Barriers to market entry include a number of different factors that restrict the ability of new competitors to enter and begin operating in a given industry. For example, an industry may require new entrants to make large investments in capital equipment, or existing firms may have earned strong customer loyalties that may be difficult for new entrants to overcome. The ease of entry into an industry in just one aspect of an industry analysis; the others include the power held by suppliers and buyers, the existing competitors and the nature of competition, and the degree to which similar products or services can act as substitutes for those provided by the industry. It is important for small business owners to understand all of these critical industry factors in order to compete effectively and make good strategic decisions.
"Understanding your industry and anticipating its future trends and directions gives you the knowledge you need to react and control your portion of that industry," Kenneth J. Cook explained in his book The AMA Complete Guide to Strategic Planning for Small Business. "Since both you and your competitors are in the same industry, the key is in finding the differing abilities between you and the competition in dealing with the industry forces that impact you. If you can identify abilities you have that are superior to competitors, you can use that ability to establish a competitive advantage."
The ease of entry into an industry is important because it determines the likelihood that a company will face new competitors. In industries that are easy to enter, sources of competitive advantage tend to wane quickly. On the other hand, in industries that are difficult to enter, sources of competitive advantage last longer, and firms also tend to develop greater operational efficiencies because of the pressure of competition. The ease of entry into an industry depends upon two factors: the reaction of existing competitors to new entrants; and the barriers to market entry that prevail in the industry. Existing competitors are most likely to react strongly against new entrants when there is a history of such behavior, when the competitors have invested substantial resources in the industry, and when the industry is characterized by slow growth.
In his landmark book Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, Michael E. Porter identified six major sources of barriers to market entry:
It is important to note that barriers to market entry can change over time, as an industry matures, or as a result of strategic decisions made by existing competitors. In addition, entry barriers should never be considered insurmountable obstacles. Some small businesses are likely to possess the resources and skills that will allow them to overcome entry barriers more easily and cheaply than others. "Low entry and exit barriers reduce the risk in entering a new market, and may make the opportunity more attractive financially," Glen L. Urban and Steven H. Star explained in their book Advanced Marketing Strategy. But "in many cases, we would be better off selecting market opportunities with high entry barriers (despite the greater risk and investment required) so that we can enjoy the advantage of fewer potential entrants."
"Breaking Down Barriers to Market Entry." Management Today. April 1997.
Cook, Kenneth J. The AMA Complete Guide to Strategic Planning for Small Business. Chicago: American Marketing Association, 1995.
Geroski, Paul A. "Keeping Out the Competition." Financial Times. February 23, 1996.
Harris, Lloyd. "Barriers to Market Orientation: The View from the Shopfloor." Marketing Intelligence and Planning. March-April 1998.
Porter, Michael E. Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors. New York: Free Press, 1980.
Urban, Glen L., and Steven H. Star. Advanced Marketing Strategy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1991.
SEE ALSO: Competitive Analysis