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Porter’s Five Forces Model

Porter’s Five Forces is a business analysis model that helps to explain why different industries are able to sustain different levels of profitability. The model was originally published in Michael Porter’s book, “Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors” in 1980.

The model is widely used to analyze the industry structure of a company as well as its corporate strategy. Porter identified five undeniable forces that play a part in shaping every market and industry in the world. The forces are frequently used to measure competition intensity, attractiveness and profitability of an industry or market.

These forces are:

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  1. Competition in the industry;
  2. Potential of new entrants into the industry;
  3. Power of suppliers;
  4. Power of customers;
  5. Threat of substitute products.

Threat of new entrants. This force determines how easy (or not) it is to enter a particular industry. If an industry is profitable and there are few barriers to enter, rivalry soon intensifies. When more organizations compete for the same market share, profits start to fall. It is essential for existing organizations to create high barriers to enter to deter new entrants. Threat of new entrants is high when:

  • Low amount of capital is required to enter a market;
  • Existing companies can do little to retaliate;
  • Existing firms do not possess patents, trademarks or do not have established brand reputation;
  • There is no government regulation;
  • Customer switching costs are low (it doesn’t cost a lot of money for a firm to switch to other industries);
  • There is low customer loyalty;
  • Products are nearly identical;
  • Economies of scale can be easily achieved.

Bargaining power of suppliers. Strong bargaining power allows suppliers to sell higher priced or low quality raw materials to their buyers. This directly affects the buying firms’ profits because it has to pay more for materials. Suppliers have strong bargaining power when:

  • There are few suppliers but many buyers;
  • Suppliers are large and threaten to forward integrate;
  • Few substitute raw materials exist;
  • Suppliers hold scarce resources;
  • Cost of switching raw materials is especially high.

Bargaining power of buyers. Buyers have the power to demand lower price or higher product quality from industry producers when their bargaining power is strong. Lower price means lower revenues for the producer, while higher quality products usually raise production costs. Both scenarios result in lower profits for producers. Buyers exert strong bargaining power when:

  • Buying in large quantities or control many access points to the final customer;
  • Only few buyers exist;
  • Switching costs to other supplier are low;
  • They threaten to backward integrate;
  • There are many substitutes;
  • Buyers are price sensitive.

Threat of substitutes. This force is especially threatening when buyers can easily find substitute products with attractive prices or better quality and when buyers can switch from one product or service to another with little cost. For example, to switch from coffee to tea doesn’t cost anything, unlike switching from car to bicycle.

Rivalry among existing competitors. This force is the major determinant on how competitive and profitable an industry is. In competitive industry, firms have to compete aggressively for a market share, which results in low profits. Rivalry among competitors is intense when:

  • There are many competitors;
  • Exit barriers are high;
  • Industry of growth is slow or negative;
  • Products are not differentiated and can be easily substituted;
  • Competitors are of equal size;
  • Low customer loyalty.

Although, Porter originally introduced five forces affecting an industry, scholars have suggested including the sixth force: complements. Complements increase the demand of the primary product with which they are used, thus, increasing firm’s and industry’s profit potential. For example, iTunes was created to complement iPod and added value for both products. As a result, both iTunes and iPod sales increased, increasing Apple’s profits.

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