In this article the author is going to carry out custom writing services market overview providing comprehensive survey of the market divided into the following categories: market identification, market size, market segmentation, market growth speed, market customers, principles of operation, financial characteristics, regulations, and other categories. The research is structured in such a way as to group related issues in a logical order.
Custom writing services market is a sector of the e-commerce industry. Custom writing services are fee-based.
The precise size of custom writing services market is unknown, though some rough estimate could be made. The number of competitors in the market approaches nearly 200. It is also known that around 30 percent of organizations in the industry have annual turnover equal amounting to $120,000 approximately, whereas other 70 percent have almost twice as low annual turnover. Total turnover, market size, is estimated at $10,800,000 annually. The size of the market in relation to the economy is yet unknown.
Segmentation is the process of allocation of particular homogeneous sub-markets within a heterogeneous market. A market is a multitude of sub-markets that have similar motivations.
In the case with the market concerned, segmentation is interpreted as follows. Companies that operate within the market could be divided in accordance to specialization differences into such categories: (a) generally-oriented companies; (b) particularly-oriented companies. Generally-oriented companies are those that produce custom-written papers on a wide variety of topics. As a rule, such organizations hire writers representing different specialties or simply those able to perform on appropriate level in one or several fields. Companies ascribed to another organizational category usually operate within a narrower framework. In the market there are companies that offer custom-written papers exclusively on math, physics, sociology, the African-Americans, William Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, etc.
It is noteworthy that there are companies in the market that offer both custom-written and pre-written papers. This, however, may have nothing to do with violation of ethics, but what about privacy of those students who previously ordered a custom-written paper, which might have been later re-sold to another student?
Growth rates of the market are varying over the time. Thus, in 2000 there were nearly 25-30 companies offering custom-written/pre-written essays, term papers, cases studies, and other types of research papers. Over the 5-year period the number of companies in the market grew up to nearly a hundred and a half.
The leap in growth rates of the market is noticed to take place in 2003-2004 when sudden change in pricing occurred. The number of companies in the market increased almost 30 percent and now estimated around 80 companies. This leap was probably caused by the tendency towards ecommerce solutions being new to hoards of entrepreneurs in a number of developing countries like India, Ukraine, Poland and other countries. Companies with headquartered in these countries began offering similar services but with lower fees as compared to those located in the U.S., Canada, or Australia. More on pricing policies see in Pricing.
Today, market’s growth speed is rather low as the market is full-fledged due to a variety of services offered by market participants.
Geographical distribution of services
It is worth mentioning that the researched market is a subdivision of ecommerce industry. This gives ground to conclude that either products or services produced by industry’s parties are of intangible character rather than of tangible. This especially concerns custom writing services market, which offers its customers intangible products delivered to them mostly via email.
It should be clear that no matter where a company holds its general/backup office, it operates worldwide.
The only principle that regulates geographical distribution of custom-written papers is linguistic attachment. Among major countries using the service are: the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and some European and Asian countries.
Seasonal character of the market
Another aspect of the market is its seasonality. Seasonal character of the examined market is sharply defined. As services offered by the market participants are oriented at student needs throughout the academic year only, the season of active sales almost coincides with the academic year. The first half of September – usually passive – is compensated with several weeks in June.
Such seasonality of the market explains its instability of prices. It was noticed that prices for services increase throughout the year with peaks in December - January and April – May; and drop dramatically during the summer season.
Customers of online services such as custom writing services are usually students of high schools, colleges, and Universities, of 16 to 25 years old. As pricing in the market is relatively low, target group of the market covers the so-called middle class and higher. A research shows that in 2005 from 14 percent to 23 percent of students (considering seasonality correction) have in due time applied to custom writing services. In other words, one-seventh to one-fourth of students has bought at least one paper during 2004-2005 academic years. The same research provides data that gives ground to conclude about the growth of the market. It is declared that in 2003 peak rate of students who applied to the service at least once was 25 percent, whereas in 2005 it is estimated to reach 36 percent.
Customer loyalty is obviously a behavior demonstrated by frequent or systematic purchases of a company’s product or service. Customer loyalty could be achieved through customer-friendly pricing policies, various discount programs, incentive plans etc. Customer loyalty is also an aspect of a company’s customer retention or loyalty programs. Customer retention programs are usually complex systems that include two or more elements listed above. As regards the market of custom writing services, the following was noticed in the course of the research held by the author: (a) more than 80 percent of the market uses basic techniques in acquiring customer loyalty such as permanently variable prices that depend on demand for the product or service throughout the year, bonus plans (such as bonus key that allows up to 4 percent reduction), and other techniques; and (b) nearly 10 percent of companies within the market use complex customer loyalty programs such as flexible discounts (sometimes up to 30 percent!) in a combination with weekly feedback bonuses, personal selection of a writer, order status check, 24/7 customer care, and other modes of customer attraction.
Factors that influence buyer’s choice
Among factors that have impact on customers’ choice in the market of custom writing services are price, quality of products and services (including exclusiveness, professionalism, and compliance with the requirements), and delivery time.
As to price and quality of a specific service, these two factors are the most important. It is vital for companies to balance between price and quality values since optimum correlation between these two categories benefits both a service provider and a customer. It is worth mentioning that there are companies that offer papers written by Ph.D.s for “as low as $8.95 per page”. Quality of a paper is directly related to its price and vice versa.
In respect of the delivery time, many companies offer urgent order accomplishment within 12 (and sometimes even 8) hours. Some of them limit the volume of an order to certain number of pages, though there are some companies that accept urgent orders without volume limitation.
Custom writing services market has been experiencing a decline in prices lately. As it was mentioned earlier in this research, there had been fall in prices in 2003-2004 caused by sudden increase in market’s growth rates. By far, average fees are kept at the level of $15 per page for regular (5+ days) orders, $20 per page for urgent (24 to 48h) orders, and $30 a page for extremely urgent orders (within 24h).
There are companies offering custom-written papers half price as compared to average pricing. This fact may indicate that a company either hires instant workers from developing countries or is new to the market and provides such a low pricing policy in order to enter the full market and gain certain status.
Principles of operation
Principles of operation are the same throughout the industry. Intangible nature of products produced by competitors in the market implies single system of relationships between a company and a customer irrespective of an organization’s capacities.
Companies that offer custom-written papers (essays, term papers, case studies, literature reviews, executive summaries, dissertations) operate through their websites. Websites are supplied with all necessary and optional features such as credit card processing system (necessary), online customer service (optional), and auto-responder to provide existing customers with automated thank yous and newsletters, and other features.
A customer places an order, which is then forwarded to a writer. This step is omitted in small companies where two or three people wear several hats, e.g. one person could perform as an administrator, a writer, and a customer service representative. If there ARE a couple of writers working for a company, one of them accomplishes an order, which is then delivered to the customer via email.
It is worth noting that major attention is paid to a company’s website. It is common for a company producing custom-written papers to have as many webmasters as writers. Hard to believe? In your opinion, what is the correlation between webmasters/programmers and book reviewers working for Amazon.com?
Competitors and leaders
As mentioned above, the number of competitors in the market estimates nearly 120. Leadership in the market where companies offer custom-written papers of any kind is defined exclusively due to a company’s website’s ranking in various search engines. The most powerful search engines are Google, MSN, Yahoo!, Altavista, and Alltheweb. Moreover, websites are ranked in accordance to their content oriented at different key words. Thus, different websites could be leaders in the same search engine, though for different keywords or phrases.
Being a subdivision of the ecommerce industry, custom writing services market is regulated by nothing but several codes like BBB Online that refer to web entrepreneurs. In general, ecommerce industry is poorly regulated.
Current trends within the industry and market success factors
Among current trends in the market particularly three aspects are worth mentioning: (a) constant fall in price; (b) constant increase in the number of competitors; and (c) diversification of services offered by companies.
Constant increase in the number of competitors is obviously caused by simplicity of operations and growing number of freelance writers who once decided to start out their own business.
Permanent fall in price is caused by growing number of competitors and similarity of services offered by companies in the market.
Finally, diversification of services is a logic consequence of the same increase in the number of competitors.
Among factors for success in the market the following issues could be mentioned: (a) well-planned internet promotion campaign; (b) successful promotion campaign within student community; and (c) constantly developing customer-oriented programs.
Well-organized internet campaign is a key to success in the market. As it was mentioned earlier, company’s success is directly related to its presence on the web. All companies within the custom writing services market operate through their websites.
Even if one has had a wonderful website promotion, this does not mean he may relax. According to statistics, 70 percent of people still are afraid of buying through the internet. This in no way applies to students, though there is some percentage of those who don’t trust web resources among students. A fine promotion campaign in academic environment might increase a company’s sales.
Constantly developing customer-oriented programs is another factor for success in the market. Today, this aspect of ecommerce activities is a must even for leading companies in their niches.