Why every app creator needs to conduct competitor analysis

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Olivia Doboaca
Why every app creator needs to conduct competitor analysis

Table of Content:

  1. Why perform competitor analysis in app development?
  2. Identify key players in the app market
  3. Analyze strengths and weaknesses
  4. Spot gaps on the app market
  5. Incorporate successful features from competitors
  6. Monitor competition and adapt to changes
  7. Learn from competitors' failures
  8. Why conducting competitor analysis for app creators is a boon
  9. Conclusion

Want your app to be the hottest thing since sliced bread? Invest in some competitor analysis! After all, nothing in the app world exists in isolation. You need to know who you're up against and how you can stand out in a crowded field.

By analyzing everything from their product roadmap and user feedback to marketing campaigns you'll be able to identify what you need to do to win over your target users and dominate your field.

So, if you’re uncertain how to ensure the growth of your product, take a deep dive into your competition and see what they're up to. This short article will tell you how.

And remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but differentiation is the key to success.

Why perform competitor analysis in app development?

Competitor analysis is not just about snooping on your rivals' strategies (although that is a big part of it). It's also about generating ideas for your own app and avoiding common mistakes.

Think about it. Would you rather spend months pouring your heart and soul into an app, only to find out that your competition has already done the same thing (and better)? Or would you rather know what your rivals are up to, so you can differentiate yourself and come out on top?

Let's not forget about the dollars and cents. The app market is a multi-billion dollar industry, and if you're not keeping an eye on your competition, you're leaving money on the table. By understanding what your rivals are doing right (and wrong), you can adjust your pricing, marketing, and user acquisition strategies to maximize your revenue.

A few years ago, TikTok became a serious competitor to Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat (and Vine, RIP!). Instagram wasn't going to take this lying down—they launched Reels, a direct copy of TikTok's format, along with a thorough competitor analysis of TikTok and improved it even more. As a result, time spent on Instagram increased by 10% in the month following the launch of Reels.

Identify key players in the app market

One way is to conduct a thorough search of the app stores. Apple’s annual App Store Award Winners 2022 is also an interesting place to check. Look for apps that are similar to yours in terms of functionality, target audience, and features. Make a list of the top-performing apps in your category that seem the closest to your own—even a basic spreadsheet will do for starters.

A snapshot of competitor analysis performed in AppFollow
A snapshot of competitor analysis performed in AppFollow

Social media can also be a great tool for identifying your competitors. Look for popular hashtags related to your app's niche and see which apps are being talked about. Follow your competitors on social media and keep tabs on their marketing strategies—it’ll come in handy just as well.

Once you’ve made a list, it’s time to take stock of how they’re performing. This is what you should be on the lookout for:

  • App reviews & ratings: see what the app is being praised for, and why some people raise pitchforks. There will be both. We would also recommend aiming for 3-4 star long read reviews. In our experience, this is the best type of feedback to analyze, as users put a lot of thought into them.
  • Keywords: look for the keywords in the app’s title, subtitle, and description. You can try your skills with this app: Legend of Slime: Idle RPG War (not affiliated in any way). Drink a shot every time you spot “RPG” or “Idle clicker” keywords. That’s what you should be tracking.
  • Screenshots and videos: check if the content is engaging and visually appealing. Some approaches to highlighting product features might be worthwhile for your app as well.
  • Localizations: if your competitor’s app is localized into other languages, be sure to check if they also localize keywords. If the app itself is very successful, it might be a good idea to yoink them as well.

Analyze strengths and weaknesses

Firstly, let's talk about strengths. What makes your competitors' apps stand out? Is it their user interface, their marketing strategy, or their unique features? Take a look at their app reviews and see what users are raving about. Are there any features that users love and that your app doesn't have? If so, you may want to consider adding them to your app.

Weaknesses are equally important to identify. Is there something that users consistently complain about in your competitors' apps? Maybe their app crashes frequently or their customer support is lacking. Take note of these weaknesses and ensure that your app doesn't have the same issues. You can even use these weaknesses to your advantage by highlighting them in your marketing strategy and offering a solution through your own app.

We all know DuoLingo. It has 2.9m paid subscribers as of 2022. The app managed to break off from the competition primarily with the right approach to gamification of learning (compete in the leagues, throw passive-aggresive high-fives at your friends, boast about achievements). But on top of that, Duo (the owl) has a presence. Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, all have Duo the Owl doing silly stuff, sending angry notifications, and generally having “a soul”. Something no other competitor managed to do in the same capacity.

Don’t forget the pricing strategies. Are they offering their app for free with in-app purchases, or are they charging a one-time fee? How does their pricing compare to yours? You don't want to price yourself out of the market, but you also don't want to undervalue your app.

Example of changing pricing strategy by adding a lifetime subscription option.

Finding the right pricing strategy can be a delicate balance, and best done as you go. It’ll be easier to mitigate negative reviews if there aren’t too many of them, and be sure to always explain why the price is hiking up. “Greed” is not a valid answer.

Spot gaps on the app market

To find the one you can capitalize on, pay attention to what people are talking about online. Social media can be a great tool for identifying trends and needs. Are people complaining about a specific problem that could be solved by an app? Are there certain keywords or phrases that are trending that could be turned into an app concept? Head to the biggest community hub of your newly-identified competitors and see what people are complaining about. That could be a forum, a Slack community, a Facebook group, or a Discord server. Check out the app’s website and app page to get there.

That could be the review section of your competition just as well. Are there features that people are requesting that don't exist yet? Are there any frustrations or pain points that users are experiencing that could be solved with a new app? If so, grab it and develop the feature like crazy. It doesn’t need to be perfect, so long as it’s out. You can always improve later.

Example of review about missing feature
Example of review about missing feature

Incorporate successful features from competitors

Oh no, but what if I get sued?

It’s okay, just don’t use the same branding or trademarks. Incorporating successful features from your competitors isn't necessarily a bad thing. If it was, we would have one messenger app, one social media platform, and one calculator app. Have you seen how many calculator apps are out there? Too many.

In fact, borrowing ideas is common practice in the tech industry. The key is to do it in a way that feels fresh and innovative, rather than simply copying what's already out there.

You can do it by taking a feature that's successful in one app and adapt it to fit the unique needs and goals of your own audience. For example, if a competitor has a successful chat feature, you could adapt it to fit your own app's purpose. Facebook really wanted the Like button once they saw it on Twitter, so they yoinked it. No one remembers it now.

Monitor competition and adapt to changes

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your competitors' apps. Check out their app listings, play around with the app itself, read reviews, and look for patterns. This can yield new ideas or pitfalls to avoid—especially if you check their review section and filter by 2-3 stars (the most constructive feedback, usually).

If you haven’t been sold on the idea of monitoring their social media, maybe we can do it this time. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and wherever else they are, and keep an eye on what they're posting. There are announcements, popular requests, giveaways, and other interesting things you should know about and adopt (maybe).

Finally, you can automate your spy-op with certain solutions, especially when it comes to the app stores data. Yet another shameless plug, but AppFollow can do this no problem—including the keywords they use, the sentiment they have at the moment, and many other things.

Learn from competitors' failures

Let's face it; the app market is a cutthroat business. Competition is fierce (how many millions of apps was it on the app stores, combined? 5, by now?), and only the strongest survive. What sets successful apps apart from the rest is simple: they learn from their failures and adapt accordingly.

Example: Vine, the beloved six-second video app, was once the hottest thing on the internet. But like all good things, it came to an end, leaving us with only memories and countless Vines of cats doing silly things. Apart from a non-existent monetization strategy, Twitter's mismanagement and lack of vision led to Vine's untimely demise. It gave an idea for TikTok though, which is nice. But here’s the failure that was not taken care of.

Learn from competitors' failures

Watch closely to the smaller shortcomings of your competition, much through the very same channels we’ve recommended before: social media and reviews. You’ll see what the users are angry about, you will see why the app is in the red all the time. Say thanks for someone else taking the fall and being an invaluable lesson, at their own expense.

Why conducting competitor analysis for app creators is a boon

In fact, many boons! Here’s why:

Keep it fresh

Don't be a stale. By checking out what your competitors are up to, you can stay on top of the latest trends and tech in your case and keep your app relevant.

Spot the gaps

Your competition is like a jigsaw puzzle, and you need to find the missing pieces. By studying your rivals, you can identify gaps in the market and create an app that meets the needs of your users.

Market like a pro

Analyze your competition's marketing strategies and you can learn what works and what doesn't. Adjust your own approach to reach your target audience faster.

Know your audience better

Get a better sense of what your target audience wants and needs, and create an app that caters to them in every sense. What’s more, you’ll be able to keep it that way.

Avoid pitfalls

No one wants to use a confusing app. Same goes for bad features. With your research, you can identify features that work well and those that don't, and create an app that provides a seamless user experience.


Happy users, happy reviews. Happy reviews, more users! More users, more payments. More payments, more growth! Should we say more?


Your competition will provide you with invaluable insights that you may not have at the time. They’ll show you why you shouldn’t do certain things. You’ll see what you should have just as well. All of this, combined, will help your app stay on top of its game, especially if you continue to monitor, like a hawk, and keep up-to-date on everything.

AppFollow is keen on helping you achieve that with 90% less headache. Ask us how—the contact button is in the upper right corner of your screen. If you want a more in-depth look at using competitor analytics and VoC in the mobile field check out our upcoming webinar below:

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