You worked hard on your app. Your idea was great, your coding was solid, and your feedback was very encouraging. However, in the time it took you to complete your app, another company came along, had the same idea, and did it bigger, better, or smarter.
Few things can feel as heart-wrenching as working for months, or even years on something dear to your heart, only for someone else to get to the market with the same idea first. However, you don’t have to trash all of your hard work and start over. There is a way that you can channel all of your efforts in a different direction without completely backtracking and starting from scratch.
This is called ‘pivoting,’ and it’s the process of gearing your app in another useful direction without completely resetting. Pivoting allows you to make use of the majority of code, UI, and other features you may have already created, and simply focuses them on a different target.
One of the best examples of pivoting is the story of Odeo. Odeo began as a network that would allow users to search for and subscribe to podcasts. However, during it’s creation, iTunes had become the go-to podcast service. Knowing they couldn’t compete with a monster corporation like Apple, Odeo took two weeks deciding on which direction to pivot their business. The result was a micro-blogging platform we now know as Twitter.
By pivoting their business model away from podcasts and toward social media, a small company was able to grow into one of the most-used services on the internet. Now, obviously, we can’t all be the next Twitter, but the same principles can still be applied to your business or app if a larger competitor has beat you to market.
So, how do you go about pivoting your app in order to keep it useful and relevant in the crowded app store? Here’s where you can start:
1. Look at your competitors and figure out if there’s at least one thing you do better, even if it’s just a small detail. If you find something, gear your app in that direction and expand on that concept.
Here’s a simple example, let’s say you were working on an odometer app for cyclists that would tell them how far they travelled after any given ride. A bigger company does the same thing with a more recognizable brand, GPS, and a bunch of other fancy features. However, if your app calculates how many calories the cyclist burned, and theirs doesn’t, you could pivot your app in that direction, and make it more about health stats than distance traveled. This allows you to keep most of your work intact, but differentiate you from your rivals.
2. Think about a related market or subject you could hit so you can change your audience while maintaining your vision. If your target was motorcyclists, you could potentially switch over to dirtbikers or ATV enthusiasts. A boxing news app could pivot and become a kickboxing or mixed martial arts news app. A beer app could pivot to become a wine or whiskey app.
Remember, the goal isn’t to try and recapture the market you were originally targeting by other means, the goal is to come up with a new market that will require as little change to your app’s core concept as possible in addition to stepping out from under an existing app’s shadow.
3. Don’t be afraid to increase your niche appeal. Find a subcategory of your market and concentrate on them.
Let’s say you have a restaurant locator app for vegetarians that alerts them when veggie-friendly establishments are nearby. If someone else publishes your idea first, you could drill down and instead focus on vegan-friendly restaurants, or restaurants that have gluten-free options. It’s okay to have a niche audience, because not only will it help you stand apart from similar apps with broad appeal, but it will also help you focus your marketing strategy.
Pivoting is essentially enacting a plan B. It’s easy to become discouraged and simply throw your hands up if someone else came up with your idea and finished their product first, but don’t give up. There’s no reason to ditch all of your efforts if you’ve put a lot of good work into them. Analyze what you’ve done well, take a critical look at your competitors, and remold your app into something a different audience can use.
Remember, some of the greatest app success stories happened after they were forced to pivot in the face of adversity. It won’t be easy, but it’s better than going back to the drawing board.
Don’t give up, and good luck!