Part 1: How to Define Your Target Audience When Building a Mobile App

When you set out to design and build a new mobile application, the first step is to determine who you are creating the intended solution for and what problem you are trying to solve.
When you set out to design and build a new mobile application, the first step is to determine who you are creating the intended solution for and what problem you are trying to solve.

Why is this critical? In order to build a product people actually want and will use regularly you need to understand who you are designing the user experience for. This will also allow you to cater the solution to their individualized needs. While you naturally want to attract as many users as possible to your app, you don’t want to define your target audience so broadly that the user experience becomes generic and lacks specificity.

By assessing your target audience across a broad range of characteristics, such as age, gender, occupation and personal interests, you can imagine this person sitting across from you while you design and develop a mobile app experience that they will find useful and engaging.

What is a target audience?

Before we dive into strategies to help you navigate who your target audience is, let’s take a step back and define what is meant by a target audience. When entrepreneurs, developers, and marketers speak about a target audience, they are referring to a group of people that a product, service, or experience is intended to serve. This group is typically characterized by behavioral, demographic, occupational, or other similarities. Defining your target audience is important when building a mobile app, as you want the experience to feel intuitive and useful to the people who will be using your product.

You also want to make sure the language and imagery included throughout the mobile app evoke the right feelings for your target users to increase their propensity to become engaged and loyal to the app over time. If there is not a match between your design and development efforts and the user’s wants and needs, you may find yourself forced to make a late-stage pivot, which will mean wasted time and resources.

So, now that you know why it is important to define your target audience, how can you actually go about figuring out who your target audience is? Let’s dive in!

Look at who your competitors target.

When building your new product, you should incorporate in-depth competitive analysis to try to understand what direct and indirect competitors exist in the space you are trying to enter. In building out your list of competitors, try to identify companies that offer products or services that are similar to what you plan to bring to market. Once you’ve compiled a detailed list of competitors, you can use this as a jumping off point to begin defining your target audience.

For each competitor, go to their social media profiles and look at the types of people that they follow and the types of individuals who follow them. Also investigate who comments frequently on their posts and what they are saying about their products and services when you search brand related hashtags.

When looking at the types of people who interact with the company on social media, take notes on characteristics like gender, age, occupations, marital status, aspects of their family lives, interests, etc. To gain detailed insights, you can visit the profiles of individuals who frequently comment on the competitor’s posts.

While your audience may not be identical to that of your competitors, it can be a strong starting point to try to understand the types of people who might be interested in a related product. Beyond examining social media profiles, you can also see who has commented on and liked the company’s blog posts and which press outlets have featured the company or its products.

Use trial and error.

While it could take several months to fully launch your MVP, you can set up social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and get a basic landing page up much more quickly. Rather than trying to simply conduct research and take an educated guess in advance of launching your MVP to figure out who your audience is, you can get a more accurate read through pushing out pieces of your forthcoming brand to see who bites.

On the landing page that you publish in advance of launching your app, include some basic information about what the app will entail, contact information to get in touch with the team, the anticipated launch date, and most importantly, a basic lead form or email capture field to collect information from individuals who are interested in learning more about your product.

While you don’t want to ask for too much information within the lead form (which can drive people away), it would be helpful to collect basic information such as age, gender, location, and occupation to help you to better define your audience. While this data won’t be quite as strong as the user data that will be obtained from your future app’s analytics, it can be a great leading indicator to help you to anticipate the nature of your target audience so that you can design the user journey with these individuals in mind.

Start broad and go narrow.

When you’re in the ideation phase of building a new mobile app, it can be tough to narrow down which types of individuals will be your top, most loyal consumers. One of the most important things to think about when defining your target audience is that you’ll need to start with a broadly defined audience in the early stages of mobile app development, and then continue to narrow towards your optimal target consumer over time.

When broadly defining your target audience, start with trying to understand what problem it is that you are trying to solve, which types of people might be faced with that problem on a daily basis, and who might benefit from the solution that you are working to build.

As you move through the process of designing and building out the user journey, continue to interact with the people you believe you are building your product for and focus in on a more precise description of your target audience over time. Once you cross the threshold of launching your app, you will have the opportunity to collect real user interaction data and have the benefit of actually watching your users interact with and work through the entirety of the user experience on your mobile app.

At this point, you can refine who you initially thought your target audience was and create richer audience personas inclusive of characteristics such as occupations, stages of life, extracurricular interests, gender, age, and location.


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