"Best in class" is a term that is often used to refer to companies that tend to set the standards for the industries in which they labor. In many instances, those standards have to do with the quality of goods and services offered, the range of pricing related to those products, and to some degree the trust and confidence that consumers place in specific brand names. Sometimes also known as the best of breed or the best practice, best in class is typically considered a company that has set the benchmark that others in the industry seek to at least meet in order to be competitive, although the goal is often to exceed that mark and set a new industry standard.
Best in class will often refer to the quality and features associated with certain type of goods or services. Companies that set the standards in their industries tend to owe a considerable amount of their performance level to developing and marketing products that consumers view as the norm, and expect all others to provide at least as much benefit before considering purchase of another brand. With many industries, this means constantly being in the process of anticipating shifts in consumer preferences and making use of emerging technologies to improve existing products even as newer ones are developed and released. By doing so, a company remains an industry leader and continues to be in a position to set standards for the industry as a whole.
Pricing is also a factor that can influence best in class. When an industry leader makes changes to customer pricing, this can have an effect on the entire industry. For example, during the 1990s, innovating companies in the teleconference industry began to change rate structures for conference call services from a somewhat complicated rate plan to a simplistic flat rate per minute per connection. As consumers embraced this more simplistic approach, others in the industry began to move to the simpler rate structure in order to remain competitive.
Name recognition can also have some influence on who is considered to be the elite within an industry. Often, the recognition is based on an established history of offering the quality consumers want at prices they can afford, while also consistently coming up with new product offerings that add additional value in the eyes of customers. Producing products under brands that are well respected and trusted means the ability to capture consumer attention quickly when new goods or services are released, often eclipsing similar products that may have been recently released by lesser known businesses that lack the same level of recognition.
The exact combination of factors that identify a company as being best in class may differ slightly from one industry setting to another. One factor that tends to be constant is the degree of market share that a company enjoys. Businesses that maintain a high level of market share and also consistently offer high quality at prices consumers find equitable will likely be considered best in class and remain so for a number of years.