How to develop a MVP app when competition already exists

Developing a MVP app is great for beating your competition to market – but what do you do if your competition already exists?

Competitive analysis is your answer – and a powerful tool for helping to create a successful MVP app. By conducting a review of your competition on the App Store or Google Play, you can simplify and streamline your app’s development. While it’s great for your app to offer a completely unique experience, the most important aspect of UX is the quality of the solution your app provides its users.

In this chapter of MVP development, we’re going to go over the steps you need to take in order to run a successful competitive analysis of your competitor’s app. If you want to learn more about MVP app development, check out these other blogs:

First there was Uber – then there was Lyft

We covered this a little bit in a recent blog about market research and pain points – and we’re going to use it again, because it’s the perfect example for showcasing just what is possible from competitive analysis.

When Uber was released in 2009, it rapidly brought change to a set-in-stone industry. Users piled on to Uber as the app went relatively unchallenged, bringing a complete shake up to the taxi industry – until three years later in 2012, when Lyft came onto the scene.

Uber basically invented the idea of ride-sharing. If someone had said “ride-share” in 2008, you’d think they were phrasing “car-pooling” weirdly – Uber was also one of the first major platforms to help set up the gig economy.

Uber was so successful because of the app’s UX – finding a ride went from being a stressful guessing game fraught with social challenges that could have any outcome, to an exact process that required minimal human interaction while an app handled the logistics – for the drivers and riders both.

Uber was unstoppable – news about its earnings, tech, and disruption to the taxi industry were inescapable headlines – and then along came Lyft.

While Uber did do many things right when it came to the app’s UX, there was one single step that Lyft did better. Did Lyft take extra time to design a better screen for a certain step in the ride booking process? Did they figure out a way to improve latency throughout the app through clever implementation of real-time updating?

No. They actually took a step out. Uber – when it first started – allowed users to select an available rider from a list. Lyft, on the other hand, automatically assigns a driver to a user who has requested a ride – while this might seem like a devaluation to the use experience that Lyft provides in comparison to Uber, it was actually a huge boost.

Users never cared about who was giving them the ride – they were using Uber for the ease of finding a ride, not a driver. Ride share drivers are notorious for lacking the intimate knowledge of city routes that professional taxi drivers have, anyway – if Uber’s users were actually worried about who was giving them the ride, they’d stick with a taxi.

It’s worth noting that in 2019, Uber is still a much larger company than Lyft, but that’s not to say Lyft is either small, or a failure – as of January 2018, Lyft had 23 million users, and a market share of 29-35% worth $2.2 billion after a compound growth rate of 223% between 2014 and 2017.

What was the reason Lyft was able to grow so rapidly, when there was already a ride share giant on the scene that effectively held 100% of the market? Competitive analysis.

Let’s go over the steps you need to take in order to effectively analyze your app’s competition:

1 – Android, or iOS?

If you’re developing a MVP app, you’re probably doing so for two main reasons – affordability, and speed. Even if your app looks and functions exactly the same, if you plan on releasing it on both Google Play and the App Store, your app will require two different code bases; therefore, you’ll be spending extra time and money on two separate development teams, two beta tests, two marketing and ASO campaigns, and two app review, approval, and publishing processes.

Basically, if you’re developing a MVP app, and you plan on publishing to both the App Store and Google play, your app isn’t really a MVP anymore. We recommend developing your MVP for iOS for many reasons – the main being that IOS users engage more with apps than their Android counterparts.

If your competition only exists on Android devices, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is your target market heavily skewed towards Android devices?
  2. Is your app based around a pain point only Android users face?
  3. What is better for your app – competing against another app on Google Play, or capitalizing on an untapped market on the App Store?

Obviously, if your target market prefers Android devices, or your app gives users tools to create their own widgets for the Android homescreen, your MVP app should be designed for Android devices, and publish to Google Play.

In almost all other cases of MVP app development, iOS is going to be the best platform for quick growth, and high rates of user retention and engagement – the lifeblood of a MVP app.

2 – Categorize your competition

After deciding on your app’s launch platform, you’ll want to head on over to the App Store, and begin searching using keywords that are related to your app so you can begin analyzing your competition.

There are three levels of competition your app will face:

  1. Primary – These are apps that are competing for the same target market, and provide solutions to the same pain point. Think Uber vs. Lyft.
  2. Secondary – These are apps that seek a different market than your own, but provide a very similar solution. Think Snapchat vs. Instagram.
  3. Tertiary – These are apps that tangentially come into contact with your app’s target market, or pain point. Think LinkedIn vs. Facebook.

Knowing who falls where in these categories will allow you to hone your competitive analysis research, strengthen your chances at developing a successful app – MVPs are all about efficiency of production, after all.

3 – Examine your competitor’s app

There are two aspects of an app to pay close attention to when analyzing your competition:

  1. Design
  2. UX

The design your competition uses can always stand to be refurbished – UI trends and user expectations are evolving constantly for many reasons – two big culprits being bigger screens, and better, faster tech. For app design ideas that will stand up to the tests of 2019, check out these blogs:

  1. Top app design practices – 2019
  2. Five mobile app design ideas

Make note of what looks good, what can be changed, and what should absolutely be updated. Don’t be afraid to come to a similar design solution – if it works, it works. Design is a language; design like Yoda talks, you shouldn’t.

The flow of an app is exceedingly important to the UX it provides. Any snag in the process will almost surely take away from the positive experiences of an app – too many snags, and users will immediately abandon it in favor of a competitor.

That’s where you come in – if there’s one step in the flow of your competitor’s app that creates a hang-up in the process, you can use that to your advantage – just like Lyft did.

4 – Identify your competitor’s ASO and market positioning

Take a close look at your competitor’s page on the App Store – make a note of what they include in their short and long App Store descriptions, the types of videos they show, the promotional text they use, and the keywords they are utilizing.

These pieces of information will give you insight into what your target market has come to expect. This will set the standard, and the expectations to exceed when marketing your app, and building out your ASO.

If, for example you were making an app similar to Brew Trader, you’d want to pay close attention to what keywords it is ranking for. You can do this without any special tools by searching as many terms as you can come up with that have something to do with “beer” and “trade.”

Here’s a great keyword analysis tool for Google Play: https://keywordtool.io/app-store

Also, take a look at how your competition engages their target audience through social media, and their main website – apps require a web presence just like any product. Many times, users are made aware of a new app through engagement on social media, and then search the App Store for the app.

5 – Pricing model

This step is pretty simple – does your competition use advertising through a free app to generate revenue? Is it subscription based, or a one-time-fee on download? Or, does it utilize in-app purchases to drive revenue, like many games do? These are pretty much the four pricing models available to every app on the App Store or Google Play.

You’ll want your app’s cost to be in the same range as your direct competition – and since you’re making a MVP app, you might even be able to charge a little less.

6 – User reviews and ratings

The best part about competition already existing is a lot of your market research is already done for you. All you have to do is go to your competitor’s page on the App Store or Google Play, and check out the reviews and ratings left by users – they’re basically free focus group sessions!

Pay attention to what users like, and what they don’t like – many times apps can be slow to change, as to accommodate user requests can mean completely re-structuring the backend of an app’s architecture, or the company might lack the funding to implement updates.

Include the features you see most requested – but always make sure your app’s feature set compliments the solution to its pain point. Developing a MVP app means creating something that provides a solution to a pain point with as little features as possible. For more advice on creating tight feature sets, check out our blog on the topic.

7 – Company diagnostic

While this isn’t necessary to the success of your app, it can give you insight into the future of your own company. Two easy researchable things to look out for:

  1. Are they hiring?
  2. Are they receiving any funding?

The figures you find can give you an idea of what to expect down the road – don’t be dissuaded if the company isn’t hiring or hasn’t received any funding recently – they might only need a small team, or don’t require any outside investment.

Most importantly – have fun

When you’re conducting your competitive analysis, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the mindset of a user. The best way to create a successful app is to create a fun experience – this is why gamification has become such a phenomena in app design.

The easiest way to get into the mindset of a user is to forget you’re conducting competitive analysis – use the app the same way a user would, and you’ll gain much more insight into the experience it provides.

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