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How Market and Competitive Intelligence Have Changed in the Digital Age

October 16, 2023 (6 min read)
Competitive intelligence research can help you make strategic decisions to power your business.

Market and Competitive Intelligence (M&CI) are pivotal to business strategy. Knowing what other companies are up to—whether that means investigating their wins or avoiding their losses—is the best way to remain at the top of any industry. With a constantly evolving world, it’s more important than ever to use M&CI.

While businesses have implemented M&CI data into their strategies for ages, the old ways simply aren’t cutting it anymore. Here, we will run through the changes M&CI has seen over the last handful of years to outline the important upgrades worth paying attention to and how to implement them into your strategy.

Four pillars of effective market and competitive intelligence

While there have been many changes, one part of M&CI that has remained the same: its four pillars. Effective M&CI takes into consideration current and anticipatory intelligence, as well as strategic and tactical intelligence. Together, these four elements influence both day-to-day work and the bets your organization should be placing on the future.

While the four pillars may be more timeless than other updates, it’s important to note that, as M&CI has evolved, these ideas have become bigger and included much more of a 360-degree view of an industry. The four pillars are:

  • Current intelligence aims to provide real-time understanding of the competitor’s plans
  • Anticipatory intelligence seeks to assess the evolution competitor’s intentions in the future
  • Strategic intelligence focuses on longer-term issues, such as key risks and opportunities facing the enterprise. This is the non-market-facing data.
  • Tactical intelligence is shorter-term and seeks to provide input into issues such as capturing market share or increasing revenues. This is typically less strategic, product-related bits and pieces as opposed to big, company-related matters.

In the next section, we’ll go into more detail into each of these categories.

Current intelligence

Current intelligence means exactly what you might assume—real-time, in-the-moment data about competitors. This could be news alerts about new business interactions, social media posts launching new products, consumer insight reporting, and so much more.

As CI has evolved, current intelligence has expanded to include things like social listening, which allows you to see the larger picture of a competitor’s social media presence and its impact on the brand. For instance, performing social listening tracking on a coffee brand can illuminate which products the public talks about the most, which drinks are the least popular, and what the general sentiment is toward that specific brand as a whole.

Companies can use current intelligence to plan out their own future moves. If that coffee brand you’ve been monitoring has an overwhelmingly negative response to launching their pumpkin spice flavor in August, it might be time to push back your autumn drink launches to avoid upsetting your own consumers.

MORE: Best practices for a modern PR campaign: Develop the strategy

Anticipatory intelligence

Unlike current intelligence, anticipatory intelligence takes some guessing work and strategic thinking. This type of M&CI pieces together data points to make a story that may or may not come to fruition.

For example, maybe a car company purchased an office in Seattle when their headquarters is in Ann Arbor. This could simply mean that they want to have a secondary location for employees who want to reside out west, but it could also indicate that the auto industry could be about to boom in a new spot.

With that anticipatory intelligence, your brand could begin to strategize around expansion plans, new audiences, and the new landscape ahead.

MORE: Why market intelligence for manufacturing is key

Strategic intelligence

This category refers to longer-term issues, such as key risks and opportunities facing the enterprise. It’s the non-market-facing data. Consider climate change and its impact on your business, for example. Consumers might be growing more and more wary of brands that use plastic packaging, and this larger cultural shift could impact a company greatly.

Using strategic intelligence, brands could be on high alert for how the public thinking around climate change is forming general consumer habits and change up their practices to become more environmentally friendly before they even come close to being publicly called to do so.

MORE: The ins and outs of ESG communication

Tactical intelligence

Finally, tactical intelligence is shorter-term and seeks to provide input into issues such as capturing market share or increasing revenues. This is typically less strategic, product-related bits and pieces as opposed to big, company-related matters.

An example of tactical intelligence could be sales patterns around specific items. If you work at a beer company and see that your competitor is no longer putting marketing dollars behind their IPA and is instead getting front-of-store placement and large billboards for their non-alcoholic beer, then it’s an indication that your product and marketing teams should consider shifting focus.

This could be a temporary change, and it is usually more anecdotal than strategic intelligence, but is important, nonetheless.

MORE: Insight is everything: Harnessing the power of media intelligence

Old school approach to Market and Competitive Intelligence

The “old school” approach to M&CI can be defined as backwards looking. Data used to focus heavily on the past, even using decades-old examples of wins and losses to inform current business strategy.

This type of thinking might have been okay in a pre-internet era when the “attention economy” had not yet become such a key factor in success, but these days, being stuck in the past means missing crucial lessons from the constantly evolving industries of today.

For example, if you’re an auto manufacturer developing a strategy for vehicles based on what had or hadn’t worked for competitors in the early 2000s, but your competitors were in the process of developing electric vehicles, you’ll be behind the curve when consumer trends and cultural shifts happen.

Had you been analyzing market data, trends, and the media from a 360-degree angle, you wouldn’t be playing catch up on this industry revolution.

MORE: A strategist’s guide to Market and Competitive Intelligence

New school approach to Market and Competitive Intelligence

Current M&CI methods offer a bird’s-eye view of your industry and the culture at large, identifying potential opportunities where you can out-maneuver and out-perform competitors.

The new school approach doesn’t rely simply on general knowledge; it takes into consideration the full spectrum of online and offline activity, quantitative and qualitative data, and competitive, customer and operational environments. The goal is to not only answer the old-school questions—what happened and why—but the new-school one as well: What’s next?

The world of data has been revolutionized by AI, and the new approach to M&CI takes those improvements with stride. Instead of strategy officers spending all their time looking into past examples, you can now gather all information within seconds and then use your time to develop strategies from that data.

MORE: Decision intelligence: What is it and why alternative data makes a difference?

How to start your Market and Competitive Intelligence research

To get the most out of your Market and Competitive Intelligence research, you need to use the right tools that give you access to the data you need in one place. That’s where Nexis® can help.

Using Nexis, you can conduct searches and instantly get big-picture reports on competitors, while staying up to date on their industries in general. This allows you to compare and analyze key business indicators like company, news, legal, M&A, and intellectual property information, in one spot so you can spot trends, visualize how the competition stacks up, and share key findings with stakeholders easily and efficiently. Start your Market and Competitive Intelligence research with ease today.