Competitive Intelligence: The Key to Uncovering New Opportunities for Supply Chain

More than ever, supply chain players must invest in technology solutions that provide them with a vast view of their competitive landscape, helping them differentiate and gain a competitive edge.

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The past few years have increased pressure on supply chains significantly. The lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and high-profile canal and port blockages―like that in the Suez Canal―disrupted supply chains worldwide, highlighting the need for more efficient, reliable supply chain solutions.

While this propensity for change within the industry is nothing new, heightened public awareness, increased demand, and intense external pressures created a perfect environment for fierce competition to thrive. More than ever, supply chain players must invest in technology solutions that provide them with a vast view of their competitive landscape -helping them differentiate and gain a competitive edge. By deeply understanding the competition, companies can develop holistic business strategies to help them rise to the top of their categories.

Investing in competitive intelligence (CI) technology and building a formal CI program can help businesses do just that.

What is competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is the process of capturing, analyzing, and activating information related to your competitive landscape. CI practitioners keep tabs on trends and other factors that affect market landscapes. Once done manually a few times a year, CI aims to create detailed overviews of competitors’ strategies, announcements, price points, market share, and more. Now, modern CI platforms automate the process by collecting and analyzing competitors’ digital footprints to uncover trends, changes, and new opportunities. CI tools scrape the internet for critical competitor information. They categorize and keep track of movements like recent blog posts and website updates, social media profiles, mentions in news publications, award wins, job postings, and more. When armed with this information, companies are better prepared to perform to their highest potential in near real time.

Over time CI has evolved and now benefits the entire company. It can (and should) inform daily business operations―for marketing, product, the C-Suite and beyond. No matter their role, every employee can use CI to develop smarter strategies that improve performance across the enterprise.

Putting insights to work

But how does knowing a competitor’s game plan help a company succeed? Understanding what a rival is doing can help you figure out what your team may need to do better. Using information collected from competitors’ digital footprints helps uncover messaging and positioning updates, significant product releases, news stories, and more.

Supply chain players can leverage insights gleaned from CI programs and software solutions to uncover rivals' strategies ―and knowing what the competition is up to might affect the company’s own approach. For example, with CI, it becomes obvious which competitors are talking about a recent natural disaster in their marketing materials and which competitors are absent from the same conversation. Seeing and tracking competitors’ messaging around this natural disaster and taking note of the responses firsthand allows a business to develop a more informed plan on how best to market.

The value of competitive insights goes well beyond marketing and messaging. Getting a comprehensive look into the competition’s products and services can lead to improved offerings and better product roadmaps. Holistic CI programs don’t just gather insights related to product specs. Anyone can do that by reading a website. The true power of a CI program is in its ability to go below the surface and gather information about customer satisfaction, pain points and other product feedback. Understanding how customers are responding to competitors’ solutions can empower companies to embrace a niche they didn’t know they had, break into new areas or capture a more significant share of their current market with the confidence that they’re delivering better overall experiences.

Proving the ROI of CI

CI is still a relatively new endeavor for many companies. Although these organizations have bought into its importance enough to create roles around CI and market intelligence, many of them consider the jury on whether CI teams provide much value to still be out. As such, practitioners may need to prove the program’s value to the organization. Luckily, the value of CI programs often speaks for itself―especially when practitioners employ key metrics to prove their program’s ROI.

A recent report on the State of the Competitive Intelligence found that CI teams are now 88 percent more likely to say they have established key performance indicators (KPIs) than they did four years ago. During this time of substantial investment in CI programs and technology, practitioners across industries like supply chain have had to prove the effectiveness and its revenue impact.

Practitioners within supply chain-oriented businesses can leverage numerous KPIs to show leaders the value and influence of CI throughout the company. Quantitative metrics like win/loss percentages can show stakeholders hard facts about the success of a CI program, while measuring how frequently deliverables like battlecards are used can illustrate more of a program’s qualitative benefits.

While practitioners can track KPIs on their own, those whose organizations have invested in modern CI technology can feel confident that the benefits of their hard work will shine through. The same study cited above found that teams with dedicated CI platforms were 2.5-times more likely to activate their intelligence daily than those without one. That means practitioners using modern CI platforms saw a higher ROI overall than those who were not as they were consistently sharing intel across the organization.

The benefits of CI for supply chain companies

The supply chain industry is always evolving. COVID-19 and other significant disruptions certainly highlighted how sensitive the supply chain is to external factors. However, those on the inside know flexibility and nimble decision-making are constants in the business.

Creating an established CI program with access to CI-specific technology can help businesses keep tabs on their competitors and monitor the overall market landscape. No company can prepare for every single scenario but having a finger on the pulse can ensure you have an understanding of where competitors sit in relation to you. This may provide the edge you need to get ahead and stay ahead.