Purpose: Despite the theoretical advancements of market orientation and firm performance, there is a paucity of research regarding SMEs in Indonesia. Customer and competitor orientation were examined as two distinct constructs as per the literature, as it has been questioned for its robustness. They have been used synonymously, even though customer orientation is operationalised as a component of a market orientation construct. There is support for the argument from a theoretical point of view to keep customer orientation and competitor orientation separate. The objective of this research was to empirically test market orientation concepts on firm performance and assessing customer and competitor orientation separately. Furthermore, it also tests whether innovation plays a mediating role.
Design/methodology/approach: A sample of 309 small and medium-sized firms was found eligible for this study. Structural Equation Modelling was used to analyze the data. A multi-industry sample of firms was used to strengthen the generalisability of the results. The sample was acquired from two databases of SMEs directory in Kudus and Pati, East Java Indonesia, participants were randomly selected.
Findings: The findings show that innovation mediates the relationship between competitor orientation and firm performance, while competitor orientation had no significant relationship with firm performance. Customer orientation was found to positively influence firm performance.
Originality/value: The role of innovation as a mediator within SMEs in a developing country opens up avenues for further research among other developing countries. By examining both the concepts of customer and competitor orientation separately and establishing relationships, we validate support for this argument both from a methodological and theoretical point of view.