Attacking Competitor Segmentation Blind Spots
Here at OpenView Labs, we’re big fans of segmentation.
I won’t go too far into how or why we think you should develop a segmentation scheme, as we’ve written about this topic numerous times, except to say that tailoring specific portions of your product or website to like-minded groups of prospects can go a long way in differentiating and strengthening your value proposition.
But what happens if you don’t tailor your product to a customer segment?
The result is a segmentation blind spot. A segmentation blind spot is not generally a good thing – unless it’s your competitor that has them, in which case they’re better than good. They’re a huge market opportunity for a more nimble competitor.
Here are two great examples of big companies whose segmentation blind spots have opened the door for startups to attack one or more of their customer segments:
Because job searches are a relatively well structured process, job search websites like Monster can scale to accommodate a huge range of industries, functions, and levels.
However, not all job searchers need the same information. For instance, someone looking for a job at a startup is likely curious how much funding a startup has, who’s funded it, and more specific details about their industry beyond “software.” Because this information isn’t readily available on Monster, Startuply has successfully jumped in to fill the void.
Similarly, other mostly-overlooked narrow slices of Monster’s ginormous universe have fallen prey to other upstarts: high end jobs and applicants have flocked to The Ladders, technical placements have moved to Dice, and most recently, InternMatch has penetrated the placement of interns.
Do any of these segments on their own move the needle for Monster? Probably not. But in aggregate, there’s no question that the erosion in Monster’s market position is at least partly due to more tailored startups taking bites out of their customer base.
Ebay has made an admirable effort to provide specialized information depending on the products a customer is looking for: for instance, when shopping for golf clubs, it gave me filterable custom fields for the type, loft, and flex. That’s great segmentation.
What they’re missing is more stylistic; when someone is buying designer homeware or apparel, they expect the website to be as aesthetically appealing as the product. Overlooking this has opened the door for niche competitors like Esty, One Kings Lane, Fab, and ModCloth.
It’s impossible to know if altering those portions of their websites (i.e. “Ebay Home”) to be more appealing to their shoppers would have blocked these companies from getting a foothold in Ebay’s market, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt.
Where there’s a huge company with a wide footprint, chances are there’s a segment within that market that they aren’t properly serving. As a smaller competitor, honing in on that blind spot can be a way to establish a foothold on your way to dominating adjacent market segments.