SaaS tools and market mapping: What’s in a market?

A one-size-fits-all approach to market mapping and categorisation doesn’t work: can SaaS tools can provide an answer?

Let’s start with coffee.

Meet three different people interested in the coffee market:

Dana is head of a procurement team focused on sustainable coffee procurement.

Kate owns ‘To bean or not to bean?’, a small coffee shop in her local town.

Abe is an analyst for a large company which writes market research reports on food and drink across Europe. One of his categories is coffee.

All three are interested in the same industry and product. But each of them will have different ways of mapping, categorising and analysing the market to best highlight the considerations most relevant to them.

Three maps of the coffee market

Dana, for example, is particularly interested in the ESG credentials and sustainability offerings of the coffee manufacturers she is mapping. She also wants to know about their location in the value chain and costs.

Kate is more interested in local competitor analysis. She wants to know what coffee products the shops near her provide, so she can improve her own offering. She’s also looking for ideas, and so is interested in mapping out new flavours and styles of coffee for that next pumpkin-walnut-special-spiced latte which will blow her customers away.

Abe is looking for a comprehensive overview of the different offerings. He wants to know about location, cost, market interest and the overall key market trends. From his market mapping, he’s looking to get that big picture view.

A mapping of the trends and popular speciality coffee products in Kate’s local town won’t be much use for Abe’s report. Similarly, Kate probably won’t gain much practical benefit from Abe’s big picture overview. And if this overview doesn’t get into the nitty gritty details of ESG, neither of these market intelligence projects will be much use to Dana.

Each of these individuals have very different needs and questions. So, of course, it is no surprise that they are looking for a very different breakdown of the market. There’s no one generic mapping we can give of ‘The Coffee Market’ with capital letters, which can provide an insightful response to all these different considerations.

Are SaaS tools the solution?

So can SaaS tools help provide this more personalised view? Business leaders certainly seem to think so, and SaaS tools are expected to gain traction in coming years, with the new-generation of procurement systems being user-driven. Over 70% of companies are investing in such technology as businesses see the power of being able to search for this information internally, based on their own specific requirements and nuances, rather than needing to outsource to external teams.

SaaS tools are expected to gain traction in coming years, with the new-generation of procurement systems being user-driven.

This challenge of mapping and categorising a market in a way that meets an individual’s specific needs is a common one across all industries. Trying to impose a taxonomy from the outside reduces a business’ ability to be flexible and highlight the elements of the market which are important to them. Equally, the process of working through and discovering the content itself is also a key part of the value of SaaS tools. Being in control of the process allows you to riff off new ideas you find along the way, to explore new avenues and answer new questions you didn’t know you had.

So if you’re mapping out your market from scratch, where do you start? We picked up some tips from our own experience mapping, categorising and analysing a wide range of different markets. Here are four questions which make great starting points when approaching your market mapping:

1. What is your starting point?

Understanding what you are building from is an important starting point and should guide the process of mapping and categorising a market. Ask yourself: what information do you already have? What gaps are you looking to plug with this research? Gaining a deeper knowledge of what you already know helps orientate the process, and also feeds into the next question.

2. What is the goal of your market intelligence strategy?

The next crucial question to ask is what you want to learn from your market intelligence strategy. For example, if you are mapping out a market in order to conduct competitor analysis, or to better understand your market positioning, this will require a very different approach compared to if you are conducting the research to generate ideas for a new product or to pick out companies to invest in or purchase from.

3. Do you have a specific question to answer?

Another thing to understand at the outset is whether you can formulate a specific question that you want to answer. Having a concrete question in mind can certainly be helpful: it can keep your study focused and help pick out the relevant details. But sometimes you’re just not sure what exactly you want to map or what question to focus on. In these cases, strictly specifying a narrow question can be unnecessarily restrictive and prevent interesting connections being made. For example, when building a study to try to find innovative sustainable technologies. Either way, your approach is likely to be different if you have a very specific question in mind, compared with if you are approaching a market with a very general question (or even no question at all), and just want to explore an area.

4. Where are you looking? Locally, regionally, globally?

Building on from this, knowing where you want to map out is important. Whether this is taking a global approach or looking in a specific geographical area, knowing where to focus is a crucial part of the strategy.

SaaS tools to the rescue?

Depending on the answers to these questions, you will find you have different ways to categorise, different features to highlight, different news and events to read and different locations to focus on. Ultimately, there is no right answer to how we should map out a market. The best option will depend on your goals and your starting position, and will be unique to each individual.

Ultimately, there is no right answer to how we should map out a market.

That’s why we built a SaaS tool.

Our AI-driven tool allows you to map, categorise and analyse a market in the way that’s best for you. We know that each individual has a different view of what is included in the market and different ways of categorising and analysing the results to give them the best value. SaaS tools allow you to take control and map out the market as you see it, rather than leaving the task to an external analyst team who do not have your knowledge and perspective