It may be the most critical step in planning a mobile app startup, and yet too many companies skip it.
Before spending a single hour outlining your upcoming app, take some time to do a competitor analysis.
This will help you avoid common pitfalls, identify your unique value proposition, and recognize when to pivot to a new idea altogether.
It won’t cost much time or money but it could save you a lot of both down the road.
Identify Your Competitors
Competitor analysis looks at the mobile apps you’ll be competing with and examines what they do right, what they do wrong, and whether you can offer a unique value that they don’t.
To perform a competitor analysis, you need to know your competitors first.
1. Finding Your Competitors
Start with a list of keywords that describe your mobile app idea. You don’t need to be an SEO guru to come up with a list of keywords. Just try a few phrases that describe what your app will do.
Plug these into Google, social media sites, and the app store on your smartphone to see what results pop up. When browsing the app store, you can select an app and view other, related apps to find additional competitors.
List any relevant apps in a spreadsheet along with links to their websites and social media pages. Note the app rating in the app store and read some of its reviews.
Summarize both common complaints and praise for the app in your spreadsheet.
2. Searching Through Social Media
While the number of likes an app has on Facebook can give you an idea of its popularity, there is much more valuable info to be gained than mere numbers alone.
Social media is an instant way for users to voice their complaints, praise, and feedback about an app.
By scouring the comment sections of your competitors’ pages, you can see their strengths and weaknesses.
Do their apps cost too much?
Is customer service lacking?
Do they have too many ads and pop-ups?
Avoid these mistakes and you might just convert their customers to your app.
3. Crunching The Numbers
Once you’ve outlined your key competitors, it’s time to dig up some numbers on them. Many services, both free and paid, are available for this.
Try some of these tools based on what info would best benefit your research:
- Mention: See how popular your competitors are on the web.
- AppTrace: Monitor an app’s performance on the market.
- AppFigures: Analytics monitoring for mobile apps.
- Alexa: See how much traffic a competitor’s website is getting.
This information can benefit you in several ways.
By tracking the popularity of a website and how often it’s mentioned online, you can see how much marketing effort a company puts into its app.
App analytics will show you how often the app is downloaded.
The market performance will show whether the app is starting to fizzle out or seems in it for the long haul.
Finding Your Unique Value Proposition
Value can come in a variety of forms.
High-quality customer service, low subscriber fees, or a unique product not available anywhere else are some ways you can provide value over your competitors.
Your unique value proposition is what you can offer that no one else can.
Reviewing your spreadsheet for your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses will give you clues to current openings in the market and what someone else is already doing well.
Here are some common areas where your app can shine:
- Features: Your idea may have features that no one else has done yet. Or perhaps those who have tried it have done so poorly. If you have experience in a particular field, your app may excel where others have fallen short.
- Pricing: Perhaps other apps lock consumers into annual contracts or don’t offer free trials. Take advantage of this by offering a free, basic version of your app or by offering subscription options.
- Support: If other apps are lacking customer support, this is your chance to step up to the plate. If your app is a mobile game, you can listen to feedback to fix bugs and develop new features.
For a product- or service-centered app, fast and friendly customer support will improve customer experience.
When to Pivot?
After conducting your competitor analysis, you may come to the heartbreaking conclusion that there is no good opening for your app.
Now you have a tough decision to make: stay or pivot?
If this app is your dream and you want to develop it no matter what, go for it! However, if like most businesses the bottom line is developing a profitable app, it may be time to pivot.
Consider what you can change about your original design to fill an opening in the current market.
This is where knowing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses is crucial.
If now is not the right time for your app, you may have a chance later on.
Check back a few months down the road and see how your competitors are performing.
Have they hit a major roadblock that you can fix with your app?
Now could be your chance!
Other companies may launch their app and forget it; don’t let this be you!
There’s much more to an app than just developing and launching it.
The list of pre- and post-launch operations is long, but it’s the most valuable asset that determines the success of your app.
The secret to a successful mobile app startup is to continue conducting competitor analysis and analyzing your own app beyond launch.
Whether you’re launching the next Flappy Bird or have an idea for the best to-do list app known to mankind, competitor analysis is the key to giving your app its best shot at stardom.
By dedicating a few hours of your time to researching the competition, you will have a major advantage over other startups that too often dive in headfirst without testing the waters.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters