How Startups can Size up their Competitors

Why do people often look at their competition as it relates to their business? As you might know depending on who you ask you’ll get several responses. Some answers might be similar and others oddly unique.

If you hear someone on your team say “I don’t need to because my product is the best” all the alarms in your head should go off. To dive a bit deeper into a such a broad topic I’ll look at this from a user experience designer and startup founder perspective and explain why this is big deal below.

  1. 🔥 Stay ahead of the curve by identifying what’s forward thinking and what’s not. When planning out and choosing which features your product should have and how they should work it’s in your best interest to find out what people value. Look at how those features solve their pain points and needs. This helps with managing user expectations and tiring it back to your company’s key value props.
  2. 🐦 Identify product features that are of high value to your competitor’s customers. How do they stack up with other competitors? Are there direct competitors? Or, in another industry that you can borrow ideas from or expand on? Are they doing the bare minimum or going above and beyond to solve customers problems and wishes?
  3. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 Understand how your customers relate or speak about certain features or problems they face? Is the nomenclature and or wording easy to follow or understand or is it what you and your teams at the company identify with.
  4. 📈 How does it tie back to the business, product goals, branding, your customers and key value props? Are you designing for someone they need the job done for them quickly and effortlessly or for a luxury high touch client?

Now let’s take a step back and define what a competitive analysis is….

Competitive Audit is a comprehensive analysis of competitor products that maps out their existing features in a comparable way. The goal of competitive audit is to discover what is working for other companies in your industry, so that you can make those strategies work for you, too, to gain a competitive advantage.

⏱ When is it most useful to do a competitive analysis study?

✓ Major User Experience overhaul redesign
✓ Requirements gathering and feature definition.
✓ Always be in the know
✓ Business Pitch Decks

🕵🏼‍ How should I get started and where do I begin?

  1. Set a Criteria or template
    What are the things you’ll be looking at across different competitors and see how they all stack up. Where are they overlap and consistent patterns? Are they worth paying attention to?
  2. Identify direct and indirect competitors
    aTake a look at the competitors mentioned by your customers. Sometimes they include them in pricing charts. FWIW you should hold user interviews to get a sense of how they’re currently solving their pain points. What software are they using if it’s not yours? What workarounds exist?
    bDo a quick search on Google. An example of this would be “alternatives to Airbnb” or including the terms “better than…+company name”
    cLook at companies with similar business models. Are they in the subscription space different industry? Is there anything you can learn about how they approach things relating to design or how they approach their customers?
  3. Discuss among your team and list which companies/brands to analyze. It never hurts to collaborate and ask for feedback on which brands to look at.

In the end, assessing the competitive landscape helps mostly to design by a team and not by committee. Yes, you could work hard towards just building your product without looking at competitors, however, you risk creating a product that’s outdated or no longer meets the needs of your customers. Do you have any other points of views you use for your competitive analysis study? Comment below.