Product Development

Competitive Product Development: How to Decode the Competition

As a product owner, the prospect of bringing a new product to market is exciting. You see a gap in the market for a device, software, or mobile app that will make your customers' lives easier or more enjoyable.

But in your quest to make sure you're creating a product with the features and functions your audience absolutely needs and loves, there's a whole slew of market research activity that happens along the way. You're most likely already knee-deep in market analysis, focus groups, and any number of other activities. But there's another layer that's becoming increasingly important in today's markets: competitive testing.

Instead of focusing on macro-level insights, this type of market research zooms in at the product level. It surfaces nuanced, experience-driven feedback about competitor products so you can refine your own product requirements around concrete customer needs. This is important both for new products entering development and for products that have launched and need to stay on top.

When it comes to the nitty-gritty details of designing new products and features with a sharp edge over the competition, the most effective method is to get feedback about your competitor's products from your target market customers.

The Benefits of Testing Competitor Products with Your Target Market

Does it seem crazy to purchase retail units from competitors and give them to people who should be buying your products? Maybe a little — but think about it this way instead.

You can learn a lot by turning your customers loose on your competitor's products. For starters, no one knows what your customers like and need better than your current or potential customers. No one. Collecting user feedback about the competition lets you identify and contextualize their experiences in a way that educated speculation or simple observation isn't robust enough to do.

Secondly, as your market grows, the number and types of features expected in a product also grow and change. By studying the strengths and weaknesses of competitor products in the hands and homes of your actual audience, you'll gain insights into unmet needs, possible improvements, feature performance, customer sentiment, and other opportunities that you can turn into your competitive edge.

Hold Up...What About All the Other Market Research We've Done?

Delta testing your competitor products compliments market research with concrete takeaways rooted in real-world, real-time experiences. It's one step deeper than talking conceptually about what might or could be useful about a new product or feature.

Putting tangible products in the hands of users with time to soak connects you and your customers directly to sentiments and use cases in action. This gives you the insight you need to make decisions informed by real-world context from your current or future users.

Getting the Full Value of Competitor Product Testing

Whether you're testing your competitor products before you design your own or you're learning from competitors to improve existing features, start by making a specific list of questions. Just throwing a product out to testers and seeing what happens is a sure waste of money because it isn't going to provide the actionable insights you need.

Just like user testing your own products, you need to map out what you're going to explore in your competitor's products. What are their baseline features? What's missing? Which features are indispensable to users and which could they live without? What do customers like and dislike? Are you curious about your competitor's onboarding process because they get great reviews for an easy setup?  Write down whatever you're itching to know.

If you're not sure how to narrow your questions down, try looking at the product areas mentioned most in their reviews or identifying what areas of your customers' lives you'd most like to improve through your own product.

With the specifics of what you want to know in mind, approach your competitive test with a map of features that ensure you walk away with useful feedback. By useful, we mean feedback that tells you the specific ways your product can improve on the competition; what highly functional areas your product needs to live up to; and where there are gaps or bugs that leave room for your product to save the day. 🦸

From here, the world is your oyster. With all this juicy, contextualized knowledge to work with, you can enhance your product designs with data-informed recommendations (and a great deal more confidence).

Once your product or new feature is built, you'll use the insights from your competitive test to verify that it's actually living up to the customer requirements you set out to fulfill.

Get Started Right Now

If you're ready to jump right into analyzing competitor products, we can help. Centercode's certified user testing professionals handle the heavy lifting of building your test plan, recruiting your targeted customers, and delivering razor-sharp insights — so you can stay focused on developing a product with perfect market fit. Sink your teeth into our Competitive Edge services by learning more on our website.