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What is the Future of Competitive Intelligence?

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Emily Dumas on Fri, May 10, 2019

Competitive Intelligence (CI) has traditionally been a manual process. Competitive intelligence professionals and market analysts spend a significant amount of time capturing, analyzing, and acting on competitive intelligence data. However, the traditional way of doing competitive research—manually—may soon be the minority practice for CI pros. As we see competitive intelligence becoming more of a need-to-have rather than a nice-to-have, we’re also seeing a rise in automation. Competitive intelligence is becoming more popular and more digital.

Crayon’s annual State of Competitive Intelligence report surveyed 1,000+ CI professionals to gain a better understanding of best practices, challenges, and strategies, and to get an inside look at how the industry is growing year over year. Let’s dive in and look at trends over the past few years, and explore where the future of competitive intelligence is heading.

Industries Are Becoming More Competitive

Unsurprisingly, every industry is highly saturated and becoming more and more competitive as time goes on. With new players entering the industry and legacy companies staying strong, staying on top of your competition is becoming more challenging. Over the last three years, industries have become more competitive than ever. In fact, 87% of people say their industry has become more competitive over the last three years. On top of that, the average number of competitors businesses have in their industry is 25.

state of competitive intelligence Crayon

Where is this going?

Simply put, we see this level of competition continuing to increase. If you think back about 10 years, industries weren’t as crowded, and available competitive intelligence data was less robust than today. If we think about the number of new companies emerging every day, we know that every market will continue to become even more competitive

Get the latest data - download the 2021 State of Competitive Intelligence  Report 

CI is Expanding Beyond First Tier Competitors

In the past, it was easier to conduct competitive intelligence, even as companies’ digital footprints grew. Now, CI professionals have hundreds of sources to track for not only their direct competitors, but for their entire competitive landscape, including indirect competitors, aspirational competitors, customers, prospects, and more. In order to have a full understanding of your market, you need to be tracking more than your direct competitors so that you can get as in-depth with your market intelligence as possible. Over the past couple of years, we’ve already seen growth in tracking audiences beyond tier one competitors. Some categories such as partners, saw a 32% increase.state of competitive intelligence Crayon

Where is this going?

As competitive intelligence continues to become an integral part of every business’ strategy, the table stakes approach will expand beyond “competitor tracking.” While our survey found that the majority of respondents are already tracking beyond their direct competitors, this focus on other audiences continues to increase. As more audiences are tracked, the amount of data collected by CI professionals will continue to grow, and with more data comes a need for more resources to accurately analyze and act upon the influx of data. Which brings us to our next observation.

People are Investing More in CI

In 2019, 40% of companies have plans to increase their competitive intelligence budget, which is up from 33% in 2018. This rapid growth is showing that companies know competitive intelligence is becoming increasingly important, and are realizing it’s worth a larger investment. Budget aside, companies are investing more resources into their competitive intelligence initiatives. In 2019, the percentage of companies with a dedicated CI headcount increased from 23% and the percentage of companies with a full CI team increased 24%.

state of competitive intelligence Crayon

Where is this going?

Over the next few years, we will see the budget for CI increasing steadily. Companies are, more and more, seeing the value of both dedicated CI professionals and full competitive intelligence teams. As the ROI of competitive intelligence initiatives continue to grow, we will see bigger investments in both budget and headcount across every organization.

Time Spent on the Research Phase is Decreasing

We asked survey respondents how much time they spend on each phase of competitive intelligence: Research, Analysis, and Communication. Between 2018 and 2019, we saw some of the time spent on research shift to time spent on communication, resulting in a more even split across the three phases of CI. With the rise of automation, research can take up less time and more time can be spent on analyzing and acting on findings.

state of competitive intelligence Crayon

Where is this going?

The amount of time spent in the research phase is going to continue to decrease as CI technology becomes adopted by more competitive intelligence teams. As artificial intelligence and machine learning become the standard method of data collection for competitive intelligence teams, the research phase will take up a smaller portion of the competitive intelligence process. This means competitive intelligence professionals can spend more time on analysis, building sales enablement collateral, and sharing out their findings to their organization.

Frequency of Updates are Increasing

As we noted in the previous section, some of the time dedicated towards CI research time is shifting to an increased focus on communication. Now more than ever, businesses are seeing the value in consistent communication of competitive intelligence data. With that, comes more updates of collateral and CI resources. Although many people reported that they currently update intel monthly, quarterly, or as needed, we saw a rise in those who wish they updated their CI materials on a more frequent basis: weekly. With more time analyzing and communicating intel, CI professionals want to ensure that they have the most up-to-date information to share with their teams.

state of competitive intelligence Crayon

Where is this going?

As we continue to have more intel to share, and more information constantly at our fingertips, CI professionals are going to be updating CI resources and sharing it out more frequently. Having the most up-to-date and robust competitive intelligence materials will help your sales team close more deals, and help your company maintain its competitive advantage.

As we inch toward the second half of 2019 and maybe even begin planning our strategies for the beginning of 2020, we want to make sure to keep up with the changing industry of competitive intelligence. Set yourself up for success based on the trends found in the 2019 State of Competitive Intelligence report: automate CI research by leveraging AI platforms, complete market tracking beyond direct competitors, update your CI budget to support your program goals, keep your intel up-to-date at all times, and communicate it frequently. If you start re-designing your competitive intelligence plan now, you’ll be prepared to take advantage of these CI trends.

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence

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