There are few industries that are as competitive as the mobile software industry. Customers have such an abundant array of mobile software options at their fingertips that developers have gone beyond competing for customer’s dollars to simply competing for their attention. This has led to the advent of some brilliant and innovative revenue strategies ranging from freemium business models to in-app purchases of additional app features.
It’s possible that many of the apps at the top of the pile owe their success to a large streak of luck. With enough developers crafting apps to solve common customer problems, at least one or two will inevitably shine and outperform their imperfect competitors.
But, in all likelihood, the best apps on the market didn’t get to where they are purely by luck. They got there with careful planning, steady iterations, and by doing something that developers overlook all too often — studying and besting their competition.
In that sense, the mobile software industry is just like any other. If you fail to keep an eye on your competition, you can expect to live or die based on either luckily and miraculously beating your competition despite being oblivious to its weaknesses, or — more likely — watching your app slowly fall into obscurity and blend in with a sea of flawed fellow apps.
Fortunately, you don’t have to act on hunches or gambles; there are quite a few services that let you meticulously study your competition, as well as the latest developments in the mobile marketplace in general. Here are four notable services that can help you get a firm grasp on your competition and pave the way for your app to offer truly distinct appeal.
App Annie offers a detailed, up-to-the-minute look at the app ecosystem, and it has a few clever accommodations of the data that are very helpful for obtaining a macro-level understanding of what’s selling and what’s changing in the mobile marketplace. Their Top 5 Matrix provides a bird’s eye view of the most popular paid apps and free apps in each major category, as well as the highest grossing apps for each niche. Viewers can also explore the app market trends for any country with an iTunes presence. Were you aware that the most popular apps in the United Kingdom are vastly different from those in the United States? If you didn’t, you could be missing insights, sales, and opportunities by ignoring this readily-available data.
App Annie has distinct sets of data for the iPhone, iPad, and the Google Play Store, and these distinctions can be surprising. If you thought that apps generally enjoy the same success (or struggle with the same lack of notoriety) across all mobile platforms, you should take a second look using App Annie’s mobile metrics.
AppTrace offers similar mobile market information, but it’s presented in an app-specific way that allows you to study historic information for specific apps. If you already have a clear idea of who your competition is, you can look at your rival’s performance over time, including the upticks or slides in sales caused by new version releases. If you’re wondering if your competitor’s latest updates caused a rise in rank or a nosedive, AppTrace is the ideal place to find out.
AppTrace is 100% free, and they even offer to deliver a weekly app data report via email, leaving you little excuse to stay in the blind and every opportunity to keep an eye on your competition.
Xylogic calls itself “the most comprehensive source of free app stats,” and it’s hard to argue against that claim. Not only does Xylogic offer robust monthly reports on every mobile market and platform, but they also have resources that guide you towards turning their information into actionable next steps. This is a welcome complement to the reports, especially for data heads who become hypnotized by page after page of riveting results and never end up making use of the insights within.
Xylogic spans every major mobile market, including Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. If you’re undecided on which mobile market to enter with your latest app idea, Xylogic’s comparative statistics would be a great way to make an objective determination and a confident, informed decision on which platform offers you the best chance of success.
AppMonsta probably wins the award for the most detailed data. They offer their mobile market insights in the form of a sortable, flexible spreadsheet, usually boasting over 15,000 rows of data. For developers who want very specific figures and who enjoy manipulating their own data instead of enjoying pretty, more palatable reports from the other mobile market watchers, AppMonsta will be a perfect fit.
One particularly impressive offering form AppMonsta is their Sentiment Analysis, where they take subjective, often-long-winded app reviews from customers and aggregate and quantify the information with an “Exuberance Index,” an “Addiction Index,” and a “Crash Index.” That’s a lot easier than pouring over more than 60 million hand-written app reviews.
If you haven’t been keeping track of your competition, or if you’ve been basing your business decisions on hunches, rumors, or personal experiences, you’d be well-advised to gain a more global perspective and watching the mobile marketplace with your choice of mobile market research services. Don’t take a shot in the dark with your next app; study your competition, probe for weakness, and build with a purpose!
Do you keep a sharp eye on mobile marketplace metrics? Do you have a preferred source?
Peter is Chief Digital Officer of CuriosityStream, a multi-platform nonfiction streaming service by the founder of Discovery Communications (Discovery Channel, Science Channel, Animal Planet, etc.). Peter is also Co-Founder of True North, a management consulting firm and digital marketing agency with clientele that includes WebMD and Salesforce.