Friday, 19 February 2010

Gaps in the market and how to find them

Ok, I know I initially said that I'd try and post something to this blog about marketing once a week, and last week I failed and didn't post anything. Apologies.

One of the comments on my first post raised the question of what customers actually want, and so I thought I'd try to focus on that this week.

When native apps first came along the first music apps were comparatively simple. Keyboards, drum apps etc. But as time has gone on, all types of iPhone apps have got progressively more complex and sophisticaed. This is to be expected, not just because users always want more sophistication, but also because developers love to add features and see where they can take their creations.

But with 75 million users of iPhones and iPod Touches worldwide there's got to be scope for more than just the most sophisticated music and audio applications. If we take a look at some of the apps in the top 100 on iTunes you can see that this is true. Apps like Trope from Brian Eno sit alongside NLog synth and Argon. A couple of the most consistently popular apps are PocketGuitar and Ocarina. The point I'm making is that there are users at all levels and a modular synth isn't going to be of interest to everyone. Whatever users are after they'll find something close in the app store, whether that's a modular synth or a keyboard that plays cat sounds.

So how do you work out what it is they want in the first place? That's the real question, and sadly there is no simple answer. If you had the resources you could commission research into what music application users are after and where the gaps in the market are. This would cost you a huge amount of money and you couldn't be sure of the results either.

You could use secondary research in places like the British Library (London) where you can find loads of market reports covering just about anything you can think of, but unless you're very lucky indeed you won't find a report that's going to meet you exact needs. You could commission a researcher to do this kind of trawl through the market for you, which will still cost you, but will take less time.

It is also possible to infer where the market is going by looking at what some of the big players are doing. For example, Akai's move into the iPhone market says a lot about what they think the market will do, and I can't imagine that they would invest on that scale without researching the market and trends thoroughly.

If all this starts to sound too complex then don't worry. It doesn't have to be that way. Start small. If you want to find out about what people are buying then just look at the top 100 apps in the music category. There's also lots of research available on the net. There are plenty of blogs and sites that will give you info on reports from industry and trade bodies on trends in music and technology and the cross over like this report from Gartner.

Don't be put off by the amount of info that is out there or think that there aren't gaps in the market. There are, and there's lots of room for new apps, for innovation and also for simple apps that meet a need.

I hope that this is useful. If you have suggestions for the kind of thing that'll be useful for future articles please contact me or if there's anything in the article you want more on then please email me at

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