Why perform market research
The goal of market research is twofold - you must understand the competitive
environment of the market you are entering and you must learn what potential
users are expecting of your application. This is important for any project,
including open-source software. The lifeblood of any application, and of all
software in general, is its users. If you are not competing for price and value
in the commercial sense, then you will almost certainly be competing for a users
time. In either case, it becomes clear that you will have competition in some
way. Do not neglect proper research simply because you may not have financial motives.
Market research unlocks a treasure-trove of information that will be very
helpful in developing an application that matches and even exceeds user
expectations as well as information regarding the market ecosystem and how your
application may fit in it, depending on the developmental choices you will make.
This information includes things like- expected features and functionality, how
to reach more users, how to retain users, how to stay relevant, and what users
are willing to pay for. With this knowledge, you can build an application that
users will enjoy, and find ways to differentiate your product.
Your market research process may evolve as you discover the most effective means
of research for your particular market. But a boilerplate sample plan can
certainly help if you have no previous experience with this kind of research.
How to perform market research
Market research is one of the components in the application development process
where you will be straying into another field. Large companies have teams
dedicated to marketing, market research, etc. Here, you will do your best as you
go along, constantly learning. You may not have a large team, but there is a lot
of useful data that you can find and analyze on your own.
For each of the applications in your “Developing” list, gather the following
information using whatever resources are available to you (search engines,
Google Play App Store, iTunes App Store, etc.; also, be sure to save your
research in a txt or doc file for future reference):
- Identify your target market and your target users - parents, teens,
mid-twenty-year-olds, gamers, musicians, book-lovers, calligraphy
enthusiasts, etc. The more specifically and clearly you define your target
market, the more effective your actual marketing will be. You don’t have to
limit yourself to one market category per application. However, “targeting
everyone” is not going to be very helpful.
- Speak with people who may fall under your target market. People who are
interested in similar applications. Ask them what they like and what they
dislike about the similar applications. If you can get this info directly
from potential users, you will be off to a great start. This kind of
information is valuable.
- Your target market are those who you must persuade to download the
application. Your target users are those who will actually use the
application. Usually, both are the same, however there are cases where they
are different. If they are different for your case, be sure to identify the
category under which your target market falls and the category under which
your target users fall. One very common example are “children’s apps” whose
target market are parents and their target users are the children.
- Identify your competition - Identify at least 5 applications that are
similar to your idea that currently dominate the marketplace. Take notice of
the general number of similar applications that exist and write that number
down. Then, gather the following data for each of the applications you have
chosen to analyze.
- Application URLs - The app store URL for the product and their website url,
if they have one.
- Application Description
- Application Category - The store category that the application is listed under.
- Application Maintenance - The current release version as well as the date of
the last update.
- Application Size - The amount of storage space the application requires.
- Target Market - Who is being persuaded to download the application?
- Target Users - Who is actually using the application. Often, this is the
same as the Target Market, but not always.
- Hook - What is the applications main “selling point”? Is there something
about it that makes potential users curious and persuades them to check it
out and click download? It can be gimmicky and it does not have to be very
useful. However, it will convince potential users to download the
application. Not all applications have one and not all application
developers know they have added one.
- Pros - The good stuff the application offers. Download the application, use
it and make your own observations. Then, read the user ratings and take note
of what others liked about it.
- Cons - The bad stuff that hurts the overall application. Again, download the
application and make your own observations. Then, refer to the customer
ratings and take note of what others did not like about it.
- Screenshots - How many screenshots are being displayed? Are they tablet
screenshots? Are they mobile screenshots? What parts of the application are
- Videos - Take notes on how they use video to market their product.
- Store Listing Design - Observe the app store page design, specifically how
the product is being marketed in the context of the overall page. Look for
tailored styles, custom images, anything that is not a part of the default
app store. Take note of anything you find. You may have to decide whether or
not you wish to spend time designing your own assets (e.g., a banner
“feature graphic” for the Google Play store). You also want to take note on
how they use these styles, images and other assets to market their product.
- Identify your product’s hook - You should have at least one major
differentiator for your own application. You have knowledge on what is
already out there in the market. Now how will your product be different? It
doesn’t have to be anything special or revolutionary, but it can be. It could
also be some gimmicky feature that would capture interest and persuade
potential users to download the application. The overarching point here is
that you will almost always have competition, and lots of it. Giving yourself
a hook, a differentiator, is a good attempt at getting some share of the
market for your product. It is certainly not a guarantee, but depending on
the hook, it can increase your chances in successfully building a user-base.
- (Optional) Identify potential revenue channels - For each of the ideas in
your “Developing” list, determine whether or not you wish for it to be a
for-profit commercial product. If so, identify potential revenue channels.
- Advertisements - This can bring in some revenue if you end up having a LOT
of users. However, ads are not appropriate for all applications. For
example, you may decide that placing ads in applications that target
toddlers (by marketing to parents as a “children’s application”) is not a
very good idea. Decide whether or not your application is a suitable
candidate for ads and whether or not you want to implement them.
- In-App Purchases - These days, In-App purchases are definitely something
to consider if you are seeking to bring in revenue. Avoid compromising the
experience of the application in anyway that makes it unfair to the free
users. For example, a game where the paying players always win may
immediately lose value; the free players (who are potential customers) may
simply stop using the application, and consequently, you may end up with a
smaller and smaller pool of paying customers.
- Premium Version - You may consider making a paid premium version of your
application. This version would offer more features that enhance the
application experience while still allowing non-paying users to have access
to the free version. I would consider making this an In-App purchase as
opposed to a separate application. That way, the upgrade more accessible and
will allow for users to upgrade at their leisure.
- Other - You can get creative and find other ways to monetize your
application. The previous suggestions tend to be the standard methods of
bringing in revenue. But if you know of another method or if you can create
your own, and if it follows the terms and conditions of the platforms you
plan to support, then go for it and give it a shot!
- (Optional) Identify localizations you wish to support - The more languages
your application supports, the wider the net you will be able to cast for
building a user-base. All mobile application platforms offer localization
support for text and images. So plan ahead of time whether or not you intend
to support other languages. If you speak other languages, consider providing
support for those languages. Be sure to take into consideration whether or
not a market exists in the languages for which your are considering providing support.