In an overcrowded market, how can you make your app stand out from the competition?

By Yi Li (CEO, Orbeus)

Apps are such a central part of everyday life for millions of people today that it can be easy to forget that they are a fairly recent phenomenon.

The Apple App Store debuted in 2008. By July 2014, there were 1.2 million apps available at the App Store. Apple has registered over nine million developers and recorded more than 75 billion app downloads.

That’s a crowded marketplace by any measure. But even in a saturated market, it’s possible to successfully launch a new app. My company, PhotoTime, launched a photo management app in 2014 that quickly gained marketplace traction, garnered rave reviews from users and was featured by the App Store in “Best New Apps.”

How did we do it? Here are some tips based on our experience that can help you successfully launch a new app:

1. Make Sure Your New App Addresses an Urgent Market Need

In the early days of the app revolution, it might have been possible for companies to launch new apps and generate a huge response even if the app didn’t solve an essential problem or provide a unique entertainment experience. But people aren’t downloading apps just for the novelty of it anymore. In the fiercely competitive app ecosystem, you have to stake out new territory to make a splash. Advanced technology that solves a real-world problem can set your app apart.

That’s the approach that worked for PhotoTime, which combines cutting-edge technology with a concept that met a genuine and urgent market need. The way people take and use photos has changed dramatically over the past decade, but most of us are still using the equivalent of digital shoeboxes to store these precious images.

Our app uses image-recognition technologies that see photos like people do, automatically labeling images with keywords and recognizing faces, objects, scenes and other attributes to group them together. It resonates with users because it’s a practical solution to a real-world problem.

2. Get Users’ Creative Juices Flowing

The ability to make users’ lives easier by solving a problem is a great value proposition. But if your app can go beyond the basics and give users a creative outlet, that’s even better. People love to get creative, which explains the popularity of apps that allow users to sketch, paint, make movies, play virtual instruments and even sing karaoke.

If your app appeals to user creativity, you’ll have a higher chance of launching a hit.

We built creativity features into PhotoTime to appeal to potential users who enjoy using photos to create collages, greeting cards or photo albums for gifts. And the organization functions that make it easy for people to instantly find photos of their dog, their child, their best friend, their European vacation – whether the photo is stored on their phone, uploaded to their Facebook page or on a hard drive – let users focus on their creative project rather than scrambling to find specific images stored in multiple databases.

3. Gather and Analyze Feedback to Maximize User Value

If your app development project follows the typical trajectory, you’ll learn a lot from your initial launch – information that you can apply to make your app better. You may find that users favor features that you didn’t expect to be the most popular aspects of the app, and you can improve those functions.

You may even find that your largest user group differs significantly from the demographic you were targeting. But to learn these valuable lessons, it’s necessary to gather and analyze feedback so you can continuously increase the value you deliver.

After the initial launch of our prototype app, ReKoMe, in March 2014, we analyzed feedback, identifying what consumers valued most about the app, and we used that information to build a roadmap over the summer to refine it. For example, we found that consumers love to keep track of key statistics, like the number of photos, geographical regions covered in the collection, how many selfies they’ve taken, etc., so we made our tracking functions more user friendly.

4. Time Your Launch Carefully to Maximize the Response

Timing can be a critical success factor for your new app. If you’ve built an app that helps college freshmen acclimate to a new city, launching your app before school starts would be ideal. An app that helps partygoers locate Irish-themed bars in metropolitan areas would have a better chance of catching on around St. Patrick’s Day. The timing will likely depend on the nature of your app and the value it delivers.

Based on the analysis of our prototype performance, my team and I decided to rebrand our app to associate the name more strongly with the app’s function. We named our new version PhotoTime, and we timed the launch just before the holidays in late 2014. When people gather to spend time with friends and family, they naturally take more pictures, so we wanted to provide them with a new way to manage the images they generate more efficiently and effectively.

Lessons Learned from a Successful Launch

The competition in the app space is fierce, but as our experience at PhotoTime demonstrates, it’s still possible to successfully roll out a new app. To position your app for success, you have to set it apart in a crowded marketplace.

Remember that an app that uses technology in a unique way to addresses a real-world problem can make a splash. And don’t forget that you’ll likely expand your pool of potential customers if your app allows them to express their creativity.

Make sure you maximize value by gathering and analyzing feedback, and don’t be afraid to make changes – even significant alterations – if they will enhance the user experience. By following these tips, you can successfully launch an app in a saturated market.

What other tips can you offer?

Photo credit: Bloomua via Shutterstock