What is the purpose of an app?
Does it streamline a manual task? Help people to take their work with them? Sell products? Provide entertainment? The answer can be many and varied, but a key purpose which should unite all apps is to deliver unique value to the user.
If you’re building another “me too” app because you want to join a trend, the chances are you will minimize the success you could have with it. So, before you get on with the time and resources involved with creating an app, ask yourself, does the world really need it? Are you really providing something unique with a strong value proposition?
What Problem Do You Solve?
Before a single line of code is written, let’s start with the most logical first point; what problem is your app going to solve? The most successful businesses solve a problem and do it better than their competitors — the same rule applies to apps.
While there may be a case for imitation, this quote from author T.S. Eliot puts it into perspective:
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”
So, the problem your app is solving might not be unique, the concept behind your app might not even be entirely unique, but the point is that you find your point of difference. You look for how you can take that solution and make it better, if not solving the problem in a completely unique way.
If you don’t have a clear answer to what problem you are solving, then you’ll struggle to really have a strong value proposition. Without that, you’ll have difficulty targeting and attract users.
Minimum Viable Product
This is another consideration before you begin development; what will your core features be to deliver an MVP? Some may prefer to try to evolve an MVP through agile development measures, however, if you’ve given it due consideration prior to development, you’ll have a good idea of when you have a developed proof-of-concept for testing. When is it time to go out to users for testing?
What Audience Do You Serve?
Your core target audience should always be at the heart of your value proposition. Without that customer, there is no direction for understanding what will be meaningful and actually perceived as value by them. You will also most likely fail at attracting enough of the right kind of customer for your app.
This is really another pre-development task because your target audience is central to the problem you are looking to solve. No apps appeal to everyone, in fact, if you try to create something you think you’ll sell to everyone, you risk attracting no one.
Spend time creating detailed buyer personas and it will help you to create a value proposition which really speaks to them.
How Is Your App Unique?
Every product needs to be able to clearly state how they are different from their competition. You’re joining an app market where there are potentially dozens, if not more, competitor apps already. Why should a potential user go with you over them?
Define exactly how your app is unique as compared to any others. Prompts such as these may help:
- How are you similar to other apps?
- How is your story different?
- How are your features different? How are they better?
- Do you target a different market segment?
- What insight do you have those other apps missed?
- How do you disrupt? (for example, on price, monetization or value).
- How is your user experience better than others?
The bottom line is, if you’re not creating some kind of unique value, while you may be able to have some success, you’ll find it difficult to compete with any large players who already dominate in your category. The answer to “does the world need this app?” should revolve around something unique you can provide which will be valued by users.
Creating a Value Proposition
“A value proposition is the essence of the value that your product or service provides to the customer. It is a promise of the benefits that you deliver.” Optimizely
A value proposition can usually be broken down into a clear statement which tells your potential users exactly what pain you can solve or benefits you can deliver. Don’t get it mixed up with a slogan; “just do it” or “because you’re worth it” don’t communicate what you do and why.
According to HelpScout, there are four key parts to developing an effective value proposition:
- Relatable results — remind customers of how their situation can improve.
- Clear benefits.
- Define real value — do this by understanding exactly how and why customers use your app.
- Place priority on your point of difference.
Check how your competitors are positioning themselves — what kind of language do they use? You want to stand out and be different, but you also want to use language your target market will already be familiar with.
Avoid These Pitfalls…
There are some fairly terrible value propositions out there — in general, here are some tips to avoid creating one of them:
- Use your own voice. You don’t need to fall back on some kind of “business voice” or language that doesn’t sound genuine for your brand.
- Be very specific. Describing benefits which are too broad isn’t likely to draw the audience you would like.
- Avoid “slogans.”
- Always validate your value proposition with your target users. App development can fall into the “echo chamber” trap where assumptions rule.
Copy-proofing Your App
If you’ve reached the point where you’ve created a great app that users are loving, then the copycats are sure to follow. Sometimes they will try to create outright copies under a different name, other times they attempt to create their own version to lure your users across.
Snapchat is one such app where others are trying to follow suit with similar features, including big players such as Instagram and Facebook. So, why is Snapchat still here and still wildly successful? As a Paste Magazine article points out, Snapchat continues to innovate. They keep users interested by releasing new content, clever new filters and in-app features.
This is how you continue to have a valid, strong value proposition. Don’t think you’ve “made it” and assume users will remain loyal — users are notoriously fickle so find ways to keep them interested and demonstrate that you still provide them with value. You won’t prevent copycats, but you can stay a few steps ahead if you’re prepared to acknowledge that your value proposition may evolve over time.
Does the World Need Your App?
Creating a new app takes time and resources, so you want to make sure you’re starting out with a strong value proposition.
“Me too” apps just don’t tend to do as well as dominant competitors and are often a waste of time. What is the point of the app? What will it offer that is unique or different in a way that users will value?
Begin with the problem you want to solve and the audience for whom you are solving it. Assess competitor offers and ensure you are clear on how you are doing something better.
Create a value proposition that is a clear statement of the benefit you provide or pain that you solve. Be prepared to iterate over time so you remain competitive and can safely answer “yes” to “does the world really need your app?”