Any developer who has at least a few years of experience should have developed the ability to create a fully functional app. One of the biggest challenges in app development, however, is coming up with an idea that’s sufficiently distinct from those that are already in circulation.
The market is overrun with highly successful apps in a broad variety of areas, and if you create a new one that’s too similar, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail. Audiences are too familiar with the pre-existing candidates, and aren’t apt to be willing to switch.
The secret is to find a way to differentiate your app from the pack. But how?
Differentiating Your App
There are several possible strategies you can use to distinguish your app from the competition. Start by examining your competitors: Very few truly novel or original ideas ever surface, so the odds are at least a handful of apps that are similar to yours will already be operating out there.
Get to know how they work (and why), and apply one or more of the following strategies to differentiate yours:
1. Target a unique audience. Your first option is to target a unique audience. For example, if there’s a taco-finding app that helps customers locate nearby taco restaurants, you could shift the audience to pho lovers and create a similar app that highlights pho outlets. You can brainstorm and try to devise app variants that target different age groups, tastes, or income levels.
2. Come up with more inventive branding. It’s also possible to succeed by creating more inventive, stand-out branding. Some apps are reasonably successful in execution, but fail to “stick” with people because they lack a brand personality that encourages people to bond with the app. You could potentially fill such a gap by creating a more dynamic, striking brand personality around your app … especially if you cater specifically to a target audience. Lyft contrasted itself from Uber by designing a more fun and down-to-earth brand.
3. Be faster. One of the simplest ways to differentiate your app is also one of the most technically difficult to achieve: You can try to make your app run faster. App consumers today can be fairly impatient, and may be willing to switch to a new app if it gives them content a few seconds faster than its competitors.
4. Be cheaper. If you’re entering a market that depends on payment, you can prevail by offering a less expensive app, whether that means creating one that’s downloadable for free instead of making users pay a few dollars, or providing cheaper micro-transactions. To do this, you’ll need to think carefully about your profitability model. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to make money using a mobile app. Simplenote, for instance, attempts to offer what Evernote provides, but for free.
5. Be more efficient. You could also individualize your app by making it more efficient for your customers in some other way. For example, you could cut an entire step out of a familiar process, or provide a better user experience that’s more intuitive for new users to master. Yocale, for example, has separated itself from the pack by presenting an easier online scheduling app than its major competitors.
6. Offer better security or privacy. App users are also increasingly concerned about their security and privacy. If you design a service that similar to others, but includes better encryption and higher security standards, you might readily win the attention of a substantial segment of the market. This is especially true if you’re catering to business owners or other professionals for whom security is an especially high priority.
7. Be more available or visible. Finally, you can make your app more easy to obtain or to see. For example, if your app focuses on physical locations, you could introduce it to a city your competitors haven’t yet penetrated. On the other hand, you could invest more money in advertising that makes your app more visible and earn a higher market share in that way. Obviously, you’ll need to invest more up front to make this work, but it could be worth it if it cuts significantly into the market share of your competition … especially in combination with some of the other strategies cited above.
Putting It to the Test
All the above strategies can work to differentiate your app, but they none of them offers a guarantee that you’ll be more successful. Before committing these ideas to your design, you’ll need to do the market research to determine the chances that your target audience will indeed prefer your idea over that of your competitors.
You can use objective evidence, in the form of surveys, to give you the impetus to follow through with your initial design; and in the form of subjective app evaluations, to determine whether your app could use further improvement to raise its odds of succeeding in the market.
If your app is plainly different from what’s already out there, you’ll stand a much higher chance of success.