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Competitive intelligence is a collective term that has to do with gathering data that can be used to strengthen the market position of a good or service by comparing and contrasting the product with similar goods and services that are currently available. The type of competitive intelligence may have to do with the products, or could focus on some ancillary factor. Other factors could include the distribution system or network, the financial stability of a competitor, or any other factor that may be viewed as either a strength to compete with, or a weakness that can be exploited.
The fundamental process of competitive intelligence is fact gathering. Companies will employ persons who will focus on a product or group of products offered by a competitor and gather as much public knowledge about the components of the products as possible. This effort is normally undertaken as a means of uncovering ways that the competing product is identical, and how the product differs. Information of this type can help in creating a market campaign, since it can factually demonstrate how Product A can do everything Product B does, but without some undesirable side effect.
Along with gathering intelligence on a competing product, the process of competitive intelligence may also look to the distribution network used to get the product to the consumer market. While Product B may be distributed through certain retail outlets, it may be that Product A not only is available in the same outlets, but several more as well. Knowing what markets and outlets currently offer both products can be extremely helpful, as it may entice some consumers to try the Product A that is available in a local outlet, rather than drive across town to purchase Product B.
Competitive intelligence is an ongoing process used by businesses of all sizes. In some cases, the use of competitive intelligence has to do with a short term goal, such as a product launch. In other cases, the data collected during the process of competitive intelligence gathering may form the basis for long term competition strategies.