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How to Research Target Audience for Your Mobile App

CB Insights have recently made a big list of startup post-mortems and concluded that 14% did not make it because they failed to scrutinize their target audience.

That’s not the list you want to hit next year, right? Apple Design Award sounds more like your type of accolade?

Well, we are on the same page then.

Our app development process starts with helping our customers to define target audience for their mobile app before moving any further.

But wait, I know I want to create a dating app for elderly lefties, who are also into gardening and collecting coins.

Okay, then, do you think they’ll need social media profile login options? Will they use the app only at home or on the go as well? Do they want to find actual dating material or just make some friends with other coin hoarders? How do they feel about chatting? Or maybe video/voice calls is more of their thing?

And that’s just a few questions our UX designers asked when I voiced out this cool new app idea

When you don’t know your target audience like your own grandma, bad things happen to your product.

  • It doesn’t sell.
  • Users don’t feel excited about using it and the adoption rates are painfully slow.
  • No one knows how to use your app and why they even need it.

Now, you don’t want any of the above to happen to your company.

So, let’s see how you can hone your app idea into a value-packed custom solution people anticipate trying.


How to Research The Target Audience For Your Mobile App

To make things as simple as possible let’s break the target market research process into two simple steps:

General understanding – if your app offers a list of vegan catering services in NYC and allows placing an order online, it’s safe to assume that your target audience is vegans living in the NYC and suburbs, who are interested in throwing a big event/party.

If you can’t describe whom you are targeting within one line, it’s worth pondering on your app concept a bit more.

Secondary research includes more detailed analysis of your industry, competitors, and actual customers. For instance, you may want to know how many vegans live in NYC, how often do they order food online, how much are they willing to spend on it and what’s driving their purchase decision in this case – price, reviews, ingredients transparency etc?

So, how to find out more about your target market?

Professional Market Research

There’s a lot of market research services willing to dig all the data about any group of people for a hefty price or sell you a complete industry report for a four-digit number. For established businesses, that’s usually the go-to route. Yet, for startups, such costs may be simply out of the question.

So, let’s move to Plan B.

Affordable Market Research Strategies

Here’s where you can grab useful market insights for free:

Statistia – loads of handy stats on everything from mobile shopping trends to coffee consumption per state.

Google Adwords/Google Trends will help you to identify what people are searching online right now and how often. For instance, that’s how “beard oil” search term spiked in growth:


What does that mean?

  1. More folks now have beards.
  2. Men grooming products and services are rising in demand and you can capitalize on that trend.

App Annie also offers demo access to their app marketing insights, but the price isn’t listed publicly.

Reddit and subReddits also have a ton of wisdom to help you identify what your target audience wants. For starters, browse through the following threads:


The easiest way to know what a user wants is to simply ask them. (Though Steve Jobs doesn’t agree with me on this).


There are different ways to survey your target audience. In our previous post about building MVPs, we’ve mentioned how Food on The Table validated their product idea.

They offered concierge treatment to one woman before investing into any actual services development. The company’s CEO visited the lucky lady each week, asked about her preferences, experience with them and a bunch of other things while personally handling the service for her.

While you may not want to do the same for your product, give the following ideas a thought:

Simple Landing Page + Facebook Ads. Create three different ads targeting different segments of your target audience and direct them to a simple landing page, which describes your product, has some visuals and a purchase/sign-up for waiting list button. Record the clicks and analyze which group converts better.

Interactive Prototype + Survey. Build an interactive app prototype, attract some traffic and create a survey asking what did the respondents liked/lacked/didn’t understand.

Mobile MVP + Actual User Feedback. If you already have quite a lot of insights about your target audience, build an app MVP with just a few key features and gather actual user feedback from relevant communities – e.g. Erli Bird, Pre Apps and Launchsky. Besides, submitting your app to various review communities can be a good kicking point for your overall app marketing strategy.

So now you know how to research target audience for a mobile app. But let’s not forget about one more important element of any market research – competition.


How to Research Competitors

If your product is absolutely out of the box and has a thrilled target audience for it, you can skip this step

Otherwise, you’ll need to do at least a basic competitive market research for your project. First, install a few apps currently ranking well for relevant search terms in the app store. Then jot down the next information:

  • What are the key app features? For instance, if we are talking about a travel guide app, check out whether the current products support GPS navigation, offline maps, allow user reviews for highlighted attractions.
  • What features does that app lack in your opinion?
  • Read the reviews left by users, especially the negative ones.
  • Do you like the design? Do you see any good design patterns worth borrowing for your product?
  • Does the app work fast, does not crash/freeze?
  • What kind of device ranges does the app support? For instance, you may want to target a wider range of Android devices.
  • How is the app positioned and branded and what are the gaps available? For instance, there are a lot of taxi booking apps, but is there an on-demand luxury Batmobile booking app catering SF Bay area? (there isn’t one, checked :))

Additionally, here are some handy competition research tools for mobile apps:

  • Apps Like – the name says it all. Yes, you can discover similar apps through this website.
  • App Data – a paid database of app insights including revenues, rankings, downloads and user base stats.
  • App Annie Top Lists – updated regularly for a variety of niches
  • App Trace – even more charts and stats on app downloads and popularity.

Based on the information you’ve gathered create a quick SWOT analysis of your competition. Group all the answers to the following questions in respective squares:



  • What key advantages do other applications have?
  • What features do they perform really great?
  • What did you like about the app the most?


  • What features did you lack?
  • What would you improve within the app?
  • What would you avoid having in your app?


  • What are the existing product gaps you could take advantage of?
  • What are the rising trends within the market that have not been harnessed yet?


  • What negative comments did the competitors receive?
  • What obstacles do they face?
  • Does emerging technologies threat their position?
  • Do you see any serious weaknesses that can threaten your business?

Now, you should have a really detailed outline of how your competition looks like.

So, what’s next?

If you have a validated app idea, know your competition and the target market, it’s time to hire app developers for your project.

For starters read the next guides:

Or skip the reading part and get in touch with Alty right now! We are always in mood for a long talk about building better apps based on precise user personas 😉

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