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SaaS business

Blue Ocean Strategy: Grow Your Business Without Having to Compete

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Embarking on a journey through the expansive and vibrant world of SaaS, one can't help but envision the vast, uncharted territories of the blue ocean market. This metaphorical blue ocean, with its crystal-clear waters, secluded beaches, and serene environment, is more than just a dreamy escape; it represents a realm of endless possibilities for SaaS entrepreneurs. Amidst the competitive tides of the growing SaaS industry, the allure of a market devoid of rivalry and ripe with opportunity is irresistible.

The concept of the blue ocean market is not just a pursuit of groundbreaking technology or being the first to deploy it. It's a visionary approach where innovation isn't tethered to technology alone but is driven by unique, out-of-the-box ideas. It's about shifting perspectives, exploring new avenues, and delivering unparalleled value. At Eleken, we've had the privilege of collaborating with companies that have successfully navigated these azure waters, transforming their visionary concepts into market-defining realities. In this article, we'll share insights from our experiences and delve into the strategies that can guide you toward your own blue ocean in the vast SaaS seascape.

A turtle near the sea
Image source: Padi.

What is blue ocean?

W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne introduced the concept of the blue ocean in their book Blue Ocean Strategy. Authors believe that the red ocean stands for a market that is overwhelmed with competitors, while the blue ocean represents an unknown market without rivals. While in the red ocean, many businesses sell similar products and try to compete mainly using different pricing strategies; companies try to create new demand in the blue ocean.

The advantages of the blue ocean strategy are tempting:

  • Opportunity to bring a previously unknown value to users
  • Low or almost non-existent competition 
  • You are among pioneers in a new market or niche

If you decide to pursue the blue ocean, your goal is not to be better than your competitors, shifting from red to the blue ocean. Your goal is to get rid of the competition by creating a new market niche. For that, you need to offer a unique value to users.

The importance of value innovation for blue ocean

The most important characteristic of the blue ocean strategy is a new way of solving users' pains, which means creating a solution no one expected to exist but that everyone needed. This is called value innovation.

In their book, Chan Kim and Mauborgne stress the importance of value innovation, offering different tools and frameworks for blue ocean strategy. Authors provide a canvas to measure your value innovation potential by balancing between the value upgrade you would bring to the customer and its cost.

a canvas to measure your value innovation

However, blue ocean solutions are not always successful. Let’s take the case of Motorola. The company used Iridium technology to create the phone that could work in the remote desert, which could become a life-saver for many people. The downside of this product, though, was that it did not work in the buildings and cars, so instead of becoming a market leader, a poor phone became a market failure. It’s a clear example of a blue ocean strategy that didn’t work.

Companies that intend to capture the blue market sometimes fall into the same trap. They have great new technology and idea how it can be implemented in the product, but they rush to the market and forget about linking their innovative technology to value. 

For you to avoid the fate of becoming one of them, first of all, listen to your customers.

Leverage customer insights for blue ocean opportunities

Diving into the blue ocean of market innovation requires more than just a creative idea; it necessitates a profound understanding of customer insights. In the vast and often unpredictable waters of the SaaS market, the key to identifying untapped opportunities lies in deeply comprehending what your customers truly need, often before they know it themselves. This approach involves meticulously gathering and analyzing customer feedback, behaviors, and preferences. By doing so, businesses can uncover hidden pain points and unfulfilled desires, paving the way for innovations that carve out new market spaces. It's about listening to the silent wishes of your users and translating them into tangible, groundbreaking solutions.

What else should you keep in mind? Let's see:

Tips on applying blue ocean strategy

Turtles

Now, let’s talk in more detail how to use the blue ocean strategy on the example of the iconic ERRC framework suggested in Chan Kim and Mauborgne’s book. It consists of four main steps and some preparation.

  1. Analyze industries. First, you should start with a precise analysis of the industry to identify a new trend or demand. Check if customers are fully satisfied with already existing services. 
  2. Define a problem. As soon as you find something that is not as good as it could be, think about what you can do to solve this pain for customers and make them happier with your offer. Do not think about what your competitors have done wrong, think about how you can make the customers' lives easier.
  3. Follow four actions of the blue ocean strategy framework. The authors of the Blue Ocean Strategy book give us a strategy that includes the following points:
the blue ocean strategy framework
  1. Implement. When you have answers to the four questions from above, it’s time to implement the strategy.

To better understand the way you can apply the blue ocean theory into practice let’s analyze companies that successfully coped with this task.

Blue ocean strategy examples

Here are some examples of the companies that created uncontested markets: 

  • Did you know that before unlocking a blue ocean Netflix was one of many DVD rentals? Netflix did not invent movies, but it offered a unique opportunity to watch them online.
  • Uber did not compete with taxi owners; instead, it created an app connecting drivers and customers in seconds.
  • Airbnb changed the whole traveling industry by simply creating a platform where people looking for accommodation would find those who can offer it.
  • Apple is known as the most innovative company. But none of their products were the first to apply the technology they use. 

Apple followed the blue ocean strategy when developing the iPhone. Take a look at the image below and you will find the points mentioned above:

a graph showing how Apple dealt with the blue ocean strategy when developing iPhone

Designing blue ocean products is an incredibly challenging and responsible process. But at the same time, there’s room for fun and creativity. Here at Eleken, we worked on two projects that belonged to the blue ocean market, and we would like to share some of our experience with you. 

Handprinter

Handprinter is a startup offering a product that inspires and helps you contribute to saving the planet by tracking your impact. A product like Handprinter has no analogs in the world and needs to communicate its value proposition and encourage people to sign up very actively. That’s why they turned to Eleken to create outstanding UI and UX that would serve this purpose.

 As there were no similar products that we could look at as a reference, there was a lack of data on user behavior for  us to make design decisions, while mapping out the customer journey for an early-stage startup can be tricky.

Eleken designers have conducted thorough research, worked closely with eco-experts, drafted user personas and intuitive user flow, and unleashed our creativity. As a result, Handprinter became a user-friendly platform that clearly communicates its value. 

Screens of Handprinter platform

In March 2022 Handprinter closed its last funding from a Seed round and continues healing our planet. 

Faithful

The Covid pandemic turned many fields upside down and it touched even the religious life of believers. Going to church was risky, so the idea of creating an online platform for the religious community was hovering in the air. And Faithful is the first platform for preaching online, unlocking the blue island of religious online creators. The platform connects preachers and believers for online sermons. Eleken team was hired to design an MVP for Faithful.

We had a strict time frame and had to do all main screen designs in two months. Eleken designer made one screen after another, and they were approved during regular meetings with the client. The work was finished in 1,5 months. After that, the specs and art were delivered from Figma to Zeplin and got into the hands of the developers.

Faithful screenshot

The interface of Faithful makes the technical side of online preaching as frictionless as possible so that creators can focus on their communication with the community. The signup process was designed to be quick and simple. 

image of Faitful app's interface

The result turned out great: an app has over ten thousand downloads and awesome reviews, getting 4.8 stars on the Google Play store. And the reviews prove that Faithful app was something people were waiting for.

To sum up

The blue ocean is closer than you might think. 

The concept of the blue ocean strategy is not just about technological innovation or being the first in the market. It's about seeing things differently, providing unique value, and solving user pains in ways that haven’t been explored before. Companies like Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, and Apple didn’t just create products; they redefined entire industries by focusing on value innovation. They understood their customers' needs and provided solutions that were both unexpected and highly desired.

Whether you're aiming to disrupt an existing market or create a new one, Eleken is here to help you realize your vision. Our team of expert designers understands the intricacies of the blue ocean strategy and is adept at crafting user experiences that communicate your unique value proposition clearly and compellingly. We focus on understanding your business goals and user needs to design products that not only look great but also provide unparalleled utility and user satisfaction.

image of a turtle saying "Don't forget about great design!"

Ready to dive into the blue ocean with your innovative SaaS product? Partner with Eleken for UI/UX design services that transform your visionary ideas into reality. Let's work together to create a product that stands out in the market, connects with your users, and paves the way for your success. Contact Eleken today to start your journey in the vast, uncharted waters of the blue ocean market. Let's make waves together!

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