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Why App Developers Should Start With Market Research

by Mary Elzey

Software developers pride themselves on their ability to solve problems. To navigate the complexities of technology and provide a solution that works. The process, the rigor, the long hours of coding will no doubt result in a product. 

But, is it the best product? Is the technology solving the right problem? And did we choose the right technology for the job?

These questions are why this year, we at stable|kernel created a market research department. Our developer-led firm has been building software from mobile and web apps to complex Internet of Things integrations and more since 2013; we can build anything our clients want, within reason (a space habitat for cats is a no-go).

Despite our deep technology expertise, we found that having a market research department is a differentiator, and a skill set that clients are asking for.

CEOs, CTOs, CIOs and CMOs are collaborating together as they navigate through their organization’s digital transformations. They’re relying on their software partners to understand their business challenges, not just their technology needs. Market research puts the focus on understanding what customers value and want, which, in turn, will lead to a more successful business strategy.   

If you manage mobile or web apps for your team, or develop them yourself, integrating market research into the software development process can help you step up your business strategy game. Here are three ways market research can help:

  1. Build a business case for your product
  2. Inspire your clients and your internal team
  3. Stay focused on solving problems

Use market research to build a business case for your software

Before one line of code is written, start with market research. Developing a web or mobile app is expensive. Doing some homework ahead of time mitigates risks and ensures the app will be a worthwhile investment. 

For example, use market research to get clear on what business need your software will solve. Start by asking questions like: who will use this app? What exactly is the problem this product will solve? What alternatives do customers use now? What will make this product different or better than what they do today?

If you can’t answer these questions, take a deep breath and put in the time to figure them out. The answers will put you on solid footing and form the basis of a business strategy that works. 

Use market research to inspire your designers, developers and clients

The stable|kernel team has had success taking clients through this simple, yet effective process: research, concept, test, prototype and then develop. Jumping to a development solution without a firm understanding of the problem in the research phase can be a recipe for disaster.

Market research activities include informal options like compiling information online, or it can include more formal activities like conducting focus groups, in-home interviews, online quantitative research studies, or a combination of multiple methodologies.

The more that the design, development and client team can participate in the market research, the better the outcome as well. For example, we were recently hired to develop a new technology for the craft spirits industry. We started by investigating the idea with our internal team and brainstorming potential concepts. Next, we tested ideas with consumers using qualitative research, where the entire team listened to the target audience’s needs via table-top style interviews. Our original ideas were refined and then prioritized using quantitative market research. 

While we can’t disclose all the details, we can give you a spoiler alert: consumers will soon be able to discover and purchase new craft cocktails and spirits from around the world on their mobile devices.

Use market research to keep you focused on your strategy

When creating new software for customers, it’s tempting to want to be radically different, and to get thrown off course by the latest shiny, new technology feature. However, market research has shown that time and time again, customers don’t want us to reinvent the wheel — they want their problems solved. Market research helps you generate, define and prioritize these problems.

Mary Elzey is the VP of customer insights and strategy at stable|kernel, an award-winning software development company based in Atlanta. She leads qualitative and quantitative market research projects for the firm’s clients in collaboration with the marketing, design and development team.

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