Everybody has an app idea. However, with hundreds of thousands of apps on the app stores, it’s highly unlikely that an app is fully unique. Even if there’s not one exactly like you envision, there’s likely one that’s close. So… Who’s Your Competition? This sounds like an easy question. However, much like everything else in life it’s not quite that simple.
Sure, this one’s obvious. If there’s another app out there that’s pretty much like yours, you should know it very well, and watch every update, every tweet, every website update for cues and clues to the future direction of the app. You never want to get caught not knowing what the direct competition is doing.
Sometimes, competition comes from those near you, but not (at the moment overlapping). Say you want to make a grocery list app. Now, some of the biggest recipe apps are adding grocery list functionality. They weren’t competitors, but they were near by and all of a sudden, they ate your lunch (pun intended). Be sure to keep your eye on those nearby.
Then there are apps, that aren’t directly competitive or really adjacent, but fall into the same group. For example, recipe apps and restaurant apps. They aren’t immediately competitive, but if your customer is hungry, all of a sudden you have a new competitor.
Offer Similar Functions
So, you want to make a grocery list app. It’s really just a to do list. Or is it a checklist. Or is it a structured notepad. Or an outline. Or a mind map. All of these tools could be used to make sure the user gets everything they need at the grocery store, and if they already have one of the other apps or can use it for other things. Soon, a mind mapping app becomes a competitor to your grocery list app. But it even goes beyond apps. As much as we love mobile and as ubiquitous as it’s become, mobile isn’t the only thing people do. If you’re going to make a grocery list app, what’s the similar function? Paper and pencil! Your app has to offer something that other tools (even physical ones) can’t offer, if you expect people to use it.
Reach the Same Audience
This might be the one that people miss the most. Your target audience only has so much time and attention. Other apps are going to distract them. What other apps are they going to use?
Another area to look for competition are apps that demonstrate best practices and are just plain good. Some apps have set the high bar very high. If your app doesn’t look or function well, people will notice. So, while your app and some great app might meet completely different needs, users have expectations that your app is going to be best in class too. Don’t disappoint them.
Something New or Different
Beyond best practices are the apps out there creating new best practices by doing something new or doing something differently than ever before. While new and different isn’t quite enough, if it improves the experience and you’re still using an old approach, users will be continually disappointed with your app
So, while maybe your idea is so unique that there’s no immediate competition (and that’s highly unlikely these days), you always have competition. Spend some time to search them out. Get to know them. In an upcoming post we’ll talk about some ways to analyze them.