competitors

The Ultimate Guide to Performing Competitive Analysis on Apps

You’re reading part 3/5 of the Buzinga crash course How To Build An App: Moving Forward With Your App Idea

Go to Part 1: How To Estimate Market Size For An App Idea

Go to Part 2: 5 Tips For Validating Your App Idea

Go to Part 4: How To Choose Your App Monetisation Model: 6 Key Questions

Go To Part 5: The 20 Minute, 1 Page Business Plan For Lean Startups

How often do you go driving with your eyes closed?

Is that a stupid question? Well, entering a market without performing a competitive analysis is about at outrageous as driving with your eyes closed.

Yet so many people do it…

If you can’t see the obstacles ahead of you then your chances of success are MASSIVELY reduced.

Competitive analysis is about risk mitigation and identifying a gap in the market so that you can

  • Get a solid footing in the market; and
  • Prepare for massive expansion.

Recommended: The Startup’s Guide To Estimating Market Size For An App Idea

In this guide we’re going to analyse your competitors; We want to know what they’re doing well; what they’re not doing well; and more importantly what they’re not doing at all.

Then we’ll use this information to position you as the leading authority in the marketplace.

Sound good?

What’s in this guide:

I have collected and created 5 exercises for performing an app competitive analysis. These exercises will help you identify your competitors, expose their weaknesses and strike at their jugular. <–you’re ruthless!

Here’s what you’re going to get:

  1. How to identify your competitors
  2. Business comparison
  3. App Marketplace analysis
  4. Target Audience ‘needs’ analysis
  5. Evaluating marketing mediums

You’re likely going into this with an app idea in mind. This exercise will help you flesh your idea out in more detail.

Upon finishing these exercises you will have clear vision of the competitive landscape. You will quickly be able to identify low-hanging fruit in your market. You will know where threats lay and most importantly you won’t be putting your success up to chance.

Knowledge allows for smart, calculated and accurate decisions.

Let’s go through each exercise step-by-step.

1) How to identify your competitors?

The first step of running a competitive analysis on apps is pinning down exactly who your competitors are.

What we want is a full understanding of who’s competing in this space, what they’re offering and what we can do different/better to penetrate the marketplace like a needle. Then expand like tree growing through a crack in the pavement.

First of all, let’s define the word ‘Competitor’.

Define competitor:

“An organisation engaged in commercial or economic competition with others.”

In other words, anyone who is providing a similar or the same service that you’re providing that is an alternative solution to using your service, is a competitor.

OR, any organisation that wants to steal your customers.

At this stage we’re not overly concerned about market-share and other trivial data. We’re only interested in knowing who our competitors are, and making a log of them.

Exercise:

What I want you to do is open a new spreadsheet and make a list of all your competitors.

If you don’t know who they are, google some keywords that are related to your application, and add the keyword ‘app’ at the end of your sentence.

E.g.

‘Keyword’ + ‘app’

Make a log of the following information under each competitor:

  • Website address
  • Social media profiles/pages
  • iTunes app link

These links will give you quick access to most of the key information we’re going to need as we drill down into your competitors data in later exercises.

2) Business comparison:

In this section we’re going to compare your product to your competitors. I want you to perform the following exercises for each of your competitors.

Understanding your competitors, their product and market advantages will ensure you don’t end up going head-to-head with a competitor on their strong points.

Product features

Identify every product feature that each of your competitors offer. Give it a name and a brief description.

Presence

From looking at your competitors web-presence you should be able to establish quite quickly if they are a major threat or not.

Analyse your competitors their online presence using the following tools:

  • Web Presence – grab your competitors website link/URL and drop it into the search bar on the Alexa home page. This will give you a visitor traffic ranking where 1 is the best. Anything higher than 800,000 is considered a low threat. That would be about 20 visitors per day…nothing really.
  • Social Presence – copy your competitors social media URL’s from their actual pages/profiles. Paste it into the spaces provided on the Wildfire monitor page and click the ‘Compare’ button. This will give you a full preview of your competitors social media presence.

Chances are that you’re starting off at zero. So anything might seem like a major threat to you, for now.

I want you to simply rank each of your competitors on a scale from 1-high threat, to 10-low threat. Use the most threatening competitor and the least threatening competitor as bench marks.

Monetisation model

What is the monetisation model that you competitor uses. There are literally hundreds of unique monetisation models available with mobile apps.

Get clear on how your competitors make money. Sometimes apps aren’t designed to make money immediately. In the case that your competitors haven’t implemented a monetisation model yet you’ll need to keep a close eye on their updates later on.

See also: 8 most popular app monetisation models.

Market position & branding

‘Market position’ is the market perception of your product. In other words, it’s how your product/service is perceived by the world. Classic example:

Apple vs Dell

Apple and Dell sell computers. Apple positions themselves as cutting edge, elegant and luxury. Dell positions themselves as sturdy, reliable and value for money.

At the end of the day they’re just computers, but Apples market positioning supports their ‘through-the-roof’ prices.

Assessing your competitors market position helps you identify gaps in the market.

Here are some potential positions in any marketplace that you could use in yours:

  • Modest
  • Cool/designer
  • IT savvy
  • Smart
  • Charitable
  • Expensive
  • Healthy
  • Organic
  • Holistic/metaphysical
  • Low price
  • Honest
  • Easy to use
  • Exclusive
  • Quality/reliable
  • Social
  • Age sensitive (older/younger)
  • Athletic
  • Cultural
  • Etc.

Assess unique value offering

What value are you competitors offering that’s unique to one-another?

There are generally certain value offerings that are ‘the norm’, and in fact have become an expectation by customers within an industry. Don’t use these as your ‘point of difference’.

For example, in app development it’s expected that projects are ‘on time and on budget’. Or even ‘bug-free’. That’s normal.

However, something like ‘Fastest App Development In Australia’ or ‘The World’s Best App Designers’ are a unique value offerings.

Back to the question: What unique value are your competitors offering?

Define their target audience

Based on your competitors market position and unique value offering you should have a good idea of who your competitors are targeting.

In many cases people who are new to app development will assume that their target audience is anyone and everyone with a smartphone. This is simply not the case.

You only want to ‘target’ the people who are very well suited to your application, and need the value that your application provides. Targeted marketing is cost effective and hammers the message home to people who will derive the most value from your product or service.

See also: How to Define Your Target Audience.

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is a breakdown of your competitors perceived strengths, weaknesses, and what opportunities that creates for you and what threats are presented.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Strengths

  • What advantageous does their application have?
  • What do they do well?
  • What other strengths do they have?

Weaknesses

  • What could they improve?
  • What should they avoid?
  • What are people in the market likely to see as a weaknesses?
  • What other weaknesses do they have?

Opportunities

  • What opportunities can you spot that they should be taking advantage of?
  • What interesting trends are you aware of that they may not have noticed?
  • What other opportunities can you spot?

Threats

  • What obstacles do they face?
  • What are they doing that could pose as a threat to your business?
  • Is changing technology threatening their position?
  • Could any of their weaknesses seriously threaten their business?
  • What other threats can you identify?

Being clear on your competitors strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats opens up gaps in their armour. It also paints a clear road map for your own applications potential growth.

Using this information you don’t even need to be offering anything that hasn’t already been done. You could simply marry up value offerings from each of your competitors products and create something that’s unique in its own right.

3) App Store Analysis

How are your competitors application faring on the App Store?

In this exercise we’re going to look at your competitors App Store Data which available for free…to anyone!

Recommended: The Ultimate 2015 App Store Optimisation Cheat Sheet

Let’s drill down:

Average rating

What is the average rating user rating on the App Store for the current version and all versions?

This data tells you whether or not your competitor has a good track record with their users. A bad user rating is pretty serious. If you competitors have straight 5-stars then look at how new they are and how many versions they’ve gone through. Most apps will have some negative reviews if they’ve been around for a while, and if they’ve had a lot of downloads.

User reviews

This is a chance for you to identify opportunities for development and features. Often times users will complain about a particular feature, bugs, etc. This poses an opportunity for ‘ideas-stealing’.

Quote:

“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

-Steve Jobs

Update cycle

How often are your competitors updating? An established development team will have a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. update schedule.  Stay on top of their update cycle so that you can strategically release updates accordingly.

Maybe position your releases one or two days before theirs? You cheeky devil!

4) Target Audience ‘Needs’ Analysis

This is about finding low hanging fruit and achieving user validation as quickly as possible.

Your target audience have certain needs, and your service (including that of your competitors) is designed to fit those needs as tightly as possible.

Here’s where it gets complicated. Some segments of the market have slightly different needs. There fore you need to identify a viable segment of the market and target them by building a service that best suits their needs.

Recommended: How To Get Crystal Clear On Your User

Again, targeted marketing.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who’s the main user of this service?
  • Can they be identified by age/location/income range/gender/interests, etc.?
  • What is the user currently looking for? What do they need?
  • What are they not getting?
  • How can you offer them what they want?

Use this information to define your products/services features. This will later lead on to a unique selling proposition which wraps up your value proposition in one single sentence.

Example:

“Message all your friends, across all social platforms, from one place.”

5) Evaluating marketing mediums:

New startups generally only market their product in three ways:

  • PR (press media)
  • Keyword targeting (organic search)
  • Social Media
  • Ad-networks

So this is generally pretty easy.

PR Exposure

Many startups with cool ideas get featured in tech blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable. They’re free so it makes sense.

Startups generally flaunt their ‘features’ on the front page of their website.

If this is the case then make a record of these tech blogs so that when you launch you product you can swing your story over to them.

Recommended: How To Get Key Influencers To Rave About Your App

Keywords

Identifying your competitors keywords is easier now than ever before. With the use of tools like SensorTower and MobileDevHQ you can get a lot of this sort of information for free.

Take a look at their title and description in the App Marketplace (App Store & Google Play). Any smart App Store Optimisation marketer would put the focus keyword in the title.

Social Media

Trawl their social media sites to find out about any promotions they’re running.

Recommended: 4 Apps Killing It On Social Media

Ad networks

Using tools like AdBeat you can quickly strip apart a competitors ad strategy. It’s a costed service ($99 a month).

Any startup who is advertising through paid media has most likely already hit market fit (unless they’re stupid) with a good conversion rate from download to paid user. This is a very competitive player.

Where else are you competitors marketing?

See also: App Marketing: How To Build Your Brand Online

BONUS: 6 Tools To Use To Monitor Your Competitors

Google Alerts

Setting up Google Alerts means that every time a particular keyword related to your industry is mentioned you will receive an update via Gmail.

Recommended: How To Google Better And Become A Learning Machine

App Annie

Use App Annie to get reports on your competitors App Marketplace (App Store & Google Play) rank by region and category. Quite a nifty tool.

App Store

As mentioned above, the App Store is  one of the most comprehensive ‘spying’ tools available on line.

Mobile Dev HQ

Monitor your competitors App Marketplace keywords. Grab a free account at MobileDevHQ.

Good old browser spying

Go check out your competitors websites, social media posts and mentions in other blogs, etc. That’s an easy way of learning more about their activities.

XyO.net

Gives you a nice little overview of your competitor if you search for their app name via the XyO.net search-bar.

Want 37 more? Click here.

Maybe now you’re starting to realise that entering a competitive landscape is a good thing.

It means you can pick all the best bits and pieces from all your competitors and do it better…or differently.

Got an app idea you’re ready to bring to life? Don’t miss the guide that helped a startup app sell for $12 million…

Continue the crash course…

Go back to Part 1: How To Estimate Market Size For An App Idea

Go back to Part 2: 5 Tips For Validating Your App Idea

Go to Part 4: How To Choose Your App Monetisation Model: 6 Key Questions

Go To Part 5: The 20 Minute, 1 Page Business Plan For Lean Startups

9 replies
  1. Silva Kulisheva
    Silva Kulisheva says:

    Hey Logan! I am doing a mini project about an app that got quite popular last year. I have been reading like crazy books and articles.. to see effective and structured way to analyze the external environment…. If only I saw this post 3 days ago… I would have saved so much time :) Thanks a million

    However I have one very specific problem. I cannot seem to find for free a good information about the sales and ranks of the app? Can you recommend specific links?

    Reply
    • Logan Merrick
      Logan Merrick says:

      Hi Silva,
      Thanks for the feedback, I hope you still got some great insights for your project!

      In answer to your question, it is difficult to find sales of apps as most keep this data private. Finding their ranking is quite simple however, just by browsing categories on the app store, or you can use fantastic online research tools like Sensor Tower and App Annie.
      They also publish regular reports and indexes about app store trends and rankings so I would definitely hit up these 2 resources!
      Hope this helps, let me know if there’s anything else I can help with. Feel free to email me at logan.m@buzinga.com.au if that’s easier :)

      Cheers

      Reply
      • Silva Kulisheva
        Silva Kulisheva says:

        hello again :D

        I will definitely check Sensor Tower, App Annie however requires to register a business email.. and I am a student so I cannot register as a representative of a company but maybe I am doing something wrong?

        Anyway, I have two weeks from now on so I will make sure to make the best of your post as it seems it is the only structure I find applicable in my case ;) Thanks a million again and have a wonderful upcoming vacation and celebration of these warm and family holidays!!!!

        Reply
        • Logan Merrick
          Logan Merrick says:

          Hi Silva,

          You don’t have to put a business email, there is an option you can click to say that you don’t have one :) Hope this works for you.

          Happy christmas and best of luck!
          Cheers

          Reply

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