Competitive advantage is a brand’s ability to provide customers with products or services that are better in quality or cheaper in price than competitors’ and outperform them. It helps companies generate more sales and earn higher profit margins.

In this article, we’ll cover the importance, types, and examples of competitive advantage and also review the best ways to gain it.

Why is competitive advantage important?

Competitive advantage is important because it makes a product or service look more attractive to consumers. To gain customers’ attention and make people choose their products or services, brands create unique and high-quality products, set lower prices, provide excellent customer service, unusual features, or flexible terms of return and exchange. Doing this helps companies get high sales volume, profit margins, and a high level of customer loyalty.

A business with the superior offer is in great demand among buyers and, accordingly, generates more sales and brings good revenue to its owner. To stand out among competitors and surpass them in some areas, different companies leverage advanced technology, hire a team of professionals, ensure great customer support, or create an amazing service. These steps help them increase market share and get a bigger ROI. To build successful brands, entrepreneurs also improve productivity and efficiency.

Since a lasting competitive advantage brings a lot of benefits to a business, companies’ owners try to attain it in several ways. They implement something competitors don’t have, launch new innovative products others can’t duplicate, implement innovation, and more. Having a clear competitive advantage provides a company with certainty and the right allocation of resources.

Now that you know why competitive advantage is important, let’s unveil the two main types.

Types of Competitive Advantage

Companies with a competitive advantage have a special position that brings benefits to their stakeholders. There are two main types of competitive advantage you can use to make your business grow: comparative and differential.

Comparative advantage refers to the ability of a certain business to manufacture products more efficiently than its rivals. Simply put, it occurs when a company can produce products competitors also have but sell them at a lower price. The strategy helps bring in more customers and increase revenues. Let’s imagine that two companies offer perfect substitutes but one of them sells the same product for a lower price. For sure, a customer will choose a cheaper one. Moreover, if there’s no visible difference between the two.

For example, a person wants to buy sneakers of a certain brand in a retail store. This customer can choose between two open stores. One store sells these running shoes for $50 and the other one for $45. The client will buy from the second one to save money.

Differential advantage refers to the situation in which a company produces products or services that have superior quality, additional functions, benefits, or an interesting appearance. To manufacture high-quality products, brands often use new technology, a strong brand identity, and the best personnel. These important factors support a company's increase in market share and ROI.

Apple is the best example of a brand with a differential advantage. The company produces innovative products like iPhones, MacBooks, AirPods, etc. The brand has a high level of customer satisfaction with product quality and appearance so that clients are even ready to pay a much higher price for its smartphone or laptop.

Let’s take a look at the strategies to obtain a competitive advantage.

4 Ways to Gain a Competitive Advantage

If you want to have a competitive advantage, it’s worth thinking about a suitable strategy to reach this goal.

  • Consider cost leadership. Very often companies implement cost leadership strategies to take positions of industry leaders. You can use the approach if your company can provide consumers with the same quality of products rivals have but for a lower price. To apply the strategy, you should find how to manufacture the same goods at a lower cost or how to use resources more efficiently. Remember that there shouldn’t be any additional costs since you still need to obtain a good profit margin. Pay attention to the factors that influence the efficiency of the process such as technology, equipment, personnel, etc.
  • Implement differentiation. This strategy focuses on making a company different from others. Your brand shouldn’t necessarily stand out and be memorable because of low-price products. There might be other attributes that will encourage people to buy from you: unforgettable experience, innovation, wide variety, etc. Think of it and make your brand look attractive. Once you have something that distinguishes your business from others, search for a certain audience segment for which this attribute matters and communicate your message through the most suitable channels.
  • Utilize focus strategy. To stay ahead and outperform competitors, you should always maintain a competitive advantage. If you want to leverage the strategy, you should choose a market segment and focus on it. Do everything possible to develop a product or service that can cater to customers, solve their problems, and obtain great results. As an option, you can become a manufacturer of products with the lowest cost in this narrow segment or provide customers with unique products.
  • Seek strategic alliances. This strategy is closely connected with the partnership. To gain a competitive advantage, consider teaming up with other companies in the same or related industry. Strategic alliances are similar to joint ventures used to pool resources and gain profit at the expense of other businesses.

Now that you are acquainted with 4 main strategies to get a competitive advantage for your company, it’s time to walk you through some real examples.

Examples of competitive advantage

Both big corporations and startups might have a competitive advantage. To constantly grow, your company should give customers something important or necessary for them: interesting experience, innovation, variety, or low price. Below we’ll review how established brands do it to get inspired.

Zara

Zara’s main competitive advantage is a very efficient and organized supply chain and logistics. The clothing company controls all manufacturing processes and meets customer demand very fast. The brand’s team manages all the processes professionally and prevents possible problems. Zara produces and delivers clothes worldwide within a couple of weeks.

McDonald’s

The main advantage of this famous fast-food company with a rich history is products with affordable prices. So, you can conclude that the brand implements a cost leadership strategy. This indicates that McDonald’s can leverage economies of scale, produce fast food and at the same time spend lower costs. This allows the brand to sell its products at a lower price than its main competitors.

McDonald’s

Source: Miami South Florida on the Cheap McDonald’s limited-time deal

Starbucks

One of the most important things each brand should bring is a positive experience, it should be unforgettable, interesting, and unique. This chain of coffeehouses has been doing it for years. Starbucks developed a great idea with names on coffee cups. Now no one can pass by its coffee house without stopping for a cup of hot cappuccino or iced caffe latte.

Starbucks

Source: Time Starbucks’ cups with names

So now you know that competitive advantage helps attract more customers, establish brand loyalty, and differ from competitors. Companies do a lot to gain it: they implement strategies and utilize different methods to stand out among rivals.

Resources:

  1. This article defines the term and uncovers the main types.
  2. In this article, you’ll find examples and how it works.
  3. This article provides readers with practical examples.
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