“The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be only sustainable competitive advantage.” — Arie de Geus, Shell Oil
To build a competing product, you need to get out of your room and look around. You have to know what has worked in the market before, what has not worked and who are the biggest ones that provide the same product or service as you. What makes this specific product successful and how user experience affects the usage of another product?
Exploring the market before you begin building your product or before redesigning your current one is an essential activity that will save you a lot of time and money by learning from others.
What is competitive analysis?
In their book Business and Competitive Analysis: Effective Application of New and Classic Methods, Craig S. Fleisher & Babette E. Bensoussan denfiend analysis as:
“The skilled application of scientific and non-scientific methods and processes by which individuals interpret data or information to produce insightful intelligence findings and actionable recommendations for decision makers”
UX Competitive analysis is one of the valuable inputs that will help you in building your UX Strategy.
Conducting a competitive analysis to help you in building your UX Strategy will be more holistic and broader than just focusing on the interactions, visuals and UX patterns in competitors. You will need to look at all of these besides looking for the competitive advantage, value proposition, and other business criteria as well.
Why you need to conduct a UX competitive analysis?
- Understand the market competition is one of the main goals of conducting the competitive analysis, you will get a sense of how the market needs are being satisfied and what are the needs that have not been satisfied yet. Also, you will learn how competitors are competing against each other and what is each one of them competitive edge and value.
- Learn about the domain you are working in, some domains and industries need a lot of investigation to learn how people in this domains work and how they achieve their goals.
- Get inspirations and ideas from your competitors. Like being inspired by how another competitor solves a certain problem.
When you need to conduct a UX competitive analysis?
As UX competitive analysis plays an important role in identifying the product direction, features choice, and design, it’s conducted in the early stages of the UX process before doing any design work.
How to conduct a competitive analysis?
The first step for conducting the UX competitive analysis is to do your research, you have to spend some time researching your competitors and exploring the market you are playing in.
I usually do this in a spreadsheet with competitors listed in a vertical way and the assessment criteria listed in a horizontal way.
1- Finding competitors
Let’s first differentiate between two types of competitors: Direct competitors & Indirect competitors.
Direct competitors are the competitors providing the same value for the same customer segment. (Example: Uber & Lyft are direct competitors)
Indirect competitors are the competitors providing the same value for different customer segment or they target the same customer segment without providing the exact same value. (Example: Airbnb & Booking are indirect competitors)
To find your competitors, you have different methods:
- Asking your client or through stakeholder interviews to identify their competitors.
- Asking your users during user research and discovery if they use a similar product to yours.
- Doing a keyword research on Google.
- Searching for customer reviews on reviews sites, Top 10 lists, app reviews on google play or App store.
Write down your competitors on the spreadsheet and categorize into two groups: direct & indirect competitors.
2- Defining your criteria
The criteria may change from one project to another one, it depends on the scope, time, budget and so on.
But let’s identify the major criteria that will help you in analyzing your competitors in a holistic way.
- URL: The website or application link.
- Credentials: If the product needs credentials (Username & Password) to access it, it will save you time for creating another account if you lost these credentials especially if you are working in a team.
- Purpose: The reason why this product exists, and what is the value it is adding for its users. (Example: Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world)
- Year founded: The year when the product was launched, It will give you a sense of old and new players in the market.
- Monthly traffic/App downloads: This will help you if you want to measure any statistical data against competitors.
- Competitive advantage: These are the area which makes this competition different than others. (Example: Duolingo offers a gamified and engaging learning experience)
- Inspiration: These are the area that inspired you in this product, you may be inspired by the strong illustrations, a single feature or a simple micro-interaction. This will help you a lot in the design phase.
- Areas to improve: Focusing on the weak areas for other products can be a great competitive advantage for you.
- Customer reviews: Summarization of reading customer reviews on the internet, social media and review sites.
Note: Always keep screenshots for you competitors especially for inspirational features, visuals, and interactions.
Now you have identified what of these criteria will help you in your project. It’s time for researching to start.
3- Researching competitors
Try first to go through all of your competitors on a quick tour to get a sense of what they are offering and what they are doing, then set a time for each competitor and start working.
Researching your competitors in not about going to their website or download their application and spend some time using it only. You need to surf the internet researching your competitors, read customer reviews, going to social media accounts, searching for blog posts talking about them and finding quora’s questions about them.
Now we are done with our UX competitive research. Let’s take a break and get ready for the analysis phase in the next article.