Tug of War: When 100% is Not Really 100%

Adding new customer opportunities to market share visualizations.

 
It occurred to me recently that the way most companies view market share paints a very incomplete picture. For instance, let's say we have a product in the widgets market and want to see how we are doing against our competitors. I would bet that 99% of dashboards only view the world like this:

(or, God help us, as a pie chart, but that's a discussion for a different day)
 
On the surface, this seems reasonable enough. We have a market basket definition telling us who our competitors are, and the sum of our sales + theirs = the market = 100%. And this may very well be the correct way of looking at fully mature and saturated markets. But what about developing markets? There is a key slice of data missing: customers who do not currently use anyone's product but likely will at some point in the near future. If the purpose of a BI application is to help us do better in the future, and not just to report the past, then it is essential that these prospective customers be captured along with existing ones.
 
But I do not want to start messing around with the often dubious accuracy of forecasted sales to try to guess what a customer with no purchase history might do in the future. Instead, what I would recommend we do is create a second narrative: a market share of customers, as opposed to a market share of sales. What do I mean by that? Looking at each non-new customer individually, we will have a product mix that corresponds to their sales history:

 
Put another way, you end up with fractions of the customer for each product. And, of course, a new/prospective customer is a blank slate:

 
Add the total number of fractional customers together for each product, and you wind up with the number of customers that each product "owns," including a bucket for customers that nobody current "owns." I find that an effective way to visualize this last bucket is by positioning prospective customers in between our product and our competitor products. This effectively conveys the "tug of war" nature of the competition by each side to try to win over new business:

 
You might notice that this view tells a much more optimistic story about the state of our company than does the first chart. In the first chart, Competitor 1 is beating us pretty soundly. The second chart, however, reveals the truth: that the market is wide open to anyone, with more than half the potential customers still unclaimed. I should mention that the "tug of war" analogy is slightly flawed, of course, since our three competitors are also competing with each other and not pulling together on the same team in any sense other than that they are all in the "them" bucket in an "us vs. them" view of the world. To avoid giving the impression that our competitors are teaming up, we could visualize this same data is with a grouped (rather than stacked) bar chart:

 
However, the problem there is that it becomes non-intuitive that all the bars add up to 100%, resulting in a very different feel to the visualization. So, overall, I do personally prefer the stacked version over the grouped.
 
Of course I am not suggesting that we eliminate the very first "market sales" view above—quite the contrary! Because not all existing customers are of equal value (one might be responsible for $1M in sales while another for only $1K), it is just as important that we look at market share of historic sales as it is that we view market share of customers. But leveraging both views together will create a much more complete picture of the world—one that includes both where we have already been (historic sales) and where we are going (opportunities).
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