Finding Opportunity in the App Market: Competitor Research
This article is part two of our “Finding Opportunity in the App Market” blog series. You can find part one here.
Once you have determined whom you are going to target, it’s time to analyze your competition to identify what your product is up against in the app market. Statista records confirm that users currently can choose from an estimated 6.5 million apps between the world’s leading app stores. With so many options available, competitive analysis is an essential part of business strategy to stay ahead.
Successful mobile app development delivers a product that adds value to users and solves their pain points, which we mentioned in the previous post. However, your app ultimately won’t be successful if your competition has more to offer. Here are ten research techniques to help you establish a competitive edge.
1. Know Your Unique Value Proposition
Competitive research is about discovering your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. Building a product that offers the same features as the competition won’t help you win over many users. A unique value proposition (UVP) is the core of your competitive advantage and is arguably one of the most important conversion factors for your product. A UVP is the first step you need to consider in your overall product strategy.
A UVP is not a slogan, nor is it a positioning statement, rather, a UVP clearly explains how your product solves problems and benefits users. Also, your UVP needs to convince customers to choose your product over other available options. Your UVP should be the first thing customers see when they visit your website or social media pages. When you’re analyzing the competition, look for their UVP to understand the value they’re offering with their product.
To create your UVP, you’ll want to begin by answering these fundamental questions:
- What has your competition done right?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- How will your solution be different and add value for potential users?
When you’re nailing down your UVP, make a list of all the benefits your mobile app offers to its users and then link those benefits to your value offering. Finally, differentiate your product from what already exists by clearly identifying what you offer to users and how you’re different from the competition.
Many companies fail to accurately assess their full competitive set. If you don’t understand what your app’s strengths and weaknesses are, you won’t be prepared to market your product successfully. You should be able to identify and communicate your unique value proposition to set your company and product aside from the rest of the market. Many app development companies offer product design and discovery sessions to help you set product goals. One of the first steps in the design and discovery process is to identify your product’s vision statement, minimum marketable features, and target audience. All of the deliverables from a design and discovery session will help you understand your competitive edge.
2. Who Are Your Competitors?
Once you have your UVP, you must assess who your current or potential competitors are. Make a list of five of your direct competitors to determine their strengths through a general search using keywords. If other companies use the same keywords as your own, you’ll most likely be competing for your users’ attention. A helpful tool we like to use is Owler, a competitive intelligence resource that gathers data about your competition including revenue, newsworthy events, company initiatives, and more.
When conducting a general search, look at your competitors’ target audience, revenue, product offerings and features, customer support, and marketing strategy. Researching your competition’s’ products is just as important as how they target, market, and interact with their users.
Build a Competitive Analysis Spreadsheet
Identifying your competitors will do you no good if you’re not putting that information to work. Create a spreadsheet to organize all of your research into an easily digestible format. Here’s an example of valuable data you’ll want to collect from your competition.
Source: Smashing Magazine
After a basic understanding of what your competition offers their users, some companies decide not to move forward because it’s too difficult to win market space or costs more than they originally anticipated. Once you understand your competition’s place in the market, it’s a good time to reassess your product strategy and possibly reestablish your branding strategy or your target audience, for example.
3. Examine Their Online Presence
Social media offers multiple opportunities for competitive research that go far beyond the number of followers they have. Follow your competitors’ social media accounts, and subscribe to their newsletters and blogs to learn how they brand themselves online. Also, take a look at who follows your competitors. How do they acquire their followers? You should also look into your competitions’ influencers, which will give you an idea of key industry leaders and spark ideas for engagement with these influencers.
4. Examine Their App Store Listings
User reviews are excellent resource for competitor research. Often, users will use reviews to alert companies to bugs and usability issues, which will give you an idea of what performance factors are the most important to your prospective users.
How are your competitors performing on the App Store? First, you’ll want to look at your competitors’ average rating for the current version of their product, as well as every other version. This data will provide insight into their track record with their users.
User reviews are excellent resources for competitor research. Often, users will use reviews to alert companies to bugs and usability issues, which will give you an idea of what performance factors are the most important to your prospective users. Users also use reviews to advocate for particular features they want to see in the next release of the app. By monitoring reviews, you can find out what features your users are looking for before your competition has implemented them.
You’ll also want to pay attention to how frequently your competitors update their product. Staying on top of their update cycle will allow you to plan your updates accordingly and strategically.
Another area of interest is your competition’s app store optimization strategy. Again, pay attention to keywords, branding visuals, and product description. Look for areas where you can enhance your own listing to set yourself apart.
5. Analyze Their Content Marketing Strategy
Analyzing your competition’s content marketing strategy holds significant value. Every marketing strategy will reveal insights into their targeted sets of users. Analyze their publication frequency, quality, relevance to their product or services, and how they are targeting their users with their content.
By looking at each medium and platform your competition leverages, you can gain a better understanding of what format types their audience enjoys. A significant advantage of examining marketing channels is each channel typically has a visible marker of popularity and engagement. Look for patterns in engagement levels to understand how their content is performing.
6. Ask Prospective Users
Now you need to start digging even deeper by directly asking prospective users what they think of any similar products on the market. Collecting user feedback is a simple yet accurate way to confirm your assumptions about direct competition to improve your product and marketing strategy.
7. Ask The Business Experts
Another beneficial technique when conducting competitive research is to talk with other business experts in the industry. Ask what has worked, what hasn’t, and any future trends that they foresee. At Clearbridge, we have in-house business analysts that will provide you with the information needed to help you make smart product decisions.
8. Keep an Eye on Indirect Competition
This technique may not seem significant, however, it will prove to be beneficial because indirect competition still poses a threat when it comes to targeting the same set of users. While they may not build mobile apps, they are still winning over your users somehow with another product or service. Don’t focus on the products or services they offer your users but instead analyze how they are targeting and retaining their users. What makes them successful in doing so? What areas do they need improvement? Where is there overlap with your company? Will they become a direct competitor in the future? Competitive research should go far beyond the product itself to examine its overall branding strategy and management. Both you and your competition are battling for the attention of your users, whether it’s a marketing strategy or the product itself.
9. Attend Industry Conferences
A great way to learn about who your competitors are and what they offer is by attending professional conferences and trade shows. Here, you’ll be able to see how your competition interacts with customers and how they attract customers.
10. Analyze Industry Reports
Many companies will release trend reports, specifically in the tech industry. Reading about what was popular in the last year may spark new product ideas for the year to come. The tech industry is continuously evolving, so it’s no surprise that companies need to stay ahead of the game to remain in the competitive market. Keeping up-to-date on the newest technologies will help you stay ahead and will reveal key information about competitors such as their latest products and features, which will either propel you in another direction or evoke new ideas for improvement. Leading tech companies can anticipate gaps, problems, and most importantly, competitive threats in the market.
Keep Monitoring Your Competition
Not only are these ten research techniques highly beneficial before your product is developed, but will serve you best when used throughout the entire product lifecycle so that you can adjust and adapt to changing user demands. Your competitors can and will change, so remember, this is an ongoing practice. Keep a list of your top five competitors and monitor their websites, social media sites, and their branding, and marketing tactics regularly. Use a media monitoring and analytics service to track company mentions, such as Google Alerts to reveal new businesses that are entering the market. This information should be used to your advantage to improve your strategies, such as offering better prices and features.
It’s essential to avoid imitating your competition after conducting your research, but instead, you should be able to understand the attitudes and behaviors of how users are interacting with other brands, whether directly, or indirectly. A simple assessment of their online presence is often not enough, which is why these techniques will cover you on all bases so you can enter the app market with a thorough understanding of who you are up against.