This resource explains what a product comparison template is and how a product or feature comparison can add value to your product management framework and growth plans.
Knowing what your competitors are up to is one of the classic rules of running a business. If you don’t know what your competition is doing, how can you expect to stay one step ahead of them?
In product management, comparing your product and product features to your key competitors can be one way to help you create a more robust and product roadmap and strategy.
From direct to indirect competitors, understanding why a consumer would choose an alternative product over yours is key to product development and business growth. By comparing your products, you can give your brand a competitive advantage.
If you’re a new SAAS business entering the market, a product comparison can help you understand the market landscape better and find opportunities to disrupt and carve a strong niche. If you’re an established business looking to grow, a product comparison can help you understand how your competitors evolve and ascertain new opportunities and threats.
What is a Product Comparison Template?
A product comparison template is often structured as a table (or group of tables) that you fill with information about your product and the competition’s products.
But product templates could be done via other methods like data visualisation tools and charts.
A product comparison template should make it relatively easy to quantify and assess how your competitors bring value to your shared target audience.
If you use a spreadsheet template, most product managers start by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their product against their top direct competitors. The standard approach is to list all product features your business and competitors have. Then, you would determine availability and score each feature based on usability and customer experience.
A competitive analysis using a product comparison template makes it significantly easier to answer some of the most important questions a business needs to understand. These include:
- Who are your biggest competitors?
- What other features are they focusing on that you aren’t?
- What is the market share of your competition?
- What are they doing better than you?
- What are you doing better than them?
- What differentiates your products?
- How do your prices compare?
- How can you use those differences to gain a competitive edge?
By answering those questions, you’ll deliver key insights to both the product development team and the marketing team. You can then use this information along with other business functions to make educated decisions on how to evolve your products and gain a more significant market share.
How to Create a Product Comparison Template?
Here’s our quick overview on how to get started.
1: List your Competitor Products
Your first task is to create a list of key products positioned in the same consumer marketplace as yours. Make sure you list these along with a brief description of each product.
That description should include:
- A general description of the product (what it does, how it looks)
- The product’s purpose (how is it intended to be used, and what pain points it resolves)
- Practicability and how functional it is
2: In-Depth Research
A good starting point to begin your research is understanding how your competitors market their products. This could be anything from their ad campaigns to social media content and their website product pages.
At this stage, it’s also a good idea to buy or get access to the products you’re competing against. Not only does this give you more insights into the experience of their customers, but it also gives you a new perspective on what gaps your competitors may have. This is something every product manager should do.
But an in-depth research stem beyond testing the competing products yourself. It requires 360 feedback on your competitors’ products across a broad group of people.
3: Make your Product Comparison Template
There are three different types of templates you can create for your product comparison. These are:
- Qualitative: Comparing the products in the most basic way. This method entails listing the features of the product and ranking them from 1 to 10. A Product Manager would allocate the scores and identify which of the products have features you’re missing.
- Quantitative: More in-depth, this requires the product manager to list the features of each product and allocate a weighting to each feature based on its value. A total score is calculated, giving you an easy way to visualise where you sit on the product market.
- Comparison: This is a list of the features where you assess which features you have that your competition doesn’t, and vice versa. And for common features, you would score and assess how you stack up against the competition.
There is no one set way to structure your product comparison template. There are many ways to create a template. However, a common approach is to start with a spreadsheet format to plot various information across the top competing products.
Here’s how that can look like.
How Many Products to Compare?
It’s recommended that you start with a comparison of your five closest competing products. Any more than that, and you risk overloading with information and research that can negatively affect the ROI of creating the comparison template in the first place.
Comparing five products, whether for in-house use only or you plan on including the table in your marketing, means that you’re less likely to confuse the reader and stay focused on your key competitors.
One of the goals of a product comparison is to make it easily readable and understandable by anyone, whether that’s internal stakeholders or potential customers.
So, keep your competitors’ list concise.
Conducting Product Comparison Research
There are lots of potential stages when conducting product testing for comparison. Ideally, you should have purchased or had access to the competing products so that you can use and test them personally. If that’s out of your budget or not accessible, you can start your research by looking at the reviews and testimonials that you’ll find online.
It’s also a good idea to ask the target buyers and users if they have ever bought or used the products of your competitors. That, too, can give you valuable insights that you may not experience in addition to your own assessment.
If you are looking to discover other competitors, a Google search can be a great start. Type in the name of your competing product and then add ‘Vs’. The autocomplete feature will then show you who Google considers being the main competing products and companies. This may not include your product or your business.
Tip: When using Google for your research that you may stumble across reviews that were paid for or sponsored, and therefore biased. Make sure that you’re only making a record of valid reviews from real and verified reviews.
And finally, for concrete comparison research, you can do focus groups where you get a group of users to test and use your product and your competitors’ and collect qualitative and quantitative feedback.
The Goal of a Product Comparison Template
Once you have your complete template, you can start to look closer at the features of each competing product. You can start asking questions about those features, such as:
- Does our existing product need to be scaled up to include those features?
- Do our consumers want those features?
- Is adding those features going to unduly affect the ROI of a digital product?
- Is your price point accurate compared to what other products offer?
When it comes to product development, it’s critical to be clear on where your products are positioned in the marketplace. If your product positioning is an area you need to further work on, a product comparison template can clarify how to best position your product and business.
Product comparison needs to be done with a strategy and purpose behind it. Before starting your product and feature comparison exercise, you should identify the key goals and objectives.
The outcomes and insights from a product comparison should give the business guidance and clarity on how they’re positioned in the market and what competitive edge and gaps they might have. The outcomes should not dictate a list of features you need to develop just because your competitors’ products have them and you don’t.
This is one of the fastest ways to make unnecessary investments in product development. Not all consumers will want or care about those features, and developing them may not have an impact on your growth and profit.
Take more time to understand why your competitors created these features in the first place, what true value they provide and how does your target audience and buyer use them.
The foundation of product comparison is research. The more in-depth research you put into understanding the competitive landscape, the easier it will be to stay one step ahead.