Functional Competitive Research

3 min read

It doesn’t matter what kind of product you’re planning to create. Chances are, someone has already done the exact thing. Creating a new product means entering a competitive race, and in order to win, you need to know who your competitors are.

What is competitive research and why is it needed?

By analyzing competitors, you can assess your position in the market and develop an efficient marketing strategy. It also allows you to conduct a deep functional research, which is needed for discovering your own advantages and evaluating the competitors’, collecting references, finding mistakes etc.

Competitive analysis is a powerful marketing tool that, if conducted correctly, positively affects the product and its creators. But how to find your competitors and how to analyze their products? Let’s find that out. 

Where to begin

Before you start analyzing competitors, you need to decide on your personal goal. Maybe you are working on a new product idea and need to decide on an MVP scope, or you are trying to find new ideas for a mature product, or you are working on a specific feature and looking for the best way to implement it. The purpose of the analysis influences the list of competitors and the set of parameters you are to look at.

How to choose competitors

There are two factors that distinguish competition between projects: targeted audience and the problem a product solves. If both factors coincide, the competition between products is direct. If the audience is the same, but the problem isn’t – the competition is indirect. Among direct competitors, the key ones are those that can directly affect the success of your product. For example, when your targeted audience actually finds the competitor’s product helpful and uses it. 

If the objective of your research is identifying MVPs or searching for new ideas for a product, then direct competitors, or better, the key ones, are suitable for analysis. By researching the functionality of products, built for the same targeted audience and solving the same problem as yours, you can determine which features are most popular, which are better supported, and which are unnecessary.

If the purpose of your research is to collect references for the implementation of a specific feature, both direct and indirect competitors will do. In this case, the purpose of the product is not as important as the audience is. 

Not only other products themselves can be considered competitors. Different ways to solve the problem can also serve as ones. For example, in order to satisfy hunger, you can order some food online, or cook something yourself. Discovering different ways to solve a problem can lead to interesting thoughts and suggest a competitive advantage.

Where to find competitors

The easiest way is to search the Internet. Just look through a compilation of top solutions from your field. It is best to formulate the request from the point of view of your potential user, and then focus on the problem that you and your competitors are trying to solve. Also, for that purpose you can read professional forums and visit meetups. Even if you don’t have time to actually attend such meetups, just check out the lists of participants. Not all of them will actually serve as competitors, but you’ll figure that out. 

29.03 img competitive research 2 development

What parameters to consider when conducting the research

Competitor research parameters are individual features or scenarios that will be analyzed. If the goal of the study is to identify MVP, it would be useful to analyze different features. For example, if we are making an application for product delivery, we’ll take a look at the following parameters (features): product catalog, shopping cart, checkout, payment methods, delivery progress, repeated order etc.. After analyzing how often these parameters are implemented by competitors, we will understand which of the features are mandatory for an MVP and which are not. Eventually, all that information can help you realize your competitive advantage. 

If we are to analyze a specific feature, then more detailed scenarios would serve as parameters. Scenario is a list of steps that a user or a system takes to get value from a feature. Let’s take authorization features as an example. The scenarios here will be: logging in or signing up, choosing a method, entering data, verifying data, recovering a password, etc. After analyzing these parameters, you’ll find the best way to implement them in your project or even learn from someone’s experience.

The list of parameters can be defined in advance, but during the research, it’s usually being updated..

How to document the research?

The best way to visualize the comparison is drawing a table. It’s easy to make and really convenient to use. 

The comparative table is compiled in the process of the competitor analysis itself. Competitors are arranged in columns, and parameters – in rows. For clarity, you can highlight the cells in different colors: if a competitor has a feature/scenario which is well implemented, highlight the box in green. If the performance is mediocre or even bad – use a red color. The feature/scenario is implemented but not supported – yellow is the color. 

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Collection of references and why it’s important

Reference is an example of implementing something in different projects. With the help of references, you can simply explain to stakeholders, designers, and the development team what exactly you have in mind. In the process of analyzing competitors, you can collect a lot of useful materials for further work.

You can create a visual board and place your references there, so everything is gathered together at the same place and forms a whole picture. You can sort them by parameters, as a diagram or a user flow. 

Based on the analysis of competitors, you can identify the MVP of a new product, find your competitive advantage and the best way to implement a feature. However, you should not completely rely on competitors and copy their products. To make something unique and useful, you need to combine different research methods, and use your own imagination and expert opinion.

29.03 img competitive research 1 2 development

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