A lot of people have a great idea for an app based on an experience they had.  They assume that other people out there will have had the same experience too.  They’re probably right about that.  There are people who have great app ideas, really clever solutions. The problem is that their solution doesn’t have a big enough problem. No one else cares.

Market research is figuring out a few key things: 

  • What related apps are already out there in the marketplace
  • Who are your potential customers and what are their demographics.  
  • What do your customers want
  • What are the gaps in the marketplace given what people want
  • How much are people willing to pay for that thing they want

Google your app idea to get a snapshot of the marketplace.  As you Google search Amazon, Google Play, and the iTunes App Store, you’ll start to form a picture of the types of things that are out there. The market may be flooded with things that do ABC, but there is nothing yet that combines ABC with XYZ.  Or, you might find that while everyone uses a few products that have covered the marketplace, that no one particularly likes them.  They are clunky or expensive.

 

Easy to use, but missing a few key functions.  Why can’t you choose how items are sorted?  Why is this so slow to send updates to my phone?

I would then look at what the different apps did, making a table of the app names and the features, checking off the features that the apps had.  I would be adding a column every time I discovered a new feature. I would then have a list that showed what the apps were and what they did.  It would quickly become clear if there were any gaps in the market.  It would also become clear if the market was already saturated.

 

I would want to know what the number of users/downloads are for a given app.  I would think about what combination of features/price/design made an app more or less popular.  In the example above, there seems to be a connection between the cost of the app and the number of users/downloads.  However, if you were to look at the comments in the app store, you might find that it had to do with the design of the app and how “usable” it was. How many stars does the app have?  People like apps that are free, easy to use, and that don’t break down.  However, depending upon the type of app you are planning, you may find that you get more people who would rather pay for high quality app with no ads than get it for free with ads.  There is a lot of research on price sensitivity that you can Google for.

Once you’ve looked at the market, you want to know who your average user is.  Google for information about who uses the types of products that your idea touches.  For example, if your app is about auto parts, what are the demographics of people who purchase auto parts?  What do you need to do to appeal to them?  Google for the latest information about how many people of of the people in your target demographics- ages, income brackets, and locations have smart phones and if they are more likely to use Apple or Android products.

Knowing who your target audience is for your app is a big deal.  The words you use in your app, the colors, design- really everything about the way your app looks should be influenced by who your average user is.

Don’t assume that you know what your audience wants.  Your idea may solve a problem that no one has or cares about. Your solution may even be worse than the problem in the eyes of your average user.  How can you find out if your app even has a market? If you have done your Googling and read through comments on the app stores, you’ll find themes in what people complain about. The comments on app stores are like a free focus group that you don’t have to feed. If everyone is wishing that the most popular app currently out for your idea worked more reliably, or did a particular function, that should tell you something about what people want.

An obvious and unfortunately overlooked way of learning what your audience wants is to ASK THEM.  Get a small group of potential users together, buy them pizza/donuts, and ask them some key questions:

  • What is the most painful part of the problem?
  • What do they do when they encounter the problem you are trying to solve?
  • If they could come up with a solution to the problem, what would it be?
  • How much would you pay for this on a one time/annual/monthly basis?
If you ask just a few open ended questions, you should get a lot of data about your topic.  Do not underestimate the power of sharing food to create a relaxed environment.  Sometimes the most insightful comments and observations come from the casual conversations that people have between the questions. If you get a group of potential users together who fit the market demographics, and they have no interest in your idea, or if they don’t think that your solution actually matches their problem, that should tell you it’s time to take a step back and rethink your app.  That is ok.  It is better to know this before you develop your app rather than after you have spent tens of thousands of dollars.  If your feelings are hurt by an uncaring market, it is likely that your pride will recover a lot faster than your bank account. Market research doesn’t guarantee success, but it can prevent disaster.