Indirect Inspiration: Look Outside Your Arena for Product Growth
As part of our PPO service, we take businesses whose products have stalled and help them redefine success and revitalise efficiency through innovation. This week, we’re showing you how exploring the wider market in the digital world is critical to unlocking new inspiration to fuel growth. If you’re managing a digital product, you’ll probably know how frustrating it can be to try and improve it post-launch. While the actual development journey can often galvanise a whole business and excite stakeholders, team members and clients alike, the period following going live can quickly grow stale. As your product loses steam and stops being ‘shiny’, how can you reinvigorate your product team and find ways to grow? One potential solution is to look at your competitors and get ideas from what they’re doing – but in the digital world, this can be a bad idea. Why? Because most businesses fail to spot that their direct competitors aren’t the best source of innovation. In fact, for some industries, relying on competitor activity as a marker for innovation would mean nobody grows. Instead of concentrating on who you think your competitors are, true digital innovation comes when you look outside of your sector to an expanded digital arena. Let’s take a closer look at this concept...
Direct vs indirect
Businesses tend to compete with their direct sector-based competition i.e., those businesses that sell similar products or services to your own. The wider context of the digital world means that you MUST look outside of that landscape to find inspiration. In many ways, the digital sector is almost like another competitor market – it stands apart from what your main competitors do. Still, many of the techniques and technologies used in the wider digital world may have relevance to your product. Companies that have a different product or service offering may still be viable indirect competitors who are worthy of analysis.
Looking at the entire digital landscape means casting a very wide net. It would take up too much of your time to assess every potential ‘indirect’ competitor. Instead, you can focus your intentions on those digital apps and products which exist in a tertiary sector. Perhaps, for example, you are an industrial equipment retailer. Your competitors are all doing similar things, with little innovation happening. What can you do? You could look at other markets and see what digital tools they’re using – borrowing innovations that apply to your brand from fashion, technology, sports equipment and more. Rather than discounting other apps/products because they’re ‘not what you do’, try to boil down the UX concepts behind them. The feature that allows a hotel guest to book room service, for example, may also be a useful idea to inspire a social housing provider’s repair reporting tool.
Identifying future trends in a sector-agnostic way
In some industries, your indirect competitors are often further ahead with specific features/functions/technology than any of your direct competitors. These innovations can be used to map out future trends that predict the adoption of these technologies in your own sector. This, in turn, allows you to plan innovations that get ahead of the trends and ensure you emerge at the head of your direct competition.
Redefining your SWOT analysis
You may already have a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis for your business or your product, but do you have one that considers the wider arena? Take a step back from the product itself and analyse the wider market, identifying the indirect factors that may impact your product both positively and negatively.
For example, have you considered how a specific platform update or new handset release may impact your product’s functionality? You need this analysis as a point of reference for ongoing development, or your team will forever be playing catch-up. If you’re always devoting resources to fix last-minute issues which have sprung from platform updates, or you’re always scrambling to match a competitor’s new idea or feature that could have been spotted in the wider market months ago, you will never have the freedom to innovate.
A Clear Example: Instagram
Instagram has long been an innovator, but many of its best ideas come from outside of its own sector. The photo-sharing app has grown and shifted as years have gone by, transforming from a platform aimed at amateur photographers to a more commerce-focused marketing tool. A huge shift in Instagram’s revenue model came from indirect competitors. The brand began to utilise eCommerce shopping tags that allowed retailers and influencers to link to a purchasable product from a photo. Taking this even further, Instagram also launched a Shop tag on its explore page in 2021. These features all borrow heavily from modern eCommerce, including the scrolling gallery images and product check-out process are all taken from outside of Instagram’s initial direct competition.
Choose Komodo PPO
To be successful, you can’t ever stay on the same track and expect things to change. If you can’t see past your arena or understand your product, bring your problems to us. Our PPO service aims to solve this challenge for you. We’ll come on board as a third party to help you get an external perspective of your product and its journey so far. We’ll look at your customers, product and arena to identify routes to innovation and help get you back on track. Contact us today to get started.
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