There’s always competition, even if you’re introducing an industry-first solution. Let the following case studies serve as a cautionary tale.
Consider launching a new upmarket coffee shop in a bustling location. You might assume that establishing it in a neighborhood without other fine-coffee purveyors guarantees success, but competition still exists. Your intended clientele is already brewing their own top-notch coffee at home or patiently waiting to satisfy their caffeine cravings at work. By introducing your shop, you’re challenging their comfortable routine of enjoying coffee in their pajamas or at their work desks.
Don’t imagine the iPod didn’t face competition when it first launched. In fact, it faced a significant challenge from multiple fronts. Not only did it have to compete with other MP3 players, which were arguably less convenient, but it also had to outdo the storage capacity and convenience of CDs and the variety of radio stations. However, the iPod proved to be a game-changer with its ground-breaking 1.8-inch hard drive, a revolution in music-listening technology. With that iconic click wheel, you could shuffle through songs and switch from classical to heavy metal in the blink of an eye. And let’s not forget how cool it was to play with!
Back in the day, Southwest Airlines started with just three routes in Texas and no big-shot airlines to compete with. They had to convince folks that flying was better than hitting the road in their trusty jalopy. They hyped up the time-saving factor and ensured passengers knew they could still chow down on some grub at home. They also showered their passengers with free booze and had flight attendants rocking hot pants and go-go boots.
When Spirit Airlines decided to focus heavily on the Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) Market in Latin America, it had to compete against other high-priced airlines and face a new and challenging competitor. As technology advanced, Hispanic and Latino Americans could video-chat with their loved ones instead of splurging on expensive flights. Why bother with the hassle of international travel when you could easily catch up with your family while lounging in your jammies and munching on some Cheetos?
Remember, competition is everywhere—focus not just on direct competition but also on changing consumer preferences and hidden alternatives. You can’t just create customers out of thin air. Your product or service has to be compelling enough to make people choose you over your competition. You must offer something dramatically better, faster, cheaper, more powerful, or cooler than your established competitors.