The short answer is, very little, especially in the tactical product development process.
As we look for the next highest-value improvement to make to our products, it is very tempting to compare our products’ offerings with those of our competitors. Lo and behold, there’s always something that our competitors are doing better than us.
“Their product is much faster than ours“, “They have more features than us“, “They’re using AI and we’re not“, “The product is cheaper than ours“.
We can go on and on and on.
It’s therefore, extremely easy for us product managers, to think that by fixing these “shortcomings”, our product will be more successful. It has to be the case, right? Our competitors have researched these features and have beat us in releasing the next best thing that our product should have.
Except that, actually, the latter is just our assumption of what’s going on on the other side of the fence.
Sure, it might be the correct assumption in some cases, but in some cases it may also be wrong. Like everyone else (us included), our competitors make their own mistakes. By relying on the assumption that our competitors are correct, we risk making the same mistakes ourselves, thus losing valuable time to work on and learning more about other changes in the product that our customers truly want.
Moreover, and more importantly, our competition’s target customers might not be exactly the same as ours. And so, in copying other products, there is a risk that we are making changes to our offering, that does not actually give additional value to our own customers.
As product managers we should not be using too much of our time trying to understand what our competitors are doing, but instead we should keep in mind that our focus needs to always remain on our customers and our target audience. By focusing on getting to know our customers inside out, and truly empathising with them, the next best thing that our product is missing, automatically becomes extremely evident. More importantly, this highly increases the chance of success of the new features that we ship.
UXPin recently held a webinar about how great products are not just about features, during which I have shared my view on the importance of understanding your customers in the process of building great products. You can listen to the recording of my presentation in the link below.