Know your audience. Those three words are offered as advise to entrepreneurs in every field of business. For a mobile app creator, the accurate identification of a target market is especially important because of the lack of face-to-face sales opportunities. Bottom line: if you want consumers to take it upon themselves to download your app, you’d better do your best to make sure they want what you’re offering.

The key to identifying your app’s target audience lies in the research you do before, during, and even after the actual development process. By figuring out who is most likely to be interested in your app, you can plan the design and functionality around their preferences, while crafting a marketing plan influenced by the past successes of similar programs.

Why Should You Identify Your Target Audience?

You likely have limited amounts of time and resources to put into the development and marketing of your app, and you undoubtedly want to waste as little of both as possible. So why not strive to limit your expenditures to those most likely to provide a return on your investment?

Just as a hot dog vendor probably wouldn’t set up his cart in front of a PETA meeting on meatless Monday, you’ll want to avoid focusing on consumers whose past behavior suggests their interest in your program may be low. If you’re building a fantasy football app, you’d be wise to concentrate on college-educated men in their 30s and 40s, while considering other demographic groups as secondary targets.

Of course, there are some elderly housewives that play fantasy football, and you won’t want to dissuade them from installing your program. But since you’re looking to maximize downloads, you’ll be better off designing your app and accompanying marketing campaign with those football-loving guys in mind.

As the app market becomes more congested — and consumers more savvy — many users are turning away from wide-ranging apps in favor of programs that perform one or more functions exceedingly well. If this is your goal, you’ll need to figure out where a hole in the market exists, and determine who would benefit most from the fulfillment of that need.

“If you look at the most popular apps, they fall into a pattern: Make something easier, give valuable information, save money, or entertain,” Appboy’s Marc Parrish told Mobile Marketer.

Once you’ve settled on your target audience, you can design your app with those people in mind. Doing so might result in a relatively small market, but the people who make up that group will be comparatively more likely to install your program, keep it on their devices for significant amounts of time, and interact with the app on a consistent basis.

Knowing your audience can also be a tremendous advantage when marketing your app. Mobile analytics and advertising company Flurry (more on them later) estimates that their advertising targeting methods resulted in a 40 percent spike in the number of app downloads over previous marketing efforts.

Finally, if you’re a believer in the Pareto principle — also known as the 80/20 rule — then you already know why you should establish your target audience. The gist of the principle is that the majority of the output of most phenomena is the result of a relatively small amount of input.

Using this principle, you can assume that any revenue produced via your app will be attributed to a fraction of the people that either download it, or have the opportunity to do so. Targeting those consumers most likely to become your users can help you maximize their contributions to your bottom line.

How Can You Figure Out Who to Target?

Identifying your target audience can pay huge dividends, but doing it right takes a lot of work. You’ll have to gain access to a lot of broad demographic data, and you’ll also need to gather info from smaller subgroups of consumers to nail down the types of people most likely to install your app.

Before you begin the process of determining the type of people who will make up your target audience, you should make sure there isn’t a program on the marketplace that already does what your app will do. After all, if the needs of your target audience are already being met, the chances are slim that they’ll bother downloading your app at all.


Once you’re confident that there’s a need for your app, it’s time to determine to whom that need applies. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to create “personas”, or composites of people likely to be interested in downloading the app. These personas are drawn from very broad groups, such as men and women, or pared-down but still expansive classifications like business professionals or sports fans.

The next step in developing a persona is to create a problem your new fictional friend may be able to solve with the help of your app. One example is a business executive who needs to communicate with his or her employees quickly and efficiently. Another could be a man who needs to find a birthday present for his car enthusiast wife.

After creating your personas, use them to explore your app idea in detail in order to get a good feel for how each planned feature will be perceived by real-life users. Also, identify the types of marketing elements that should be directed at your personas, and decide if that material would adequately speak to those you’re trying to reach.

Services like those offered by Flurry can help you create online personas using real data from existing apps.

Market Research

After putting yourself in your potential users’ shoes via personas, it’s time to find out what statistics have to say about your ideal target audience.

There are several services that can help you accumulate data about similar markets, including Google Trends/Adwords, Flurry (partnered w/Research Now), App Annie, and Quantcast. While these companies differ in the breadth and focus of their offerings, each will assist you in pulling data from relevant apps and other programs.

Among the most vital forms of information you should study when identifying your target audience are demographics, including age, gender, socio-economic status, location, education, and occupation.

Also important to audience analysis is lifestyle data, which differs from traditional demographics in that it tracks consumers’ opinions, activities, and interests. The aforementioned services can also help you gather lifestyle data about your potential user base, including where they like to shop, how they tend to entertain themselves, and how their beliefs might influence their purchasing decisions.

As you collect the data, pay close attention to trends (i.e., which groups tend to favor apps similar to yours). By doing so, you can begin to narrow down a large pool of consumers to a more manageable group of likely users.


Of course, if you want to develop a more thorough understanding of consumers in your market, you’ll need to do some of the work on your own. One of the best do-it-yourself methods of audience-information gathering is the distribution of online surveys.

You can gather email addresses yourself, or you can use a service like SurveyMonkey, which gives you access to a large number of respondents for a fee. No matter how you accumulate survey subjects, though, it’s important to ask for demographic information and lifestyle data along with questions directly related to your app.

Focus Groups

A little face-to-face interaction can go a long way in helping you identify your target audience. By convening one or multiple focus groups, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to consumers’ thoughts, and to ask follow-up questions that can give you a better idea of their wants and expectations.

When choosing participants for a focus group, use the demographic info you’ve already gathered and studied to recruit a variety of consumers that each represent potential members of your target audience. Make sure to adequately prepare for the session by organizing information about the participants and developing questions that will make clear which members of the group will greatly benefit from your app.

As with surveys, there are a number of ways to recruit participants for focus groups, including services like L&E Research that will do it for you for a fee. There are several companies that will provide you with access to people who can fill your group, but you’ll need to do some research to find a reputable service that operates in your area.

If you want to find group participants on your own, there are a variety of means at your disposal. You can send out emails or post to local news websites or other community pages. And of course, you can do it the old-fashioned way by pounding the pavement to meet people and ask them if they’d like to participate in the group. You may have to shell out a few dollars and/or some refreshments, but the insight you can gain from a well-organized focus group should be well worth the expense.

Combine Your Data to Identify Your Focus Group

Now that you’ve compiled demographic and lifestyle data, as well as information learned from first-hand interviews and discussions, you should be able to create a composite audience on which to focus the majority of your efforts.

Using the data, create a target market analysis that includes information about the preferences and spending habits of your audience, as well as the market size and trends that could affect the behavior of your potential users.

Once you’ve completed your analysis, it’s time to put all that information to good use.

You’ve Identified Your Target Audience. Now What?

Armed with the information you’ve gathered, take another look at your competitors and your potential place within the market. Determine the size of the overall market, and what percentage of that group is comprised of your target audience. Then, come up with a general idea of the share of market you can expect to claim, and whether that number makes the release of your app viable in the form you’ve envisioned.

After developing the app with your audience in mind, design a marketing campaign that will reach the people you’ve identified as those most likely to download the program. Focus the majority of your advertising budget on websites and other media platforms frequented by members of your target audience, and make sure to describe the features they’ll find most appealing.

While beta testing your app, pay close attention to the feedback you’re receiving from participants, and weigh that against your target market analysis. After comparing the two, decide which of the testers’ issues should be changed to make the app more enticing to your likely users.

After you’ve launched the “final” version of your app, continue to closely observe its performance, paying particular attention to reviews and ratings. Be willing to make any changes necessary to ensure the continued relevance and allure of the program in the eyes of your target audience.


Identifying your target market is a vital step in the creation and marketing of a successful app. Gaining an understanding of your likely users will have a major impact on the program’s development, as well as its pricing structure and advertising methods.

Whether you’re interested in developing a game, shopping aid, or an enterprise program that will be used only by a company’s employees, the preferences of those who will ultimately download the app are among the most important pieces of information you’ll collect during the creation process.

Would you like to weigh in on the importance of target audience identification? Let us know what you think in the comments section!