Researched and compiled by: Aaron Gerry
Competitor Analysis Brief - Introduction
Direct Competitors Overview //
Aaron Gerry conducted a competitive analysis on the live chat Saas market to see what other products offer
1:1 customer to business chat functions in order to improve support and increase sales. This was conducted
in October 2016. The goal of the review was to identify opportunities and gaps in the current market, and to
look into future possibilities with the advent of AI, chatbots, and ubiquitous messaging.
The lens with which I went into this audit was to understand the market as a whole, and X’s position as a later
entrant. I approached the reviews as a potential customer might, looking at on-site messaging, the UX of the
product, and in some cases, the customer support.
You can find the raw data in the spreadsheet on the last page.
The category types I reviewed:
These products offer an array of tools and functionality, wrapped into one.
These products specialize in live chat, with a myriad of features built around this core.
These products fundamentally differentiate by building a smart backbone, of which chat is built on top.
Description // Aim to be the "center of
all customer communication." Their value prop:
One unified live chat + help desk + email
marketing + CRM + user analytics toolset,
making tracking users and acting on behaviors
Pros // Well regarded by customers for the
life cycle management capabilities and
tracking of usage of the product (i.e.,
onboarding, capturing slipping leads). Breadth
of behavioral analytics. Insight into how
customers are using product.
Cons // Complicated product to sign up
for. Not the best individual tools. Pricing is
complicated. Unfriendly brand and somewhat
robotic experience through onboarding. Must
chat through dashboard or app.
Description // Quick to setup and easy
to use. Truly free option. Zopim was acquired
by Zendesk in 2014 out of Singapore. Large
international customer base (41% of total),
where messaging app behavior is more common;
Positioned for expansion, especially Asia. A
market leader (8.5% market share according to
LiveChat investors report).
Pros // Clear and simple on-site
messaging; E-commerce focus (i.e., integration
to track chat to sales conversions). Early
Facebook messenger partner (Zendesk); Easy
signup via information architecture and
educational materials (never feel lost or
Cons // Limited integrations (seems
intentional to encourage use of Zendesk); Must
chat through dashboard or app.
Description // Smooch is an
indirect-direct competitor. Product has chat,
but primarily building a platform (integrated
communication-channel). They claim to be the
"first cross-channel web messenger," where
conversations/ customer data syncs seamlessly.
Cater to chatbot early adopters (sample bot
out of the box + integrations with Motion AI).
Pros // Delightful sign up and on-boarding
experience (Smooch Bot guides you, shows
value/ use case of bots). Dynamic actions
within messages (i.e., schedule appointment,
purchase in one click). Robust dev tools.
Cons // Tech-centric (need to have the
technical chops to really take advantage of
this); Expensive; No CRM integrations (yet).
Description // First and foremost a
customer service product, focus on bringing
live messaging to the support desk. Business
case around saving time and money, increasing
sales. Target customer has small support team
(1 - 5ish). Strong content. 55% of biz outside
U.S., positioned for growth in Europe. Claim
they have 7% of the market.
Pros // Easy to understand value
proposition (on site); Simple to use product;
Highly rated across a variety of review sites;
Large integration pool; Using content and
inbound techniques well.
Cons // Basic product with limited
functionality. This is for a very non-techy
Description // Focus: Customer support
and ease of use. The most simple tool to set
up (of reviewed tools). Target customer <4
support reps. Demonstrably startupy brand:
Emphasize personality, intentional about
showing culture. Bootstrapped. Thought
leadership in small biz crowd (organizer of
Small Business Web Summit). 7% of market
Pros // Attuned to customer and needs;
Treatment of team extends to treatment of
customers; Personable brand; Deep integrations
with partners (Groove’s live chat built by
Olark. Area for growth?); Strong WOM.
Cons // Severely limited integrations;
Slow product dev (just released a mobile app
in July); Will they still be a major player?
(touting 10,000 customers since 2014).
Description // Major player: 22% market
share (LiveChat report). Fortune 500
clientele; Product likely customized for each
customer. LiveEngage (tool) 1 year on market,
won a SIIA CODiE Award. Don't really sell the
service on their website + limited online
reviews suggests focus on enterprise clients
(i.e., upselling existing customers).
Pros // Unique features: Call-to-text
customer support, expectation setting, and
sentiment analysis. Enterprise scalability and
security; Partnership with GoDaddy to provide
live chat (14 million customers).
Cons // Will this be a core focus of biz?
(Sufficiently different customer than Fortune
500); Expensive for companies with 1-3 support
reps, slow product dev (mobile apps last
updated November 2015).
Direct Competitor - Full-Suite Platform
Clearly articulated product offering. Painful sign up process for free trial.
Direct Competitor - Standalone Chat
Tutorials built into onboarding. Limited integrations. Can’t Find CRMs.
Direct Competitor - Standalone Chat
Only company that puts team
Are they growing?
Actively tries to engage you via chat.
Direct Competitor - Bot-Centric
Smoochbot guides you through onboarding! Rich, dynamic messaging.
Actions and messages sync
Indirect Competitor - Bot-Centric
AI-powered marketing. 1:1 human touch. Ridiculously expensive.
Deep behavioral tracking and insights.
Indirect Competitor - Full-Suite Platform
Deep integration with customers
business’ (and getting more so).
Major investment in tools
Expensive if you want the whole package
Influencers - Interesting Bot Applications
Bot does work for you: Pulls up sales data. Ridiculously expensive.
Bot does work for you: Performs marketing activities
Competitor Analysis Brief - Summary
Direct Competitors Current Marketplace //
There are many existing players in the live chat space, however this is a growing market with expanding
borders. eMarketer expects the total global number of messaging app users to increase from 1.4 billion in
2015 to 1.6 billion this year. In a 2015 report, AppAnnie revealed those aged 13-24 spend more than 3.5 times
overall usage time in messaging apps compared to those over 45 years old, and 25–44 year-olds spent the
most time in the top 5 retail apps (over 2 hours/ day). Mobile adoption continues to increase, messaging app
usage is becoming more prevalent, and expectations around what you can do in messaging apps is changing
(thanks to FB Messenger, Kik, etc.). This is not going away.
Increasingly, the challenge for companies is about capturing customer data and making sense of it, in order to
take an action. Most of the reviewed tools simply present the information to the user, but don’t offer insights or
recommendations from the data itself.
The tech-savviness and needs of customers varies drastically from venture-funded startups, to Fortune 500, to
non-employer small businesses (of which 23.0 million such businesses exist in the U.S). Currently, companies
offer either a suite of tools or standalone chat tool, with Intercom offering the most differentiated option. The
specialized chat tools are generally fungible. There is a huge range in needs and customer ability, and the
competition is not close to catering to all demographics.
Chat could become the new browser. It’s not far-fetched to envision a majority of search occurring through a
messaging app (though this is a long way off). Bots are the hot topic, but the average person does not have
the skill, time, or know-how to impliment a bot of their own (however companies like Motion.ai are trying to
make this easy). Most products don’t yet offer bots.
Competitor Analysis Brief - Recommendations
Direct Competitors Recommendation //
1) Own the blended bot + human double team // Bots are nascent and the experience is less than smooth.
Identify the repetitive customer support tasks that can be “outsourced” to bots and hone in on touch points
where humans make a meaningful impact. Let humans be human, and do what humans do.
2) Make the bot work for the customer support reps // The customer support rep’s most finite resource is
time. Current products make managing conversations easier, or engage directly with the inquiring user, but
they don’t necessarily help with customer relationship or offer in message support. There are not bots
designed to make the customer support reps job easier, whether it is asking it for additional customer data,
searching for relevant FAQ’s, etc. Think Troops or Kit for support reps.
3) Use data to provide recommendations // There is a wealth of customer information, behavior, lifetime
tracking, etc. that these tools can capture. Yet, for the busy small business owner of customer support rep, the
data is simply there to be sifted and sorted; The tools do not (typically) recommend who to reach out to, trends
in customer drop off, etc.
4) Better in-message support // Incorporating a service like Crystal would be interesting, as it would allow
support reps to be able to better assess the situation, and how to talk to the user.
5) Have a position in the market // No one is making the claim of “We are X for Y;” All the messaging is very
generic. Some products target e-commerce or Fortune 500, but there are no strong, opinionated positions.
Methodology and Additional Resources
Direct Competitors Methodology //
The first step was to identify companies to research further. I approached the search as a customer might, by
asking friends what tools they use, searching google, surveying review sites, reading accounts on Quora,
reddit, Product Hunt, etc. From here, I did a cursory review of nearly 20 tools, and selected the final 8 based
on quality and volume of reviews, recommendations, longevity, market leadership, and those with an
interesting position or direction. Again, from the perspective of a potential user, I explored the site, sign up and
on-boarding process, paying attention to messaging and the UX. I captured the information in the spreadsheet
Competitive Analysis Spreadsheet:
Kit Limitations //
I wanted to speak with more customers of X, to understand how they use the product and how they made the
buying decision. I identified potential customers via those featured on site, commenters on Product Hunt, and
people who shared tweets about the product. Many ended up using a competitor, and of those I reached out
to, I only heard back from a handful.
Proposed Next Steps //
If I were to continue, I would speak with additional customers, customers of competitors, and those looking for
a live chat tool to gain deeper understanding of needs and identify customer personas.