Desk research is one of the crucial steps in building a successful app startup, but also one of the most painstaking to make. Learn where you can start your research and get reliable information and position your startup towards success.
When you come up with an idea for your future product, the chances that you’re thinking of the big picture are pretty slim. You’re probably thinking of an industry quirk that’s been sitting in the back of your mind, a problem you’re struggling with personally, a fun way to use technology that might be fun for other people as well. And you’re thinking: ‘this is definitely something other people would use’.
Then you get to sit down and go into the basics of building an app business. You start to realise that just because the product is digital, it doesn’t mean at all that the case you have to build to make product viable needs to be bulletproof. That means you need to do your desk research and have answers to questions like:
- What’s the market size for your product?
- What are your audience’s characteristics?
- What monetisation model should you go for, so you can break even and start bringing in profit as soon as possible?
- What is your competition doing? Where are they doing well? Where are they failing?
- What are investors interested in right now?
You know you need to figure these things out for your product. If you go in building blind, you don’t know if you’re building your product on a foundation of rock or one of sand. And let’s be honest: no one wants to build a house of cards that will fall around their ears.
The good news is that doing research today is a lot easier than it used to be. There’s a lot of things you can figure out, if only you have the patience to get the best out of Google search.
But if you find yourself being stuck or going down rabbit holes that take you nowhere, there are some places that can help you kickstart your desk research the right way.
Understanding the market
Start small by focusing on what is happening in the niche you are aiming to target. Search for similar products and look into their market size. See where they are ahead and where they are missing out. Look into reviews: both from users and investors to identify the perceived value overall (hint: the money usually follows the crowds of happy users, present and future). Once you build a map in your head on what the market looks like right now and where the competitors are positioned, you’ll have an easier time finding a gap where you can position your own product.
The go-to-place to discover trending products every day. Anyone can submit a product, upvote them and just spend time browsing to discover new products and features. It’s a great place to look for inspiration and search for competition. The part we like best is that the reviewers are approved by the platform team before they can comment, so the reviews are higher quality than you’d find on an open platform.
AppAnnie was one of the first app market analytics company that established itself as a go-to-place for finding out what apps are doing well based on country and platform. Today, their services are more diversified, ranging from app market analytics, to ad revenue monitoring and app usage and average revenue per user.
AppAnnie is another great place to research when you’re interested in specific niches of the app industry, looking for the top players, what sets them apart and who to research to get a step ahead of your competition.
Grown under the wing of TechCrunch, Crunchbase is today a private company that operates a database of the start-up ecosystem. While it’s not exhausting as it’s depending on its users for new entries, it does cover the movement of investors, incubators, start-ups, key people, funds, funding rounds and events. If you want to see which way the money in flowing right now in the tech industry, Crunchbase is the place to start your research. Not only does it help you monitor today’s start-ups and venture capitalists, it’s also a ripe picking ground for identifying investors who could potentially invest in your own product and new companies you could partner with.
If you’re looking for market research reports, strategy teardowns, trends analysis, CB Insights is a tech market intelligence platform that probably investigates every possible information puts it together in easily-read articles and reports. While their core products are premium, the analytics they provide on their blog is more than enough for a budding entrepreneur.
Understanding social trends
It’s great to know where the money is flowing and what the competitors are up to, but it’s hard to put that information to good use if you don’t know what your audience is up to.
This is where government and public institution’s analytics comes into play. Social trends, educational levels, population mobility, issues of housing, health and work, digital literacy and environmental concerns: these are all topics monitored by the government and organisations focusing on public interests, because these are the kind of information that can tell you what the state of a nation is.
If you’re starting out your app business in Australia, make sure to visit the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ website. You’ll find information ranging from economy and employment (what kind of money would your user have to spend on an app?), to housing, health, social mobility or education. In a nutshell, all the statistics that will help you build an image of how your audience lives their day-to-day lives.
If you’re starting out your business in Europe, you can find relevant information on all 27 EU member states as well as statistics on each country in part on Eurostat. Not only will you find information on the economy and population characteristics, but also on quality of life indicators and how science, technology and the digital economy are shaping the member countries.
One last jump around the globe and you can start looking into what the social trends are looking like in the United States of America. The official US Data and Statistics will give you an overview of all the data they gather through various federal agencies. Any topic you care about, they’ll probably have something on it, including population or business trends.
Statista is a private platform that also aggregates information from thousands of sources. Its focus is on the consumer market, meaning how big a certain market is and what the average spending is on different services and commodities.
The truth of the matter is that looking at data and statistics aren’t comfortable human endeavours. You, like any person out there, are more interested in stories with people that have faces and struggles and get closure at the end of the narrative. But once you start wrapping your mind around dry data, you realise it’s not dry at all. Because what large scale research says about a country, a population, an industry will also apply to your budding business. The big waves rock the small boats just as much as the big ships. Once you learn how to read these waves, you won’t need to do your own small-scale and rushed research. Second-hand research is just as applicable to your startup. Many times it offers you information that you can be confident is valid, while also saving you time in getting to it.
Most importantly, thorough desk research may give you the boost of confidence you need to know that what you’re building is worthwhile. And the kind of confidence that’s based on solid data is what sets you apart as a great entrepreneur on the track to building a successful app business.