Read this little example story below and see if you can relate it to yourself or someone you know:
Georgina comes up with an original idea and takes the time to perfect her execution before she shares it with the world. She is successful, is making lots of sales, and others are taking notice.
Kelly sees that Georgina is on top of her game and decides that she would like to do the same thing. Kelly launches her own idea in hopes of having the same success. The ideas are incredibly similar, but Kelly decides to lower her prices just a tad so that she has more of a customer advantage. Kelly's idea isn't quite as top-rate as Georgina's, but it's close and that's good enough for her.
Megan also sees Georgina's successes and decides that she, too, would like to do the same thing. She hasn't really researched this idea very well, but believes she can do it too regardless. It looks easy enough! Megan opens up her own little shop consisting of the same ideas as Georgina and Kelly, and though she's not much of a professional in this field, she's making a few sales anyways because she has kept her prices low.
The problem with this story is that because of Megan and Kelly's entry into this market (and anyone else who happened to start their own similar business), Georgina's business is now suffering. Not only is there an over-saturation of the same idea, but her followers are attempting to compete by lumping themselves into the same category and slashing their prices. Customers now have more places to purchase the same thing, which can be overwhelming. Georgina is afraid to release new products in fear of others copying her ideas, and she is tempted to lower her own prices just to stay on top of the market. Georgina sees that the other girls' ideas are of lower quality and can't believe that she may now have to compete with lower-quality, lower-priced ideas. Megan and Kelly have unknowingly devalued the market because of their lack of experience and price points.
Nobody sets out to devalue a market or a product, but if you aren't thinking smart about your actions and taking the time to plan your execution, that is exactly what you are doing without realizing it.
There are many similar businesses and ideas out there, but the most successful ones take an original idea and expand on it. They make it totally their own and make their own rules. They don't ever set out to copy anyone.
So if you have a similar idea or business as somebody else, how can you make sure the market continues to thrive? Stop competing. Competition usually means lowering your prices to have an advantage, and this is the absolute last thing you should do... for the sake of your market as well as your own business! Your prices determine the value of what you are offering, as well as what that other business is offering.
If your idea/business is not as top-rate as another, value your work accordingly, but if that's the case, then don't place yourself in the same category as the top-rate business. I think this is where some people get confused. They believe that just because they are selling the same product, it is equal to another business who is thriving in the marketplace. Ask yourself these questions before you throw yourself into the same category as another company:
How much do I know about my idea/product?
Do I have the experience to back up my idea/product?
Do I use the same materials as the other business?
Do I have the client/customer base to back me up?
Do I offer exactly the same thing as the other business?
How long has the other business been operating in this field?
Why is the other business setting their prices at those rates?
If your answers do not line up with that of the other business, you are not yet at a place where you can compare yourself and your business model to them. I think it is important for customers to realize this as well when evaluating a market full of the same ideas or products. Work on refining your idea, or don't do it at all.
Next time you think about basing a new idea off of somebody else's, make sure you know what you are doing. Can you do it just as well? Expand on that idea and make it unique. What can you do to set yourself apart from that other company or person? Your own skills and background will determine how great your idea is, and won't hurt the original business in the process.
When you copy another person's idea, you are not contributing to a successful market, you are, in fact, killing it.