Reconnaissance 101: How To Conduct Research For Your App

How To Conduct Research For Your App

Recon 101:

Anyone who has ever started to build an app know to find the problems that are only going to get worse and then fix them. You should know by now that you have a big problem, you must do recon (reconnaissance) on your audience.

Customer Feedback

By now, you are probably tired of hearing about listening to your audience and customer feedback, but it cannot be stressed enough. This is because they will encounter the problem first.

The best thing you should do it to try to find the problem before them, by doing your research.

As software developers, it is easy to get carried away with building products based on our own experience and opinions. This is why it is so important to keep checking in on your customers.

It doesn’t matter if it is merchants who are using your app directly, or agencies who use it on behalf of their clients. We want to show you how the market research you must undertake, in order to make changes as your app develops.

This will show you the most effective way to conduct your research. And how to implement it in a successful road map.

Why Bother With Research?

In order to solve problems, it is important to understand what people are excited about. In our experience, the things people get most excited about are often the things they are most concerned about.

Therefore; by finding out what your customers are excited about, you can validate your thinking when creating solutions for them.

Know Your Audience

You need to find out what occupies the thoughts of your target audience. And what keeps merchants awake at night. Also what is bothering them and how this keeps them from increasing revenue. How are the sales at a stand-still. Where are they losing efficiency.

It is only when you have the answers to these questions, will you be able to determine whether or not your product will be able to provide a solution.

How does research change over time?

Identifying challenges and problems at a high level will help you to shape your product when you are in the early stages of building. This will assist you in being able to handle the challenges that your merchants face.

Keep those merchant challenges as your North Star. If a feature does not address it, do not invest time or development into it. Even if your competitors do.

Your App Evolves

You should be aware that as your app evolves over time, your research should evolve as well. While your North Star will remain the same, the challenges that you seek to address should become more granular. Of course, you should modify based on industry changes or customer feedback.

Start looking into the operational challenges that your stakeholder are facing, as opposed to simply investigating business challenges. For example, are a lack of APIs reducing efficiency. Is a lack of documentation making it hard to adopt features? Is there too much reliance on a developer to customize?

You should narrow your focus to address day-to-day issues. This will increase the lifespan of your users. Especially as they see you visibly evolving in line with their needs.

How to go about getting the answers

You can take a number of approaches in order to conduct research. But it can be difficult to know just where to start. You must not only need to consider who to talk to, but also how to ask the right questions and how to collect the answers. Here are some aspects of market research you should be sure to consider.

1. Speak To People In Every Part Of Your Target Customers’ Business

In order to validate an idea or discover the next problem to solve, you should be looking at the top challenges your target customer is facing. Ideally, challenges that they are willing to pay to address.

One common mistake that is made when conducting this type of research is to assume that only one person per business can help you identify these challenges. However; in reality, there are multiple contributors who could highlight very different experiences.

Target The Decision Makers

You need to target the decision makers in the business, during the early stages of research. This will enable you to understand their strategy and what success looks like for them.

This works when you are building up a general understanding of a merchant’s requirements.
But when it comes to the challenges around execution, you will need to speak to the person actually executing. Whether it is the marketer using your app or the developer helping them customize it.

Ensure that when you start digging into the operational challenges, you get direct feedback from those logging into and using your product every day.

2. Don’t Miss Out On The Middle Men

Merchants may be the end users of your product, but for many, it’s agencies who recommend, implement and integrate our platforms. They may do this several times for different clients. Because of this, they are one of the richest sources of feedback available.

It is important to interview account managers and developers. This will enable you to understand which challenges they are trying to solve when pushing clients to your platform. Conversely, find out what challenges they regularly encounter. And what they think would make life easier for them.

3. Keep Things Focused

It is a common saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day. That would also apply to any Shopify App. This means that if you open up the floodgates too far, you could end up with more feedback than you know how to sensibly act on.

So before you get started, use your existing customer feedback to identify where to begin. You can then design specific questions for your user surveys that are more likely to give you useful answers.

You should keep in mind when starting to building your survey to use open-ended questions. However; in order to keep things focused and to get answers to exactly what you are looking for, progress to narrower questions with a limited number of responses.

This will make it quicker and easier for your respondents. This will also help you consolidate the feedback into meaningful findings.

4. Make it As Easy As Possible

This may seem like an obvious one, but you would be surprised at how many convoluted feedback forms are floating around. So you should make it as easy as possible. This way people will answer your survey. This could dramatically impact your response rates.

We recommend Typeform for collecting responses. Because it provides a simple way of creating attractive and easy to use forms and surveys. But, whether you use Typeform, Survey Monkey, Google Forms, or another tool, find a way to collect all your feedback in one place.

Don’t be afraid to reach out directly

If you are not getting a response from someone but you can see they are on Slack, ping them a note and see if they can give their feedback directly to you. Even better, if you have the resources, ask someone to hold calls with merchants and agencies to collect feedback.

We cannot recommend this highly enough. People love to talk. They are much more likely to open up on the phone. However; make sure to keep the calls short and to the point. They should be no more than 15 minutes at a time.

If you make it as easy as possible for your audience to respond to your questions, you will get more valuable feedback in order to make informed decisions.

5. Don’t Forget To Say Thank You

Once you have completed your research, be sure you keep in touch with all those who took part. You should remember to thank them for giving their feedback. And when you have figured out what you are going to do with it, you should keep them up to speed on your progress.

Once you have implemented their feedback, you may want to ask them for more. People will be more inclined to help out if you have shown your appreciation for their help in the past.

How To Apply Your Research

Now that you’ve figured out your questions and asked your participants, you should have received helpful feedback that will shape the growth and development of your app. The question now becomes how do you sort through that feedback and turn it into a tangible action plan?

1. Identify common themes

There is usually a common thread that runs though the responses you receive when doing audience research.

The hard part is identifying it. It doesn’t matter rather you export all your responses into a spreadsheet and apply clever filtering. Even if you use a more traditional print and post-it technique, it should be possible to group responses that relate to specific themes.

You will get a good idea by counting the number of responses falling into each area, which elements of feedback are the most common. This will also tell you which are most urgent. And it will help you to prioritize and build a realistic road map.

Don’t Just Listen To Those Who Scream The Loudest

Make sure that you do not just act on the issues that people complain about the most. Finding the common themes that balance importance and urgency is challenging. You must be able to draw out all the themes you see. This will provide a well rounded view of the feedback you have receives.

Consider prototyping as a way to bring ideas and problems to life. This will enable you to identify whether you have picked the right area to focus on. Or open a can of worms that you may not be ready to deal with. Balsamiq Cloud is a quick and easy way to mock up an app.

2. Break Things Into Manageable Chunks

Some of the areas highlighted in your research will be larger and harder to fix than others. If that is the case, do not bite off more than you can chew. Instead, break the feedback down into more manageable chunks and tackle it one piece at a time. This way, you can get more successes to celebrate as you work your way through.

It is important to remember that following customer feedback to the letter will not always help you realize the vision you have for your product. Remember to keep your North Star in mind. This will keep things manageable as you examine the feedback you are receiving.

3. Building Keeping the Future In Mind

Merchants and agencies want to know that you are growing with them. You may be tempted to use some of the quick wins to come out of your research, but resist it. Grow with your customers.

You may end up at a crossroads. Where you can continue building on the framework you have, or re-architect to make it easier to build the things your users want going forwards.

The latter is usually the right approach. Although it can be time-consuming and overwhelming at first, you will be building in a way that opens you up for a far greater success in the future.

Ongoing Feedback and Iteration

Your research is never really done, even after your app goes live. Open up multiple channels. So that you can keep the feedback coming. Whether that is through webinars, forums, a Facebook group or feature request walls.

You must remember that feedback will show you things that you haven’t really thought about. The reality is that if one person requested it, there are likely ten who want it.

What Have We Learned About Feedback

First of all, there is no size fits all approach. The solution will look different to every app and every developer. In conclusion, here are the top four things we have learned from the audience research we have undertaken at LoyaltyLion:


1. Accept that your baby might be ugly:

Never trust your friend and family when they tell you that your product is great. They will not be the ones to tell you if your baby is ugly. Push yourself to go out there and get honest feedback from the people that matter, your customers and clients.


2. All feedback is good feedback:

As software developers, we should be constantly challenging ourselves and questioning our market fit. Good feedback is great, but it is the bad feedback that will push you to innovate and improve.


3. Relationships drive the best research:

Feedback comes from people. By building and nurturing strong relationships with merchants and agencies, you can be sure that when the time comes, they will take the time to answer your questions.

By following these guidelines, you will be setting up your app business to collect useful, pertinent feedback to tackle new challenges and solve new problems.

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