Organizations are striving to continuously improve their products to gain the upper hand over their competitors. Every product you can think of has competitors. With easy access to multiple alternatives in the market, customers can choose from more options than ever.
With competition just a few clicks away, establishing and sustaining a competitive edge is the key to customer retention. One of the objectives of software testing is to provide information about the quality of the product. This enables the stakeholders to make informed decisions.
Testing is an intellectual activity that requires testers to explore, question, experiment, and even compare similar products. Several testers limit themselves only to functional automated testing and fail to look beyond these activities. Many testers have no idea about their competitor’s products.
Testers rarely conduct competitor analysis because they feel it’s not their job, and confine themselves to fewer testing responsibilities. Competitor analysis is an excellent way that testers can add more value to their teams. In this article, we will discuss how competitor analysis can benefit testing and organizations 😃
What is competitor analysis?
As a tester, you should be able to answer the below questions –
- Who are your competitors?
- What are the products and services they offer?
- How does your product compare to them?
- What features are unique to your product?
- Does your product have a competitive advantage, and if so, what is it?
Don’t worry if you do not know the answers to the above questions. Competitor Analysis can help you answer these questions. It’s all about identifying your competitors, learning about their products, offering, services and forming strategies to surpass them.
Start acquiring this information by talking to your product, marketing, sales, and customer success teams to understand who they believe are your competitors. Then, all the information you need about them is already available online. Here are a few good ways to get started –
- Look at your competitor’s websites and blogs.
- Follow their social media accounts.
- Analyze their customer logos and case studies.
- Find patterns in the customer segment they are trying to target.
- Compare their pricing with their offerings.
Several approaches can be employed to perform competitor analysis. Let’s understand a simple, yet highly effective way to perform competitor analysis using a feature comparison matrix 🔍
Feature comparison matrix
A feature comparison matrix compares the availability of key features among the competing applications. Let’s see how to create it –
- Collaborate with your product team and identify who your competitors are. Consider direct, indirect, and future competitors in the analysis.
- Start using your rivals’ applications – sign up for a trial or buy a subscription.
- Make a list of available features sorted by usefulness/importance/usage.
- Create a table to compare and contrast the features offered by your competitors with your product. Under each competing product, use ✅ or ❌ to represent features as available or unavailable.
The feature comparison matrix acts as a dashboard to visualize who scores better across the major features offered by the market segment. Let’s see an example for an email app –
Before starting, check with your product team if a feature comparison matrix already exists. If not, work with your product team to create one for your product. If a feature comparison matrix already exists, study it thoroughly and wait till it needs an update. Feature comparison needs to be run annually, biannually, or sometimes every quarter 📅 Involve and assist your product team to update the feature comparison matrix.
Competitor analysis is an opportunity for testers to explore and experience their rival’s applications. SaaS products within the same market segment have a lot of features in common. As a tester, you can identify your application’s features that can be enhanced in terms of functionality or user experience.
Usually, when you work on the same product for a long time, you may miss spotting some important issues as you have become too familiar with your product. When you explore multiple competitors you understand how features should look, feel, and function. You will be able to identify such problems and strengthen the quality of your product.
Additionally, use this opportunity to determine the competitor’s strengths and weaknesses by gauging their performance, security & reliability. Your analysis will benefit your entire organization by identifying –
- Product gaps and missing features in your product.
- Which competing products are better or worse, and why.
- What can be improved or revamped in your product to attract more users.
- Your unique offerings – features that differentiate your product from the rest.
Learn from your competitor’s mistakes
When we learn from our own mistakes, we pay a price for them. Contrarily, learning from other’s mistakes costs us nothing. To outshine our competitors we need to avoid making the same mistakes they did. Analyzing an opponent’s mistakes from the same market segment can guide you to take the necessary steps to be more cautious.
Moreover, strategize your testing to avoid similar issues. Learn from your competitor’s mistakes by investigating and monitoring the publicly accessible resources like –
- Support forums.
- Incident status pages.
- Bug trackers.
- List of open issues.
- Release notes.
- Online/App store reviews.
1. Analyze your rival’s app store reviews, bugs, and incidents
This lets you discover the customer expectations, pain points & frustrations.
- Look for a pattern in reported issues or incidents.
- Make a note of recurring issues if there are any.
- Focus on the mentioned root causes of these problems.
Customer reviews can be a great source for generating test ideas. For Instance, let’s assume that you are testing a video chat application. Upon analyzing the competitor reviews you find the following pattern (Reviews from a random video chat app) –
💡 Learning – As a tester, you would learn the necessity to have tests in place for data consumption. The necessity of these tests probably cannot be derived from your requirement document or a user story alone.
2. Understand what makes customers uninstall apps and look for an alternative
For instance, let’s assume that you are testing an email app. Upon analyzing the competitor reviews you find a few reasons why people uninstall their apps (Reviews from a random email app) –
💡 Learning – As a tester, you would be devise tests that can prevent these issues from occurring, which otherwise would lead to customer attrition.
3. Understand which features appeal to your target audience
(Reviews from a random email app) –
💡 Learning – As a tester, you can advocate for building similar features, capabilities, or experiences in your app that customers love. You can also help the product owner to prioritize the product backlog based on your research 📝
To be a good tester you need to be empathetic with your customers (read this article on how to be a customer obsessed tester for further insights). Competitor analysis is a great way to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and understand your market from their perspective 🧐
Conducting a competitor analysis can help you gain respect from your stakeholders as the information you get from this exercise is valuable. This information can potentially assist your organization in leapfrogging your competitors. Your suggestions and ideas will be considered seriously when you justify them with the data and findings from competitor analysis.
So, when do you plan to conduct your first competitor analysis? 📊