Launching a mobile app in a crowded and competitive marketplace can feel a bit like running for president as a third-party candidate. The bigger companies with deeper marketing pockets get most of the attention, regardless of the quality of their products.
New faces have to work extra hard to get the attention needed for success. They aren’t simply facing a feature war; they’re also battling existing user installation, and most companies are lucky if their apps reach 50 users.
While users may spend 63 percent more time in apps each month than they did two years ago, the 200 biggest apps still make up more than 70 percent of user engagement.
So how do you get your foot in the door and your app on people’s phones?
Oversaturated mobile spaces
Landing with your target audience is tricky, and some markets are particularly oversaturated. In the realm of photography-based apps, Instagram isn’t so much an 800-pound gorilla as King Kong himself, and he’s not coming down from the Empire State Building any time soon.
Users want to open Instagram, see something new, and keep that endorphin rush of discovery for as long as possible. It’s all about passive, time-wasting photo exploration, and any app trying to compete with that behemoth is facing an uphill battle.
Location check-in sharing is another area with so many competitors that it’s questionable whether joining the fray is worth a developer’s time. Few applications have proven able to keep up with the market-leading Foursquare and Yelp.
Both have entrenched user groups and massive networks of data that are nearly impossible to replicate, and most apps that enter the space piggyback on the juggernauts’ data. It doesn’t take long for users to question why they’re bothering with a third-party app when they could go straight to the source.
Embracing a mobile niche
Just as a third-party candidate might stand a chance of winning a local or state office, it’s better to avoid these oversaturated markets and move in a more focused direction. The solution? Embrace the niche.
A new photography app that’s built for everyone to share pictures of everything will be tough to get off the ground, but what about a photography app that’s specifically built to service the needs of construction sites? A company could set up an account, add its own private group of users, and share updates as progress is made.
By narrowing the market for an app, you improve your chances of gaining traction and building revenue. Products built for a select group of users that offer specific and vital tool kits can be extremely valuable. Just as people will pay for experts in the medical or professional fields, they will also pay for software that’s tailored to their needs.
There are three simple steps to finding the perfect niche:
1. Look over your career.
Is there a piece of software that could have made your life easier? If you’re scratching your head, try talking to friends and colleagues. Can they think of anything that would improve their daily operations?
2. Adapt your ideas.
The audience for the first app you come up with will almost always be too broad. It’s easier to get excited about features and design, but before you start developing, look at ways you can dive into your idea. What possibilities does it offer? Can you adapt it to solve a very specific problem? If so, you’re on the right track.
3. Become an expert.
Once you’ve found your niche, you need to become an expert in the field. If your product doesn’t address the needs of its potential user base, it will never be successful. Do your research, and get passionate about your subject. Expertise is the key to success.
Software built like a Swiss army knife can be great, but it relies on a big investment to gain traction. By narrowing your focus, you can ensure that your marketing dollars go further and that your audience is willing to invest more in a product that solves specific problems. It won’t be long before other people are asking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
This article has been edited and condensed.
Q Manning is CEO of Rocksauce Studios, which crafts custom mobile apps for all platforms. Rocksauce Studios’ goal is to create an amazing user experience that can succeed in the marketplace when coupled with powerful, eye-catching app marketing. Q is on a constant quest to find the magical hook in each project to help it take the world by storm. You can find him hanging out in the Rocksauce creative loft, drinking coffee, or singing karaoke. Connect with @QManning on Twitter.