Market, Customers and competitors

case structure
Recent activity on Dec 17, 2018
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Rinat asked on Dec 17, 2018

Hey guys!

I have a question about the structure - many times I have seen people using these blocks in qualitative part of analysis: market, customers and the competitors. Though it’s not clear why should they include market as it’s the combination of the customers and the competitors? Could you possible explain me the reason for making market as a stand-alone block? And if you guys share your thoughts about the 3 bloks that would be awesome

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Content Creator
replied on Dec 17, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi Rinat,

I agree with Anonymous and I would say that, without further clarification on what “market” means exactly, such structure would not be well defined. In general, a market analysis for - say - a market entry/M&A should include:

  • Possible barriers to entry or to an acquisition
  • Key numbers – including the growth and size of the market
  • Key players – mainly involving customers and competitors

When people mentioned market in your case, they probably wanted to refer to the key numbers – thus the size and the growth of the market. However, just mentioning “market” would not be a good communication of the structure and the interviewer may not understand the meaning. Thus, I would recommend to not use “market” as a bucket, but rather, as part of a market analysis, to include barriers, key numbers and key players, as defined above.

Hope this helps,


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replied on Dec 17, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

A framework is not a simple list of buzz works and categories, it needs to showcase the thought process and how you plan on addressing the question.

As such, just blurting out "market, customers and competitors" is not good - and as mentioned below, itsn't MECE either. If however you say something like "First I want to understand how we define the market, then second who the competitors are, and third / finally who our customers are and what they are looking for", I'd feel much better. That wouldn't address the MECE concern, but at least now I see a progression and logic.

PS: I like to bring market and competition together so minimize the number of distinct buckets I'll look into, but this is a personal preference. As usual, there are various ways to structure a problem

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Content Creator
replied on Dec 17, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


I would say that these are different buckets:


  • Size and growth rates
  • Segments (geographical, customer, product)
  • Distributors / Suppliers
  • Regulation
  • Key market trends


  • Market shares, growth rates, profits
  • Product / customer / geographical mix
  • Products (Value proposition)
  • Unit economics (Value proposition vs. price vs. costs)
  • Key capabilities (Distribution, supply, assets, knowledge, etc)

Customers - depends on the industry. May include:

  • Segmentation
  • Preferences
  • Average spending
  • Switching costs
  • Brand Loyalty


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Anonymous B updated the answer on Dec 17, 2018

In an ideal scenario, you don't use buckets "customers", "competitors" etc. You define them in a sentence, e.g., if you are entering a market: "Next, I'd like to find out if there is a growing customer niche which we can serve". When we say "customers", case interviewers understand this is a common practice used to remain efficient in a limited time frame. However, when working with clients and on full projects, you don't just use words "customers, "competitors" for buckets. That would be a vague and poor communication.

With this in mind, there is nothing wrong with using the bucket "market" separately from what is normally considered market sub-buckets (customers, competitors). When explaining your structure, you, of course, will elaborate what your market bucket includes and those bullets shouldn't overlap with your other bullets. You might discuss general market change patterns in markets and go deeper into customer preferences in customers. You might want to discuss small bullets that shouldn't be separate buckets but are still worth mentioning (like in Vlad's post).

In general, you might want to add "market" bucket in market focused cases, e.g., client has a market decline problem, what can we do. There, you can say in market, I'd like to understand how major market dimensions, including customers, products, channels have increased or shrank over time; how has our position changed in each of these areas. This would be an effective helicopter view. Otherwise, you'll waste yourself over 3-5 different large buckets asking like a parrot the same question in each of the buckets. Once you identify, for example, that the problem is in changing customer demographics, you can jump straight into your more detailed customer bucket and eliminate competitors etc.


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Anonymous A updated the answer on Dec 17, 2018


I think without a clear reason on their end that they are going to have market size/growth/share under "market," I would go ahead and say that those people's structure was not particularly MECE.

You could always have market size and growth under customer/market share under competitors, though these details appear often and, when they do, are imperative to cracking the case. This is the only reason I could think of as to why someone would have a whole branch for market.

EDIT: thoughts on the 3 blocks.
Pretty good.

Best of luck!


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Francesco gave the best answer


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