How to build a product in a competitive market

  • Last Updated : June 12, 2023
  • 3 Min Read
a chess board with all the pieces

Zoho Mail is one of our top products. It offers custom domains, control panels, search, filters, and so much more, but it’s not the only product on the market that has those features. So what makes people commit to a certain product when there are other options?

Consumers choose goods or services that meet their needs the most, but an excellent product will cater to needs that the consumer hasn't even considered yet. Doing that takes perspective.

When you think about how big Australia is, you might think of satellite maps. However, a bird’s view is different from an airplane pilot’s. A bluebottle or shore crab has a completely different perspective of the land to a pedestrian wandering by the sea. Reality morphs based on how you look at it. It's like a fractal—the more you zoom in, the more there is to see.

The SaaS landscape is the same.

Consider the Zoho Mail example above. It has all the features that good email software needs, but to attract and retain an audience, it needed more.

Nowadays, we use social media features in everyday life. People say "hashtag just kidding" when they're not even on social media. What if email could have the same collaboration and sharing capabilities? Zoho Mail has it. You can share an email with a colleague or a team just by tagging them with @mentions. You can have an inbox for an entire team, start email threads, react to comments, and share ideas, all in one tool.

Similarly, many businesses use transactional emails to reset passwords, onboard employees, and send general reminders and alerts. To enhance our product, we included it as a feature in Zoho Mail.

Takeaway 1: Place your product under the microscope, look at it from a different perspective, and identify what more you can offer your customers.

The more we researched, the more potential we saw in these features. We didn't want to stunt their growth, so now Zoho TeamInbox and Zoho Transmail are standalone products.

Takeaway 2: Delve deeper into your offering and identify functionalities that’ll help you stand out from your competition.

This can apply to any business.

Long before selfies came into the picture, people used their phones on the reverse side to take photos. Once front-facing cameras became mainstream, we needed selfie sticks. Then drones became popular in landscape and nature photography, only to be merged with front-facing cameras to create the selfie drone.

Burbn was a social tool for people to share stories of their travels. Users could check-in at places, list future travel plans, score points for checking in and engaging with friends, share photos, and more. Although users shared photos extensively, usage for some of those other niche features dwindled. The company switched from being a jack of all trades to perfecting their most popular feature, and Burbn became Instagram.

The deeper you analyse a need or tool, the more functionalities you'll find for it.

So how do you build a product when there's already heavy competition?

Change your perspective. If you're looking down at Sydney's skyline from an airplane, try looking at it again from your walk through the Botanical Gardens. You'll find beautiful ideas and endless opportunities.

Read next: 12 strategies for building a SaaS product

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