You come up with a new business idea and head over to Google to do your research, only to find that there are already about 10 other people doing what you thought was a unique idea. The truth is, no matter what you come up with, your idea will almost always be taken. But, many times, that’s actually a good thing.
Assuming you have not closed your browser window in disgust and disappointment, the next logical step on the road to idea abandonment is to try to convince yourself that your idea is somewhat different than the others. Maybe your idea is better in some way because of a few added features you just came up with on the fly. Of course, the more you research, the more you see just how similar your idea is to the ones already on the market. You’ll eventually close your computer in a fit of rage and think to yourself that it’s hopeless; that all the good ideas are taken.
One of my least favorite phrases in the world is “that’s already been done.” Of course, it’s already been done. Practically everything has already been done, unless you’re in an industry that’s completely untapped. But that’s rarely the case. One of my favorite sayings “… there is nothing new under the sun.” That’s difficult to hear at first, but it’s true.
What do you do then?
To start with, don’t be dejected. Not every idea is unique and neither does it have to be. At a very high level, you can always find similarities between the concept of one app and another – for instance, Uber and Lyft.
But, the similarities end just there. The difference lies in execution. That’s what made Facebook successful among all the other social networks that existed at the time it launched. Same story with Google. I could go on with the examples, but let’s look at what you should do next once you’ve discovered similar apps exist based on your app idea.
Answer, what makes your product unique?
Start by writing a few essentials about your app, which will define your idea in greater depth so it’s easier to compare with what’s out there – not at a high level, but at the level of execution.
What you need to define is the context, the problem you’re solving and why should a customer use your app. Then, define who your customer is. The more specific you are, the better it is for your startup – by knowing exactly who you’re building for, you can customize the user experience for their needs, you will also be able to lower your cost of customer acquisition by defining your specific customer segment.
Once you’ve defined your customer segment, map out their entire journey within your app highlighting each of the features and functionalities that they will experience and how each one connects to the other. With this information, assess your competitor product/service and find what makes your idea unique. Your idea may have very similar features to competitor, but the target market segment could be entirely different. Or you may have some insight that the competing apps completely missed.
It’s a validation
Competition is the market is usually a good thing, because it means you don’t have to invest in validating demand for your idea. That’s already been done and in market.
If there is a lot of competition and they’re all making money (for instance, the highly crowded Productivity app category), then that’s a good sign. It’s a healthy indicator of a huge demand. But, if you go into a market with little to no competition, that could mean two things – there isn’t enough demand for such product/service or that no one has been able to serve the market’s need well enough until now.
If there’s competition for your startup idea, try and get hold of some customers of existing apps that use those products or have previously used to get feedback about what has worked and what hasn’t for them. This feedback can help you in your own product strategy.
Do it better
Once you’ve studied the competition and done your customer research, it’s time to build something that’s better than what already exists. There are many ways to build a better app or differentiate – you can build a completely different user experience (for example, Clear App in the to-do list space), or you can build for a completely different customer segment (for example, Dropbox vs Box).
Ensure that your build quality not just matches that of the existing apps, but is a notch above each one of them. You’re going after a customer segment that is spoilt for choice and it also makes it that much harder to stand out.
But if you do deliver with an app that is of high quality, highly functional and has fantastic user experience, the word does get out, bringing you the traction that you desire.
You need to disrupt
Just because you build a better mousetrap, that doesn’t necessarily mean people will drop what they’re currently using and move to your product. Incrementally better products don’t do well.
The ones that do well are those that disrupt the market. Disruption can be on price or monetization. And it can be on value.
You can disrupt the market by offering a free app in a competitive landscape where all apps are paid. This will also think creatively in terms of monetizing and you could build a far more profitable app that competition if you’re able to increase the lifetime value of the customer through a repeat buying behavior.
The other way to disrupt the market is via value – pack in much more value for the money than your competition and people would vie for your app, even though you command the same price as the competition.
Some of the biggest success stories of apps are of those that built their product among solid competition. The last thing you should do is to drop your idea. Remember, you could have far more advantages than any of the other competing apps do. You don’t stand a chance at winning if you don’t even try.
If you start a company where there are no competitors, you will most likely fail. A seed, planted where other plants exist, has a much better chance of flourishing than a seed planted in a desert. Securing success depends on having the differentiating trait that kills off competition, not avoiding it. Google killed Yahoo because its search scaled without increasing payroll. Its crawler and PageRank automated the categorization process that Yahoo was doing via people. Google didn’t avoid competing with Yahoo on search. Instead, Google partnered with Yahoo to handle stuff Yahoo couldn’t deal with, until the day people started abandoning Yahoo for Google directly. Its differentiator won the choice conflict.
Orshel explained in full theatrical detail exactly how this pans out, and you’re welcome to critique it by sharing your thoughts in the below comment box.