What is Product Diversification?
Product diversification is a strategy employed by a company to increase profitability and achieve higher sales volume from new products. Diversification can occur at the business level or at the corporate level.
Business-level product diversification – Expanding into a new segment of an industry that the company is already operating in.
Corporate-level product diversification – Expanding into a new industry that is beyond the scope of the company’s current business unit.
Diversification is one of the four main growth strategies illustrated by Igor Ansoff’s Product/Market Matrix:
There are three types of diversification techniques:
1. Concentric diversification
Concentric diversification involves adding similar products or services to the existing business. For example, when a computer company that primarily produces desktop computers starts manufacturing laptops, it is pursuing a concentric diversification strategy.
2. Horizontal diversification
Horizontal diversification involves providing new and unrelated products or services to existing consumers. For example, a notebook manufacturer that enters the pen market is pursuing a horizontal diversification strategy.
3. Conglomerate diversification
Conglomerate diversification involves adding new products or services that are significantly unrelated and with no technological or commercial similarities. For example, if a computer company decides to produce notebooks, the company is pursuing a conglomerate diversification strategy.
Of the three types of diversification techniques, conglomerate diversification is the riskiest strategy. Conglomerate diversification requires the company to enter a new market and sell products or services to a new consumer base. A company incurs higher research and development costs and advertising costs. Additionally, the probability of failure is much greater in a conglomerate diversification strategy.
Why Companies Diversify?
In addition to achieving higher profitability, there are several reasons for a company to diversify. For example:
- Diversification mitigates risks in the event of an industry downturn.
- Diversification allows for more variety and options for products and services. If done correctly, diversification provides a tremendous boost to brand image and company profitability.
- Diversification can be used as a defense. By diversifying products or services, a company can protect itself from competing companies.
- In the case of a cash cow in a slow-growing market, diversification allows the company to make use of surplus cash flows.
Risks in Product Diversification
Entering an unknown market puts a significant risk on a company. Therefore, companies should only pursue a diversification strategy when their current market demonstrates slow or stagnant future opportunities for growth.
To measure the riskiness or the chances of success of diversification, there are three tests used:
- The Attractiveness Test – The industries or markets chosen for diversification must be attractive. Porter’s 5 Forces Analysis can be done to determine the attractiveness of an industry.
- The Cost-of-entry Test – The cost of entry must not capitalize on all future profits.
- The Better-off Test – There must be synergy; the new unit must gain a competitive advantage from the corporation or vice-versa.
Before considering diversification, a company must consider the three tests above.
Examples of Successful Diversification
Here are two notable examples of successful diversification:
General Electric commonly comes into discussions when talking about successful diversification stories. GE began as an 1892 merger between two electric companies and now operates in several segments: Aviation, energy connections, healthcare, lighting, oil and gas, power, renewable energy, transportation, and more.
Walt Disney Company successfully diversified from its core animation business to theme parks, cruise lines, resorts, TV broadcasting, live entertainment, and more.
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