3 Outside-The-Box Ways to Compete in a Crowded Market

Article by Jodie Shaw

It can be easy to look around the business world today and think that all the good ideas have been taken. After all, with all the giant tech companies and fast-growing startups already on the market, is there any room for new competition?

This is exactly the sort of mindset that would have stopped Flipkart founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal from successfully going up against one of the biggest players on the market: Amazon.

After initially working for Amazon as coders, Sachin and Binny quit in 2007 to launch their own online retailer out of an apartment in Bangalore, India, with only 400,000 rupees ($6,500) cash. By 2015, the pair were India’s first internet billionaires. They continue to have success growing their company, recently acquiring eBay India.

By looking around the edges of what their giant competitors — like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba — had to offer, Sachin and Binny were able to find a gap in the market, offer better service, and meet their customers where they were.

How will you find your own success in a crowded market?

Find the gaps in the market

While Amazon may seem ubiquitous, in reality there are gaps in the market that it has yet to touch. Sachin and Binny found that gap in an area of service: their native India.

Take a look at your own biggest competitors. Where does their influence fall short — either geographically, or in the range of services they have on offer? One way to do this research could be to interview current customers of this competitor and ask them what they’re dissatisfied with.

Once you’ve identified those gaps in the market, you may discover a unique business opportunity you never before would have considered.

Serve your customers better

When Sachin and Binny were developing Flipkart in 2007, mobile was the primary way most Indians accessed the internet. Smartphones and tablets were much more ubiquitous in India than laptops or desktops, yet many sites were still not embracing mobile users.

Flipkart originally launched as a mobile app only, because that was the way to best serve their target customers. This decision gave them flexibility to grow this segment of the market that legacy companies lacked.

How are your biggest competitors failing their customers? And how can you serve them better? A focus on service has helped more than one startup take away market share from a legacy brand.

Meet your customers where they are

Rather than trying to change customer behaviour, why not embrace it? That was one of the final keys to Flipkart’s success. Online shoppers in India weren’t accustomed to paying online, and didn’t trust online companies with their money. This was a huge hurdle for an e-commerce brand. But rather than force customers to get on board with a model they didn’t trust, Sachin and Binny decided to meet their customers where they were.

They developed a cash-on-delivery model that set them apart from other e-commerce companies that were trying to break into the market, and helped forge a bond of trust with their new customers. When that bond was forged, they then were able to launch their own online payment platform.

That’s the power an agile new startup has over legacy brands. Take a look at some of the biggest hurdles your competitors have faced when trying to reaching new markets. Instead of trying to convert those markets to your competitors’ ways of doing business, how can you meet them where they are?

These three simple acts of thinking outside the box could result in the next multi-million dollar business idea in a space people already thought was tapped out.

How about you? What new challenges have you tackled in a market that you thought was too crowded?