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Order qualifiers and winners

In this step, we look at the concepts of order winners and qualifiers.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

We now turn our attention to the concepts of order qualifiers and order winners, as these represent an important factor in achieving competitive advantage.

In each market, customers make purchase decisions based on certain attributes – these can be classed as order qualifiers and order winners.

Order qualifiers are necessary attributes that a product must possess for it to be entered into competition.

Order winners, however, are the ‘winning’ attributes that lead to customers buying a product.

Customers often make their purchasing decisions based on customer value for money, so they’ll consider things such as performance, availability, price and attractiveness of design, before evaluating the product value.

As customers’ expectations are continuously increasing, today’s order winner becomes tomorrow’s order qualifier. This is because customers experience winning attributes in a product, which becomes a qualified attribute in the next product. For example, fingerprint recognising technology was once a winning attribute for a mobile phone, which could now arguably be seen as a qualifying attribute.

Diagram showing how order winning attributes, such as functionality cost, quality innovation and time to market flexibility shift to order qualifier attributes over time

Bowman and Faulkner

Cliff Bowman and David Faulkner (1997) highlighted a number of key observations relating to these concepts.

  • Total customer value can be enhanced by increasing and empowering order winners. Improving the quality of order qualifiers will not have a significant effect.
  • Order winners in today’s product will become order qualifiers tomorrow because competitors imitate them.
  • Activities for order winners need to be managed to ensure effectiveness and attractiveness, while activities for qualifiers need to be managed for efficiency and to achieve a lower cost.
  • Order winners can lead to premium prices and profit.
  • Order qualifiers do not make more profit, and if the activities are not efficient then the profit of the business will be reduced.

Your task

Looking at the product you’ve used in previous tasks, identify an attribute that was previously an order winner but which has since become an order qualifier.


Bowman, C., & Faulkner, D. (1997). Competitive and corporate strategy. Irwin.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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