors have invested substantial resources in the industry, and when the industry is characterized by slow growth.
In his landmark book Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, Michael E. Porter identified six major sources of barriers to market entry:
1.Economies of scale. Economies of scale occur when the unit cost of a product declines as production volume increases. When existing competitors in an industry have achieved economies of scale, it acts as a barrier by forcing new entrants to either compete on a large scale or accept a cost disadvantage in order to compete on a small scale. There are also a number of other cost advantages held by existing competitors that act as barriers to market entry when they cannot be duplicated by new entrants—such as proprietary technology, favorable locations, government subsidies, good access to raw materials, and experience and learning curves. 2.Product differentiation. In many markets and industries, established competitors have gained customer loyalty and brand identification through their long-standing advertising and customer service efforts. This creates a barrier to market entry by forcing new entrants to spend time and money to differentiate their products in the marketplace and overcome these loyalties. 3.Capital requirements. Another type of barrier to market entry occurs when new entrants are required to invest large financial resources in order to compete in an industry. For example, certain industries may require capital investments in inventories or production facilities. Capital requirements form a particularly strong barrier when the capital is required for risky investments like research and development. 4.Switching costs. A switching cost refers to a one-time cost that is incurred by a...