Analyzing the Cost of Opportunity


  1. What Is Opportunity Cost?
  2. What Are the Benefits of Calculating Opportunity Cost?
  3. How to Calculate the Cost of Opportunity
  4. A/B Testing
  5. Asset Creation vs. One-Time Acquisition
  6. Analyzing Cost of Opportunity Is Key to Effective Decision-Making

In the world of business, planning is everything. But it involves more than preparing marketing strategies or calculating financial forecasts. 

Opportunity cost is something many entrepreneurs often overlook. It led to the downfall of several successful empires.

Choosing between various investment opportunities can be daunting. It’s often the unexpected factors that make one option stand out. Having a formula to calculate the unnoticed costs and benefits makes a difference. 

Read on as we unpack the methodology of opportunity cost. We explain the benefits of using this formula and discuss add-ons, like A/B testing.

What Is Opportunity Cost?

Opportunity cost is the sum of the potential benefits you miss out on when you pick one option over the next

Believe it or not, the minuscule day-to-day expenses and profits add up over time. They significantly contribute to business success or failure. 

Sometimes, the potential benefits of an investment may not be obvious. These unforeseen factors could make it the superior option. Opportunity cost consideration helps you form holistic decision-making.

The opportunity cost value is an internal amount. It isn’t included in external financial reporting. Since accounting profit excludes it, it’s easily overlooked.

Opportunity cost calculations are beneficial for most investment planning situations. One instance is upgrading equipment or raising product packaging quality. Another example is investing in commercial property in LA or NYC.

What Are the Benefits of Calculating Opportunity Cost?

Opportunity cost analysis is important. It plays a pivotal role in finding the explicit cost of equity capital and debt. It creates an understanding of the opportunity costs involved for shareholders and lenders. 

One example is funds used for loan payments. It’s not possible to use this money for investments like bonds or stocks. In this scenario, opportunity cost helps companies evaluate their decision. They can easily decide if using debt to invest can yield greater profits.

While financial reports don’t usually contain opportunity cost, it’s still useful. Investors apply it to multiple scenarios to make informed decisions. 

Create a production possibility frontier (PPF) to get a visual understanding of the opportunity cost. This curve is placed on a graph to show you the possibilities of two investments derived from the same finite resource. 

Making a PPF is an excellent way to make an educated decision about the best way to invest capital.

How to Calculate the Cost of Opportunity

Calculating the opportunity cost is surprisingly simple and worth the extra effort. Let’s look at an example of a company with two options:

  • Option A: Invest excess capital in stocks with the goal of capital gains. 
  • Option B: Invest excess capital into new equipment to boost productivity. 

Let’s say the proposed return on investment (ROI) from stocks is 14%. The company estimates the equipment upgrade will bring a 10% return.

In this scenario, the opportunity cost of purchasing new equipment over stocks sits at 4%. In other words, if the company invests in the equipment, it’ll get lower returns than with stocks.

Here’s a basic formula: 

Opportunity Cost = FO – CO

FO = Return on best sacrificed option

CO = Return on chosen option

Let’s put this formula into action using the example we described above.

Opportunity cost = (14%) – (10%) = 4%

The opportunity cost of picking the chosen option over the forgone one is 4%. After this calculation, the investors will weigh out the risks. They’ll probably invest in stocks instead. 

Sometimes, investors still go with the less lucrative option. Aside from profits, there are other beneficial reasons, like improving morale. 

When using the opportunity cost formula, it’s crucial to compare options with a similar risk. For instance, you can’t compare a volatile stock investment with a Treasury bill. 

Investing into an explosive stock market comes at a high risk. A Treasury bill is practically risk-free. Putting these options through the opportunity cost formula results in a misleading calculation. This analogy leads us to the next important topic. 

Opportunity Cost vs. Risk

You can’t compare opportunity cost in the Treasury bill and stock investment example. Instead, you should compare risk

From an economic perspective, risk is an important consideration. It’s the possibility that an investment’s returns are lower than projected. As a result, the investor may lose some or all of their capital. 

Risk compares the actual results against the projected performance. Opportunity cost looks at the actual potential of one investment versus another. 

A/B Testing

Opportunity cost is one of the many tools investors have to make educated decisions. A/B testing is another excellent way to pick between investment options. 

A/B testing compares two options and finds the better performer. This method has been around for almost 100 years. Famed statistician and biologist Ronald Fisher outlined the basic principles in the 1920s. 

Fisher tested the A/B method in agricultural experiments. In the 1960s, marketers used it to test the validity of their advertisement campaigns. 

The first step in A/B testing is to choose what you want to test. Then, decide on a criterion for evaluating the performance. Split a set of users into two groups (A/B) and determine which item gets a better response

A/B testing is becoming increasingly popular in the digital era. Companies now have the perfect medium for quick surveys. They can even get answers without recruiting participants. Results can come from clicking a button on a site or purchasing one product over the next. 

Businesses with an online presence typically use the A/B model. It allows them to ascertain which investments work and which ones don’t. 

This model also works for marketing techniques, like email or social media. Share two versions of your post and see which one achieves the best results. You can then invest more into pursuing the marketing style that gets the most sales. 

A/B testing is a quick and easy way to gain an understanding of what your target market wants. It works well when paired with opportunity cost calculations. Together, they reveal what investment might bring you the best results. 

A 2006 financial review made an interesting finding. It discovered that firms typically opt for the cheapest source of financing. 

CFOs should be well-attuned to using tools like opportunity costs and A/B models. They provide affordable financial planning and allow you to propose corrective actions with minimal expenditure. 

A/B testing is pretty straightforward, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s inherently strategic. 

While many companies view A/B testing as low cost, the reality is there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The test doesn’t run itself. You need to invest in software or human resources to run it successfully. 

A/B testing usually takes around 2–4 weeks. It isn’t feasible for an investment that needs to be made promptly. 

Use opportunity costing and A/B testing to determine if an investment is worth it. Look at the time costs and financial constraints. Consider the funds required to invest in testing technology and human resources. 

Evaluate the expected loss of not doing an A/B test and the potential benefits of running it. To streamline the process, you can use opportunity cost to determine if A/B testing is worth it. 

Asset Creation vs. One-Time Acquisition

Most CFOs will come across the predicament of asset creation vs. one-time acquisition. The answer comes down to the cost of opportunity.

Asset creation seems freeing on the surface. The reality is it takes a lot of grit to build assets from the ground up. 

Companies hold assets like equipment or land, but there’s more to creating a valuable product. The assets that appreciate are more likely to grow the business. The downside is they typically involve a bigger investment. 

Unlike asset creation, asset acquisition involves buying another company’s assets. The business also takes on some liabilities. With the right negotiations, the pros outweigh the cons. 

Using the cost of opportunity formula makes it easier to pick between the two. Of course, you should apply risk management strategies regardless of your decision. 

Some unforeseen costs involved in asset creation include repairs and utility issues. There are also staffing and contract costs and add-on investments. 

One-time acquisition comes with possible costs in the form of liabilities. Unforeseen costs are less likely because the buyer picks the assets and liabilities.

Asset acquisition differs from stock acquisition, where the buyer assumes all assets. In this case, they may become responsible for undisclosed liabilities. 

With one-time acquisition, you pick specific assets and liabilities. You don’t need to waste resources on unwanted assets. However, what you save in cost, you lose in time. Identifying and negotiating specific assets and liabilities is time-consuming. 

The US Internal Revenue Code (IRC) suggests the residual method of negotiating prices. It ensures purchased assets match their fair market value. 

Both the acquirer and company use Form 8594 to file tax returns. They also detail the same agreed-upon price. The remaining balance after purchase is given to goodwill. 

Analyzing Cost of Opportunity Is Key to Effective Decision-Making

The cost of opportunity helps you choose the better investment. It also reveals the benefits you could miss out on when choosing one option over another.

Analyzing the cost of opportunity makes it easy to view unexpected costs and profits. Without calculating it, these amounts would otherwise go unnoticed. 

Determining the opportunity cost is easy with testing software, but it comes at a price. Paired with A/B testing, it provides a more effective way to make informed decisions

Use the data from opportunity cost testing to create a PPF. The visual representation makes it easier to understand the investment possibilities. 

Asset creation vs. one-time acquisition comes down to the cost of opportunity. Calculating unforeseen costs when building assets can be tricky. One-time acquisition allows you to choose specific assets and liabilities.

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