How to conduct market research for your mobile app?

13 min read
March 25, 2022

So, you’ve decided to build a mobile app. 

You’ve got a brilliant idea and you’re dying to get down to work. 

But, did you conduct market research first?
If the answer is no, remove your hands from the keyboard.

Building a mobile app without doing proper market research is like building a house without laying out the foundations first. 

In-depth market research is essential for the success of your app. In this article we’ll show you why. 

Put your Sherlock cap on! We’ll walk you through all the steps to successful market research.

Why is market research so important

First of all, the app industry is huge. 

According to the latest data, 142.9 billion apps and games were downloaded in 2020. More than 3,739 apps are added every day to Google Play, while 30.3 thousand apps were added to the App Store in December 2021.

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App and game downloads, source: BusinessofApps

You don’t want to rush in there without a plan or strategy, right?

This happened to the taxi app Hailo. Hyped up from their success in Great Britain, they focused on the USA. However, they made a fatal mistake. They didn’t properly research the specificities of the USA market.

Don’t make the same mistake. When your app gets empowered with data from your research, your entrance to the big club will be smooth.

Market research will provide you with so many valuable inputs, such as:

  • audience pain points
  • industry trends 
  • psychology of your potential users 
  • competitors’ strengths and weaknesses

Now let’s move on to the preparation stage. 

Before you do the app market research

Good preparation is half the battle won.

Grab a piece of paper (or open a Google doc) and start writing. 

Who’s your target user? Is it a wider customer base or a more niche one? Take note of their preferences, financial situation (if you’re planning to use a paid model), where they live and their language. 

What is the goal of your app – what user’s problems does it solve? If you’re building a game app, you’ll be more focused on finding UX-based problems.

Try to envision what day-to-day issues your users come across. Make sure you always have on the top of your mind how your app solves your user’s pain points. Especially when building fintech or health apps because the user’s well-being depends on them. 

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Source: Decode

For example, when building a meal planning app, get into the user’s shoes. Think about how your app can make meal planning easier for them.

Will you provide them with general recipes or you’ll categorize them according to their nutritional needs or mealtimes? Maybe your users are looking for something more customizable? Then, give them a choice of adding their own categories. 

In this stage, sketch out your business model. Will the app be free, or you’ll go with the “try before they buy” approach? Do you want to monetize it with in-app advertising or in-app purchases? Or do you think your app will be so valuable and difficult to build that you want to base your app on the paid model?

As you can see, there are tons of business models. It may feel overwhelming, but when you’re done with your research, you’ll be able to monetize your app.

Do a SWOT analysis of your app. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

It’s a popular business technique that’ll give you a bird’s eye view of your app and will also serve as a good roadmap.

If there are other people working on the app, ask them to contribute. You’ll gain more objective insights.

Write down all this information and later compare it with findings from your research. 

Use market research methods

Next, let’s dive headlong into research. But don’t go empty-handed. Arm yourself with research methods, both primary and secondary. 

We’ve selected a few below which can prove most useful for your mobile app.


One of the primary research methods is a survey. You give a series of questions to a predefined group of people to gain valuable information.  Surveys are a highly effective and easy way to probe into the minds of your potential users.

But, if the questions aren’t concrete, encompassing or they sway the user away from the wanted answer, the results won’t be of much use.

Give users open-ended questions at the beginning and narrow them as you go. But don’t go too narrow. Yes – no questions are not useful because they don’t give you conclusive answers. 

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Source: Decode

When you receive feedback, use your best judgment to parse through the good and bad critiques of your app. Don’t get swayed with good ratings or get blue because someone said your app sucks. Sometimes you’ll be more motivated and gain illuminating insights from negative feedback. 

Don’t rely on feedback from your friends or coworkers. They’re very biased. So make sure you survey different anonymous people, people you’ve found on social media or other channels related to your niche.

Give the users an incentive for setting aside time for your survey. It can be an exclusive access to your app, a discount or something else with added value. Also, make sure the survey is not too long. According to Kantar, the best length for a survey is around 10 minutes. 

Creating a survey doesn’t have to be a drag. Lots of online tools can help you automate the boring parts. The most popular ones are Survey Monkey, Hotjar (paid) and Google Forms (free).

Social media listening

People live on social media. In fact, almost half of the world’s population is using some kind of social media. They share golden nuggets of information for your research without even realizing it. 

How to take advantage of this treasure trove?

Enter social media listening. Monitoring what happens on social media that is relevant to your brand, is essential in conducting market research.

This way, you will gain insight into how users communicate with products like yours and, most importantly, what are their pain points. 

If you’re developing a gaming app, lean in your ear into Discord, or if you’re working on an app for healthy eating check out Facebook fitness groups.

You can also make use of social listening tools like Buffer or BuzzSumo. Your good friends will also be Reddit and Google.

But don’t just take information, give out your expertise and help people out! This will help you build authority and trustworthiness. Also, the more you help people, the more they’ll open up to you about their pain points.

Social media listening isn’t just perfect for analyzing your customer personas, but for your competitors too.

More on that later.

Collect relevant data

In the digital world, data becomes real old real fast. What was considered state of the art just a few years ago, now is a distant memory. When conducting research, you want your sources to be trustworthy, fresh and relevant. 

Collecting relevant data is easier with online tools.

We’ve listed some below:

  • Statista
  • BusinessofApps
  • Google Trends (formerly known as AppAnnie) is one of the leading providers of app related data.
Their blog and reports section are packed with free and relevant insights. Find out all you want to know about app downloads, top apps by revenue, competitive growth analysis, etc.

The site also hosts a podcast called Game changers – a good peek into some of the industry’s most successful people.
If you’re looking for even more powerful data, their premium plan can be a wise choice. 

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Statista is a platform with a lot of up-to-date data from various industries and countries. Sometimes you can’t see the tree because of the forest so know exactly what you’re looking for.

The industry overview page will help you narrow down your search.
For some, you can get free access, but most of it is accessible only with a paid plan.

BusinessofApps is an excellent source of not only app data but also news, podcasts and insights related to the app industry. The site also has guides on app monetization, app store optimization and marketing. These will definitely come in handy in your next phases of app development. 

A simple and free tool like Google Trends is also helpful. It’s great for comparing search trends all around the world. So, if you’re wondering what countries are the best user base for your app, you can find that out with just a few clicks.

When you don’t have time to browse around, subscribe and get data about topics or trending searches.

google trends

Screenshot: Google Trends

If you’re looking for more general data, such as the average wage of your users or what the economy is like in their countries, the official bureaus of statistics are the best places for that.

Analyze your competitors

Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer, said Michael Corleone in the Godfather. The same goes for market research. 

Researching and analyzing the weaknesses and strengths of your competitors helps you get a clear picture of industry trends, consumer behavior and things you mustn’t do. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than your own. 

When doing competitor analysis focus not only on their product but the company as well.

Determine who your competitors are. They’re already operating in your niche so it won’t be difficult to find them.

Gather and analyze information

Gather as much information as you can. Find answers to these questions: 

  • Are your competitors privately or publicly owned? 
  • What’s their business model? 
  • Who are their users (where do they live, what technology do they use, their pain points etc.)
  • What problems does their app solve for users? 
  • What are their app’s features? 
  • How much revenue and profit did they make last year? 
  • What’s their marketing strategy?

Tools like Apptopia or Determ can make collecting this data much easier.

Analyze your findings. Can you identify any gaps in their business model? Can you identify their strengths and weaknesses? Can you be better than them when it comes to your own app? 

Do a SWOT analysis

It’s also useful to do a SWOT analysis of your competitors. This way, the differences between your app and your competitors’ product will be crystal clear. 

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Source: Decode

Don’t focus just on direct competitors, or ones similar or the same as you. Widen your horizons and do an analysis of various companies – big and small.

You may not have a powerful infrastructure behind you like the big players (yet), but you can gain lots of valuable insights from their approach to business, users or competitors. 

Your indirect competitors may not have the same app, but their product solves the same or similar problems. Find out how they do it and try to add a new twist to it.

For example, you’re building a calorie tracking app. Besides other calorie-tracking apps, check out water tracker apps or meal planner apps. Take notice of their UX, interface and overall functionality. 

Make use of these fast, free but very effective methods and you’ll successfully finish the meatiest part of market research.  

Apply results to your mobile app

Wait, there’s still work to do. 

Take all your findings, compare them with your starting point and incorporate them into your app. 

If something doesn’t add up, or you realize you’ll have to make some changes, don’t feel blue. 

It’s a normal part of the process. You’ll confirm some things you already know, but somewhere you’ll notice a gap between what you thought you knew and what you found out during research. 

Actually, it’s better to find mistakes in the first stages of your app development than later.

The point is to seamlessly incorporate the findings into your app development process

How to do that?

Group your findings according to themes you’ve researched. For example, open a spreadsheet and create a tab for each aspect you’ve researched.

Make sure to include:

  • your buyer persona, 
  • competitors,
  • industry trends and general overview, 
  • price model. 

Along with your original findings, make sure to include all the relevant data you’ve collected from outside sources. 

Compare them to notes you took before the beginning of your research.

findings 1

Source: DECODE

For example, you can compare the findings on your customers with your own description of the ideal user.

Are there any gaps? Do their preferences and needs align with your business plan?

If you’ve found out your potential user only downloads free apps, you won’t decide on a paid model, right?

Does your app solve their problem? Let’s say you want to build a meal planning app for busy moms. During research you realized moms actually don’t have a problem with planning – they have no meal ideas for every day of the week.

Put your conclusions to the test in an app wireframe. Wireframing is the most time and cost-effective way to see what your future app will look like. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be thorough. The point is to get a feel of the basic features of your app.

Also, you’ll see whether and how the ideal user fits in with these features. Remember, everything is changeable since you’re just at the beginning of your app development journey. 

If you’re satisfied with the results, congratulations! You’ve completed your market research.

out of the box app solutions

Mobile app marketing: steps for better user acquisition

Use these strategies both before and after launch and attract users for your app!

In a nutshell

Your mobile app will live long and prosper if you do the basics right. One of the most important things is to conduct comprehensive market research. 

Through surveys and social media listening, get to know your target customers and their pain points. 

Conduct a SWOT analysis of your competitors and explore industry trends. Analyze your findings and apply them to your app. 

But the research doesn’t end here. It’s a continuous process.

Trends and users change. That means you’ll have to change too.

Regularly feel the pulse of your users through in-app feedback widgets and regular customer support. Also, make your app flexible enough to change alongside (or against, if you’re brave) industry trends.

With successfully completed market research out of the way, building your app will be a breeze.

Written by

Luca Kozina

Tech Advisor

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