App Developers and the Long Shadow of the Tech Giants

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

The story of David and Goliath is one that has captivated many for a very long time, and for good reason. The idea that “the little guy” can overtake and win against a much larger and stronger opponent is tantalizing and motivational because it inspires drive, hope, and determination. So can smaller App Developers and Studios play the role of the little guys against the titans of the industry such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft when it comes to the app market and still strategically grow their user base?

We have seen apps such as Facebook Places threaten much smaller Foursquare back in 2010, however, what we saw play out in this story is that in spite of Facebook’s whopping 700 million users during that period (notably they are now boasting 2.7 billion monthly active users) as of 2011 Foursquare was a mere 5,000 users away from Facebook’s total at 214,000 registered users, even though they were sitting at 9.5 million active users, a very small fraction compared to their tech titan competitor.

Today, Facebook Places has been directly integrated into Facebook Pages where businesses can integrate their addresses into their page information (users can then “check-in” to those locations when creating posts on Facebook). You could say they have …err… retreated in the face of a smaller studio having had a better strategic approach to grow their user base.

Foursquare survived, and on the other hand, we all know about some notorious examples of giants that have completely failed at securing perpetual dominance (some noteworthy cases include Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Apple’s iTunes, and Myspace). So perhaps even though they may have leverage when it comes to economies of scale and wealth of funding and resources, the monopolistic strongholds we see today might not be so entrenched and secure after all, there always seems to be an opportunity for the little guys, and strategic decision making can come into play to turn the tides even in the most seemingly precarious of situations.

The big question…

What can the smaller App Developers and Studios do to help themselves overcome and win in the fight against the giants who are constantly threatening to become the copycat of the next great app?

For starters, innovation seems to be key of course, with a major focus on making the app capable of solving very specific problems. Be really really good at something unique. Create value for the user in a way that the big guy cannot replicate. Wayfair for example adds unique value by taking all their own photos and measurements of the niche products they sell on their eCommerce website, something their major competitor Amazon does not, and cannot do with billions of products! Being a smaller company can be used against the big guy — the ability to move more quickly and flexibly should be taken as a crucial advantage. Also, the silver lining in a major company entering the ring is that they can bring legitimacy to the market, and potentially help grow it.

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It’s important to note that as app development technology around us evolves and competition grows, so does the strategy and tech used in marketing those apps. Being one step ahead is always going to be necessary in order to get the right attention and compete aggressively in the market. User base growth marketing aided by A.I. technology for example is going to be the future of app CPI marketing. Automation to promote apps in a saturated marketplace is part of the equation and will become considerably more important as the world continues to move towards better technology to do better, faster. This is another crucial aspect of being able to take the lead and win against the big guys against all odds. There is most definitely opportunity for the Davids of this teaming mobile app world to gain “goliath” volumes of CPA and CPI conversions against the same old titans.

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