Business-savvy people know that before they invest in developing and launching a new product they should thoroughly analyze the market and study their competitors. Unfortunately, a lot of startups rush through their initial research — or even skip it altogether. In the best case scenario, startups perform a very basic competitor mobile audit by downloading a few similar apps and comparing them. But such audits rarely include a thorough analysis of their competitors’ app designs, security features, and monetization strategies. They also don’t figure out who the app’s target audience is and how to approach that audience for the best results.
Some developers who aren’t experience with auditing competing apps tend to overlook some very important aspects of their own app’s performance, such as website traffic, app store ratings, or the number of active users. If you want to audit your mobile app competitors' product, it's important to know where to start.
[Example of competitive analysis. Source: Ecoconsultancy]
What should be analyzed in a proper mobile app audit?
- Target audience and brand
- Marketing campaign
- Technical performance and user experience
Let’s say you decide to conduct a thorough audit of a competitor’s app.
How do you conduct an audit of a competitor’s app?
Once you determine who your main competitors are, you need to focus on two important aspects — main function and target audience — and see how your app stacks up against the competition.
No matter how feature-rich your mobile product is, there’s always one key feature (or a combination of features) that set it apart. Focus on these. For example, your app’s main feature may be image editing. Now, think about the audience your app targets. Are your customers teenagers who want funny filters and frames and easy photo sharing? Or are they professional photographers who are looking for a powerful and professional photo editing tool?
Your target audience will define your app’s brand. And it will have a palpable impact on your app’s design, monetization model and even channels of user acquisition. Compare Instagram and Filterstorm Neue: they’re based on a similar concept, but have different target audiences. It certainly shows through in the look and feel. Mobile app competitors analysis requires attention to details.
The most efficient mobile app audit will include not just a list of direct competitors, but a wider selection of apps. Looking at the market leaders, you can learn what made their apps so popular. But it also makes sense to look more broadly. Take a look at how similar mobile app ideas are implemented in different countries. For example, one of our clients came to us to develop a car marketplace app. Though our client’s business is located in India, we looked to the US market for design inspiration. This can also work the other way around.
[Example of a SEO competitor audit. Source: SlideShare]
What information about your competition is “auditable”?
At this point you’ve decided which products of your competitors you’re going to audit. Now it’s time to consider the so-called marketing mix, also known as the four P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. The P’s will help you structure the first stage of your audit.
Identify what your competitor’s app is selling. Is it a product or a service? Are there multiple varieties available or is it a single product? What does the brand name tell you about this product and its target audience? What is its unique selling point? What are the product’s strengths and weaknesses?
Don’t forget about SWOT analyses, as they can be useful tools for evaluating your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. SWOT analyses of both your app and your competitor’s app, compared side by side, can provide invaluable insights and help you outperform the competition.
But in order for SWOT analysis to be effective, you should remember that SWOT is designed to boil down a set of very complex business processes to several big issues. It’s important to keep this in mind, as it’s precisely where SWOT’s disadvantages come in. Dave Lavinsky talks about these disadvantages in detail in his piece for Forbes, but the general rule of thumb when working with SWOT is the following:
- Figure out what has been working for you (strengths and opportunities in SWOT terminology).
- Concentrate on things that have worked for you and focus on improving these areas of your app’s performance even more.
- First target your opportunities, then try to outperform your competitors in the areas where they are stronger.
If you need some inspiration, here is an example of a SWOT analysis we did for a marketplace app like Etsy. Competitive analysis before launching a mobile app should look at your competitor's app in all details.
Study your competitors’ monetization models and learn where most of their revenue comes from. Determine if your competitor’s app’s price is in line with the average price on the market, below it, or above it. If it’s above what everyone else is asking for a similar service, then try to figure out what additional value proposition justified this higher price. (Or perhaps you won’t find a justification.) It’s important to understand what price for a certain product or service is already accepted by the market, and auditing your competitors’ apps will give you a benchmark. Let’s say you’re developing an app that serves as an intermediary between a customer and a service provider. One of the features your app offers is posting job openings — but how can you know how much to charge for it? That’s where looking at what similar services charge will come in handy.
Learn about your competitors’ acquisition channels and find out how they retain users. In the world of offline goods and services this would be the stage when you have to consider available distribution channels. In the case of mobile apps, look at what your competitors do to make their apps easily accessible: do they invest in ASO? Do they have a designated landing page for their app? How is it designed? If your competitor’s apps offers services, where (geographically) are these services available? You should also pay attention to competitor's app reviews.
Learn more about App Store optimization and find out how it can help you outperform your competitors in search engine ranking. You can use a number of tools such as Similar Web, Mobile Action or Sensor Tower to perform ASO or gather analytics about your competitors’ app performance.
[Example of competitive analysis. Source: Simplilearn]
Find out if your competitors are connected effectively with their target consumers. What methods do they use to communicate with their customers? Do they use social media marketing tools?
To answer these questions you should analyze your competitors’ social media and content marketing strategies. A lot of mobile apps also have dedicated landing pages or even complete websites, and this is a good place to go if you want to learn more about your their strategy.
What should you monitor?
Types of content your competitors post and how often they post it. Depending on the type of business you’re in, your competitors might post case studies, sociological research, or even eBooks related to their area of expertise. It’s also a good idea to find out how active their current content efforts are.
Social media interactions and campaigns.
It’s important to understand how well your competitors are using social media to promote their app, acquire users and retain users. Some startups really focus their marketing campaigns around social media.This is especially common for dating app startups and other apps with strong social components. One of our clients, a founder of the Bro app, has done a great job building a community for his app’s users on their Facebook page.
How is analyzing your competitor’s social media going to help you outperform them? If you learn which topics are discussed in their content and which channels they use to acquire users, you will have a better understanding of where you have to focus your efforts. It’s always much easier to beat your competitors if you know details about where their target audience can be found (do you have to promote your Facebook group or send out emails?), what keywords your competitors ranks high for, and so on.
An audit’s main function is to analyse your competitors’ products in great detail. As a result, you will see strengths and weaknesses in your own app, and will have a clearer understanding of how it should be developed and what should be changed in the future. If you properly audit your competitors’ apps, you will have the knowledge it takes to develop a mobile app that can best the competition on their home turf.
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