How to Understand Your International Business Competitors

Hannah McGrath

Looking to expand your UK business overseas? If you’re planning to launch a product or service in a new international market, one of the most critical things to do is market research.

A key focus of your research will be your international business competitors. Understanding the key players in your chosen market in a new country can help you develop your own USP and stand out from the competition.

But how do you get started on this research, and what do you need to know about competitors before expanding overseas? Read on to find out, as we’ve put together a handy guide on how to understand your business competitors. This includes why it matters, how to identify key rivals and how to stay one step ahead.

So, let’s get started.

Why understanding your business competitors matters

When launching a business, product or service in an unfamiliar market, data is everything. You need as much information as possible to help you make smart, strategic decisions.

This means carrying out market research, starting with identifying and analysing the main competitors in your chosen market.

So, why should entrepreneurs carefully study their competitors? Armed with useful insights into your rivals, you can:

  • Help you develop your own unique products and services, identifying gaps in the market which you can exploit.
  • Leverage your competitors’ weaknesses
  • Evaluate threats posed by new market entrants or existing competitors
  • See the ‘big picture’ in your chosen market, and better understand how it is performing.

Competitor research gives you a glimpse into what similar businesses are doing well, and what’s working for them. You can understand their strategies and innovations, and learn lessons to use for your own business. If a company has managed to meaningfully engage its target customer base (and this customer base is similar to yours), this is something you should be paying attention to.

Ultimately, understanding your competitors can lead to informed decision-making, more sales, and increased success when expanding internationally.

How to identify business competitors

There are a few different methods for identifying business competitors in the international market you’ve set your sites on.

For a complete picture,it’s useful to identify and analyse competitors in a few different categories. For example, you can categorise them by industry or business niche, the types of goods and services they offer, customer segments or market position.

Below, we’ll run through a useful structure for conducting business competitor analysis.

Business competitors based on customer segments

The first step in carrying out your competitor research is to focus on rivals based on customer segments.

There may be a large number of similar businesses operating in the same market as you, but some will be B2B focused while others will be B2C.

B2B means business-to-business, and is used for companies which sell to other businesses. B2C companies are those that sell directly to customers. For example, a B2B supplier may sell products to a retailer - a B2C company - which then sells directly to its customers.

A good way to start your search for competitors is to target either B2B or B2C depending on the nature of your own business.

You might also want to look for rivals which have a similar target customer to you.

Business competitors depending on market position

Next, you can evaluate your competitors in business based on their market position.

You’ll need to distinguish between direct and indirect rivals. A direct competitor is a company offering the same products or services as you, selling to the same types of customer.

An indirect competitor is a business with a different product or service, but who might meet the same need for a customer as yours.

For example, if your brand is a coffee shop, direct competitors will be other coffee shops. Indirect competitors will be other brands that serve hot drinks of any kind, such as restaurants and fast food outlets.

When expanding overseas, it’s a good idea to research your direct competitors first. There’s a number of methods you can use to do this, including:

  • Market research tools - software is widely available to help you identify competitors based on a range of criteria, potentially starting with a simple keyword search.
  • Local representative knowledge - networking can be essential for your research, so head to local trade shows, conferences and business events to tap into the expertise of market experts.
  • Competitor websites - if you know of any competitors, head straight to their websites to learn all about them.
  • Online communities feedback and social media - it can be useful to tune in to the ‘chatter’ online from your target customer base, to see which brands are most talked about in relation to a specific consumer need.

Indirect competitor analysis can also be beneficial, as secondary research. Consider making use of SEO analysis tools, paid campaigns or simply Google Search results.

Business competitors based on competitive advantage

Who are the leaders in your chosen market in the country you’re expanding to? This is the next question to answer.

To gain useful insights, you’ll need to carry out a competitive analysis. This should focus on price competitors, quality competitors and innovation competitors.

You may want to prioritise one or more of these categories based on your own business model. For example, if you’re seeking out opportunities to win customers based on your own low price point, you’ll need to focus on price competitors. This will involve full analysis of pricing information for all relevant products and services.

But if you’re aiming to establish yourself as a trusted brand known for quality, or as one aiming to make waves in the industry as an innovator - one of the other two categories will be your top priority.

Business competitors based on business lifecycle

The final stage of your research will focus on business lifecycle. You’re aiming to find information on similar companies to yours, whether that’s a startup or established business.

But you’ll also want to be looking ahead, with an eye on competition in the future. This is why it’s important to pay attention to emerging startups, as they will become market entrants that could pose a threat to your brand.

It’s also useful to keep an eye on declining brands, to identify potential upcoming gaps in the market (as well as learning valuable lessons on how to enhance your own longevity).

Getting ahead of your business competitors

Once you’ve completed your research, you’ll hopefully be able to establish what sets your business apart from your competitors. Now, you can focus on how to get ahead.

There are lots of ways you can gain a competitive advantage during your first few months or years in a new market. For example, you can innovate with your products and services, run loyalty initiatives to get new customers on board and launch marketing campaigns targeting price, quality or innovation at certain times of the year.

You can also stay one step ahead with the way you manage your business finances overseas. While other companies are losing out to high bank fees and foreign exchange costs, you can save with clever solutions such as Wise Business.

With Wise Business, securely manage your company’s funds in 40+ currencies, paying overseas suppliers and getting paid with ease. Payroll is a breeze, thanks to the Batch Payments tool which lets you pay up to 1000 people at once. You can automate everything using the powerful Wise API, and integrate your accounting tools too.

Whenever you send a payment or convert currency with Wise, you’ll only pay low and transparent fees and always get mid-market exchange rates.

You can also get international business debit cards to manage expenses in 150+ countries.

Multi-currency solutions like Wise Business are breaking down the barriers to international growth, making it easier for smaller businesses to access global markets and customers.

Discover Wise Business

And that’s it - your guide on how to understand your business competitors when expanding to an international market. We’ve covered all of the essentials, from how to identify key rivals right through to how to beat competitors in business. After reading this, you should be all set to start your market research.

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This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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