With over a million apps on the app store already, chances are good that the app you are creating or want to create already has some competition for it. Most people view competition for their as a bad thing. After all, they are taking away potential users from your own product, right?
However, if you look at it from a different perspective, competition can actually be a good thing!
They validate your product. If you see competitors in your space, you want to first see if they are doing well or not. If they are doing well, that suggests that there is demand for such products. How do you know if they are doing well? Look for chart rankings, and lots of reviews that suggest user interest.
They suggest marketing strategies. If a competing app is doing well, then find out how they are marking themselves. Are they using ads? If so – where are they advertising? Have they been reviewed by any top sites? What kinds of sites are linking to them? Are there similar strategies you could use to promote your own app?
You can steal their user feedback. Read reviews of competing apps to learn what users like about their product, and what areas can be improved. There might be certain features that users are demanding that you could add to your own app to differentiate. I used this same approach when I created my first product.
They suggest pricing strategies. What price are they selling their app at? Are there in-app purchases? Do they seem to be making money from this app? (You can find out by looking at the top grossing apps for their app category).
They suggest keyword ideas. What keywords are your competitors using in their app titles and descriptions? If users are already searching for these keywords, then you want to be part of the results. However you also want to have something unique about your app to differentiate from competitors. That was the thinking behind the title of my STL Contact Manager app. It shows up in searches for “Contact Manager” but also has the unique “STL” part, in case someone wants to search specifically for my app. The last thing you want is for someone to search for your app, but not be able to find it, among competing apps.
What can you learn from the apps that are competing with you right now?
Be a contrarian. Sometimes, the best advice is to not be like everyone else, or do what everyone else is doing. A great line I heard once is that during a gold rush, you should be the one selling shovels, rather than digging dirt with the rest of them.
Take a look at the world’s biggest tech company – Apple. Other companies like to cram as many features as they can into their products. Apple prefers to keep their products simple. Other companies compete on price point. Apple focuses on quality, maintaining a higher price point. The list goes on. Apple prefers to march to the beat of their own drum, and last I checked, it hasn’t hurt them one bit.
When I built my STL Contacts app, I took a different approach to apps than other companies. Instead of building an app that did one simple thing really well, I attempted to combine features from several apps into one. Is this the best approach? Time will tell. But it’s one way to stand out.
You’re right. I’m not like those other guys. And here’s why that’s a good thing.
Is there anything in your industry that you can do differently from everyone else? A different solution to a problem that people have?
We are living in an unprecedented time in the history of innovations. What used to take companies decades to achieve is now being done in a few years. Companies like Google and Facebook have come from nowhere to become multi-billion dollar behemoths in no time. Five years from now there will be other massively huge companies out there, that you haven’t even heard of today.
Maybe you have the next billion dollar idea in you, but you don’t know it. Or maybe you do know it, but are scared away by competitors with billions of dollars in their pockets. How are you supposed to compete with them? The trick is to think big, but act small!
What kinds of advantages does being small give you? Take a look at the website of your favorite tech company. How easy is it to contact them? Send them an email and see how long it takes to get a reply. As we speak, I am currently trying to negotiate a refund from a company for a product I canceled two months ago. Very poor service indeed. Most users of my products who email me are surprised at the speed at which I reply to them, as well as how fast I can process their requests. That’s the advantage of acting small!
Any time Facebook makes changes to their site, there are massive protests from their user base. Several times they have had to remove changes they have made in order to placate their users. This is what happens when you’re big. It becomes much harder to adapt and change to the marketplace. Look at companies like Nokia, RIM and Microsoft, that had to make huge changes to their smartphone business when Apple and Google came out with their new models. They weren’t able to make the changes in time, and as a result have lost huge market share to newcomers to the industry.
When I started my first site, I began scouring the forums of my biggest competitor to see what gripes their user base had with them. I then designed my site to address those issues and win over that base.
The next time you are trying to compete, see if you can take one of your competitor’s strengths and use it against them.