6 Reasons You Need to Explore What Competitors Use Under the Hood to Grow Your Downloads

Ariel Ariel
6 minute read 5/4/21
6 Reasons You Need to Explore What Competitors Use Under the Hood to Grow Your Downloads

Good marketers know that in order to beat the competition, you need to know as much about them as possible. Understanding their download and revenue trends is an obvious must know, but there's another important piece of data you don't hear about as much that offers a wealth of information.

That dataset is your competitors' tech stack. The SDKs and APIs it's using to power the app, monetize it, and instrument it.

Knowing which analytics service a competitor is using can tell you how sophisticated the team is. Knowing if an app is built with native or non-native frameworks can give you insight into how easy it is for that app to evolve.

And that's just the beginning!

But... How Do You Get It?

Apple and Google don’t exactly make any of this data accessible, and most developers are pretty shy about it too, which makes this information very hard to come by, and that's why many developers don't even think about exploring it when they analyze the competition.

With our new(ish) Competitors report, seeing which SDKs any iOS or Android app has installed is easy. Better yet, you can see which SDKs were installed in the past and removed. And all you have to do is select the app.

How it works is a matter for a whole different article, but at a high level, our SDK intelligence analyzes apps and games at the code levels, comparing it against a pre-defined set of signatures we've associated with commercial, open-source, and first-party code.

Let’s put it to use to grow your downloads!

6 Ways Get More Competitive with SDK Intelligence

Here are six questions that knowing your competitors' tech stack will answer to make you more competitive:

  1. Are they investing in product development?. One of the most important questions to answer when it comes to the competition is how active are they with product development. It might seem like a simple one, but knowing whether a competitor is investing in its app can help you set your own pace, so you don't fall behind.

    There are specific types of SDKs that can indicate an app is being worked on, and those tend to come from the analytics and performance categories.

    If a team is investing in development, it's very likely to install an analytics solution so they can understand usage. Analytics SDKs like Mixpanel and Countly, Bug reporting SDKs like Instabug, and performance monitoring SDKs like New Relic are all great indicators that the app is actively evolving.

    If you know some of these companies you'll know that I selected ones that cost money. While there are free analytics SDKs, such as Google's Firebase, it's the paid solutions that give a stronger indication of activity, effort, and investment.

  2. Native or non-native? Regardless of which side of the fence you're on when it comes to native vs. non-native development, it's important to understand what the competition does because they each come with pros and cons.

Apps built with non-native frameworks such as React Native and Cordova and games built with Unity mean that they can (almost) easily compete across both platforms with very little additional effort. Knowing that, you can expect them to be able to move faster than two native apps, likely handled by different teams/people, could move.

But, non-native solutions bring a collection of challenges (aka. disadvantages) with performance and access to native APIs.

Speed and convenience, or performance and stability? Knowing where your competitors stand is important to making development decisions.

  1. Which ad networks are they using? If development is less interesting, let's instead talk money. These days, there are enough ad networks that will help you fill your users' screen (and hopefully your pocket) that it's pretty difficult to choose who to go with.

may developers use a few, but even if you do, there are still too many to choose from. Enough that choosing the wrong one can literally cost you in revenue.

You could try them all, one by one, and see which one works well. But if you give each just 30 days, which is arguably enough to know, you'll spend the next decade evaluating ad networks. And after all of that, you still won't see them all.

Want to save time? Look at the competition. Compile a list of the most installed ad SDKs your competitors use and then try them in your own app and game.

  1. Are they aggressive about engagement? Also related to revenue is how hard they're trying to get users to use the app or come back to the game. A good indication for whether they're doing that is the use of engagement SDKs from companies like Braze (which used to be called Appboy) and Airship (which used to be called Urban Airship).

Both of those services help developers trigger push notifications at just the right time to get people into the app to use a feature, make a purchase, etc.

Like good analytics SDKs, these services have a cost, so you won't see them installed in apps that don't use them.

The takeaway here is pretty easy—if your competitors use an engagement SDK and you're not, you're practically giving them users who churn because they forgot about your app.

  1. What's their support game like? Now, something that I believe is the backbone of any successful app—Customer support. When your app doesn't work the way it should, whether because of an issue or misunderstanding, users need someone to turn to. If they don't have that, they may not continue to use the app. However you monetize, be it ads, subscriptions, or even via paid download, if your users aren't satisfied, they won't continue using the app, and you'll lose revenue.

That's why it's always important to be as accessible to your users as possible. You can tell how easy it is to contact a competitor by looking at which communication SDKs they have installed.

Communication SDKs connect apps into popular CRMs and enable convenient communication via live chat. SDKs from Zendesk and Intercome provide a very strong signal that your competition is making it very easy to get in touch with.

If you are not doing that, you risk the user not continuing to use your app and switching to a competitor. Features get downloads, but service is the key to retention.

  1. Find new SDKs to use. Looking at specific types of SDKs and APIs is very helpful in answering specific questions, but there's one more thing you can use SDK Intelligence for, and that is to improve your own stack.

Whether you're evaluating new analytics providers to replace Facebook Analytics that's shutting down, another ad network so you can get more out of your ad space, or want to add sleek animations to your app, the best place to look for inspiration is your competitors.

Top SDK Charts

In addition to showing you which SDKs specific iOS and Android apps have installed, we take all of our SDK Intelligence and aggregate it to understand which SDKs are most important overall, by store, and category.

Better yet, these charts are free, so every developer can make decisions that are based on real data and not have to guess.

Check out the most installed SDKs charts.

You Need to Know

Being able to beat the competition requires knowing as much as possible about them. Understanding their tech stack gives you important insights you can use to optimize how your app makes money, find new technologies to make development easier, and even identify technical advantages that give you the upper hand.

Your Turn!

SDK Intelligence is another critical piece of the competitive puzzle that you'll get access to with our Mobile Intelligence. Learn more →

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