How the internet affects Porter’s 5 forces model

In the emerging global economy, e-commerce and e-business have increasingly become a necessary component of business strategy and a strong catalyst for economic development.

Porter, the strategy guru, used concepts developed in Industrial Organization (IO) economics to derive five forces which determine the competitive intensity and therefore attractiveness of a market. This model describes the attributes of an attractive industry and thus suggests that opportunities will be greater, and threats less, in these kinds of industries. Attractiveness in this context refers to the overall industry profitability. An “unattractive” industry is one where the combination of forces acts to drive down overall profitability. A very unattractive industry would be one approaching “pure competition”.

Porter’s industrial organization competitive analysis framework (five-forces model) is challenged in resource-based critiques. Resource based views were argued to be more suitable than the 5 forces model as a tool for analysis in the wake of web enablement of businesses. Research has established that the rate of unique visitors, the e-business-specific measure, showed significant correlations with market value, net income growth, and employee growth. This implies that cyberspace-specific indicators, such as page views, stickiness, click-through rate, and conversion rate, may not be unreliable as performance measures. In the study, these were added as indicators of industry specific profitability indicators besides those in the Porter’s framework. Porter’s model is also challenged in view of the static nature of the industry which it analyzes. Web enablement increases the dynamic nature of industry structure.

In the light of technology enablement of business to e-business, the five forces, as depicted by Porter are significantly affected. The bargaining power of both suppliers and customers increase as the information accessibility is increased and the information gap is narrowed. This leads to lower bargaining power for the firm, and may transcend into lower profits. Again as e-business enablement increases customer reach, the bargaining power of the customers are negatively impacted by this change. Also, e-business models will enable easier entry into the industry, as now, companies may only look to perform very few activities in-house, and outsource the rest to other firms in the value chain. This decreases the management complexity among new entrants, and thus the threat of new entrants may go up.

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