Test startup idea

Test idea
In recent years, a slew of healthcare apps has inundated the market, each targeting various health conditions with distinct functionalities. Food Filter was one such app designed to revolutionize the lives of individuals dealing with allergies and food intolerances. The core concept aimed to streamline the process of scanning product ingredients to identify potential allergens or intolerant substances.
Alena Timofeeva
Product Marketing Lead

Mobile App Validation and Business Insights

Entering a niche already occupied by Intol, Allergy Eats, Food Intolerances, and Yuka, Food Filter's founder envisioned it as a competitor to well-known food trackers like MyFitnessPal and Lose It!. To secure a place in the market, the team needed to find an untouched niche—a problem not addressed by existing products. They devised a 3-step validation strategy, combining research and tests to gain deep insights into current market needs.

Here're the steps of the Food Filter product idea validation, that you can discover, or try on your own startup.

Stage 1

The initial validation step gives us a quick market overview. To validate the idea, we conducted market research, analyzing competitors' features, user reviews, and ratings. We utilized the Mobile App Rating Scale to assess the functionality of existing food allergy apps. Existing apps had limited functionality in proposing or filtering recipes based on specific food allergies. There was only one startup collaborating with restaurants to make recipes transparent for those worried about accidentally consuming allergens on dates. Competitors' positive metrics, revenue, and raised funds indicated potential demand. Unfortunately, this method provides about 20% accuracy in startup success probability, so we progressed to the next stage.

Stage 2

Convinced of market demand, we conducted user interviews and surveys to understand the needs of individuals with food allergies. People with food allergies struggle to find products on shelves without forbidden ingredients. Moms, in particular, found shopping a nightmare due to various limitations for their family members. An interesting insight was Moms' desire to find allergen substitutes to feed children tasty, varied, and balanced foods without causing allergies. Reading product labels was challenging due to small text, foreign language, or unfamiliar ingredient names. In-depth customer interviews gave us valuable information:

  • We identified target audience segments: individuals with food allergies, those with slight food intolerances seeking quality food, families following various diets (e.g., vegan), moms searching for allergen-free alternatives, athletes, and business people with allergies who often eat in unfamiliar places.
  • We discovered and stated key pain points mentioned frequently enough to consider them as trends.
  • We identified problems not solved in the current market, establishing them as core values of our product. However, accuracy was still insufficient (less than 60%) in startup success probability.

Stage 3

Using insights on market pains and needs, we designed 30+ hypotheses and launched a marketing ads campaign to lead to the App Store and Play Market application pages. Facebook was our main ads platform because the target audience is well-represented, and a low CPC benchmark proved effective. App downloads were our success metric, with costs per download as a key metric for financial projections. Intermediate metrics such as impressions, ad clicks, costs per click, and conversion rates also mattered. We continued the validation process, experimenting with campaign settings to achieve a flow of application downloads and an acceptable level of costs per download. The most interesting insights were gathered during validation.

Business valuable insights

Insight 1. Picking the right validation method with high accuracy reduces the risk of failure. But don't rush to conclusions in the initial stage. While existing competitors hint at market demand, their absence doesn't guarantee zero need. It could simply mean there's a lack of a high-quality technical solution to the problem.

Insight 2. Leveraging CustDev results significantly cuts down costs per download (CPD). In the health and fitness niche, the average CPD was around $10, based on benchmarks. We not only applied information about the target audience's pain points for technical ad settings but also infused it into every element—headlines, messages, creatives, and calls to action.

Insight 3. Creating and refining user personas during the validation test uncovers niches and builds awareness of specific target audiences. In our experiment, we focused on moms, as they exhibited high interest in CustDev interviews. We also targeted women in an even more responsible stage—those about to become moms. This defined a broad segment: pregnant women with no strict food restrictions but a desire for healthy food without additives that could cause allergies.

Insight 4. Delving deep into the customer's context reveals unmet needs, even in a competitive market. Initially assuming competitors like MyFitnessPal, which tracks consumed calories, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, we discovered a different need during the test: automatic tracking of beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants alongside macronutrients. Considering varying daily needs based on age and health condition, this becomes a niche. Market analysis showed a growing trend in predictive healthcare. In conclusion, the new feature could make the product highly competitive in the saturated market of health and fitness startups.

Insight 5. A validation campaign might exhibit high Costs per Download initially. Don't be afraid; costs should decrease as the ad campaign completes the learning stage. Continuous optimization and refinement of messaging and refreshing ad assets can further reduce costs. Consider a Plan B if the cost per download remains high for an extended period; halt the campaign and reassess the strategy.

In conclusion, a well-executed validation campaign navigates challenges, leading to invaluable insights that refine strategies, uncover untapped market niches, and set the stage for a successful startup.

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