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The Porter's Five Forces is a strategic tool used to identify and analyse five competitive forces shaping every business and industry. It helps understand both the strength of your current positioning, but also the strength of your future strategy.

Five Forces's Creator

Michael Porter, Porter's Five Forces Creator

Michaël E. Porter

Michael Porter has worked with governments, corporations and academic circles around the world. He chairs Harvard Business School's program for new CEOs. He described this model in “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy” ….

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Description of the Porter's Five Forces

The Porter's Five Forces tool is used to identify and analyse five competitive forces shaping every business and industry. It helps you understand both the strength of your current positioning, but also the strength of your future strategy. You may then use this tool to increase your strategic advantage over competing companies within an industry.

Porter’s Five Forces identifies five forces that determine the long-run profitability of a market or market segment. In order to perform this analysis, ask and answer some important questions concerning the:

  • Power of suppliers

    Depending of the industry and the structure of the market, the power lying in the hands of suppliers varies extensively. These ones may be able to greatly influence the producing industry and they are sometimes able to dictate prices by influencing the availability of key materials. To identify the possible threat of a particular segment, ask yourself if your supplier(s) can easily:

    • Increase prices without suffering from a decrease in volume

    • Reduce the quantity supplied

    • Organize in a formal or informal manner

    • Compete in an environment with relatively few substitutes

    • Provide a product/material that is a critical part of the end product or service

    • Impose switching costs on their customers when they depart

    • Integrate downstream by purchasing or controlling the distribution channels.

    The best defence in dealing and diminishing the suppliers’ power is to build win–win partnerships with them and/or to diversify your sources of products.

  • Power of buyers

    What is the power of buyers (customers) on the industry? The stronger the buyer power is, the closer the relationship producers/buyers is to what economists refer as a Monopsony. Under these market conditions, the buyer has the most influence in determining the price. To identify the possible threat caused by the buyers’ power on your segment, ask if the buyers have the ability to:

    • Be “organized” in some form with others providing similar products and services

    • Purchase a product that represents a significant fraction of the buyer’s costs

    • Buy a product that is undifferentiated

    • Incur low switching costs when they change vendors

    • Be price sensitive, with other options available

    • Integrate upstream, to purchase the providers of the goods.

    To fight the power of buyers, sellers seek to select buyers with less power to negotiate, switch suppliers, or develop superior offers that strong buyers cannot refuse.

  • Barriers to entry/exit

    Assessing how easy it is for new players to enter an industry is essential. It helps you understand how quickly the competitive landscape can change. Some industries have bigger barriers than others. For example, manufacturing will have high barriers in comparison to the service industry. Barriers to entry are unique characteristics to each industry and act to maintain the level of profits for current industry competitors.

    Barriers to entry arise from several sources:

    • Patents and proprietary knowledge

    • Specialized technology or infrastructure

    • Economies of scale

    • Government or other binding policy

    Barriers to exit work in the same way as barriers to entry. They limit the ability to leave the market and can exacerbate rivalry.

  • Substitute products

    The question to ask here is whether or not there are “substitute products” in other industries meeting identical or similar needs for customers. The threat of substitutes often greatly impact competition. It is important to identify such substitute because competitive strategies based on price won’t work as well in these cases. New technologies contribute to competition though substitute products and services. Again, a segment is unattractive or risky when there are actual or potential substitutes for a product.

  • Rivalry

    The intensity of rivalry impacts the development of a company’s strategy and success. One of the ways to analyse the level of rivalry is to check the “concentration ratio” (CR) in a particular industry. If a few firms hold large market shares (ie. CR is high), the competitive landscape is less competitive than if many rivals fight over the same shares.

    For example, the intensity of rivalry is increased by the following industry characteristics:

    • Numerous competitors that are particularly strong or aggressive that are competing for the same customers and resources

    • Declining sales revenues and volumes resulting in slow market growth, creating the need to actively fight for market share

    • High fixed costs result in an economy of scale effect

    • High storage costs or highly perishable products

    • Plant capacity is being added, over and above what is needed to meet demand

    • Low switching costs for buyers

    • Low levels of product differentiation

    • Strategic stakes are high when a firm is losing market position or has potential for great gains

    • High exit barriers place a significant cost on abandoning the product

    • A diversity of rivals with different cultures, histories, and philosophies

    • An industry shakeout

    • When a rival acts in a way that elicits a counter-response by other firms

    • Competitors have high stakes – economic and other – and will battle to remain as a player within the segment.

    These conditions will make competing within the industry more challenging.


The typical steps in Industry analysis

  1. Define the relevant industry.

  2. Identify the participants and segment them into groups, if appropriate: buyers and buyer groups, suppliers and supplier groups, competitors, substitutes, potential entrants.

  3. Assess the underlying drivers of each competitive force to determine which forces are strong and which are weak and why.

  4. Determine overall industry structure, and test the analysis for consistency: why is the level of profitabilioty what it is?, which are the controlling forces for profitability, is the industry analysis consistent with actual long-run profitability?, are more profitability players better positioned in relation to the five forces?

  5. Analyze recent and likely future changes in each force, both positive and negative.

  6. Identify aspects of industry structure that might be influenced by competitors, new entrants, or by your company.


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