Home > Market Research > Who cut the cheese I mean market share?

Who cut the cheese I mean market share?

April 29th, 2009

Got a sinking feeling that something isn’t right? Something stinking up the joint? Well check your cupboards for some market share.

If you read my post about sizing up the mobile phone market, you may have gathered that I treat market share cautiously.  So the topic today is how to handle market share without soiling your hands, or your co-workers hands, or your boss, or loved ones.  Get out your vertical reference tools and read on.

Over the years we’ve all been bombarded by articles and reports and analyst commentary that said Microsoft’s IE browser has the most “market share”.  It’s so pervasive, I’m not even going to bother to site a link to a report.  It’s axiomatic, it’s common knowledge, it’s part of our heritage.  Keep that in mind for a second.

Today’s example of research comes from our good friends at TechCrunch.  MG Siegler wrote a piece today about a company called Wakoopa.  The gist of the story is that Wakoopa has a user base of 75K users, and they track how much time those users spend on activities and applications (according to the article the data is gathered from desktop tracking software users install).  I think it’s a great article, really interesting, and of course it provides a bit of grist for our mill here.  So after you’re done here, I recommend you read it.

Along with various other data cited in the article, the Wakoopa data shows that “Mozilla’s Firefox browser … is the number one app on both Windows and Mac platforms. And in every continent besides Africa, it’s over 60% usage among web browser“. The article goes on to say, “… Africa is the only continent where Internet Explorer finishes as the second most-used browser. On every other continent,  IE is in third place among browsers — or worse“.

Now wait just a minute!  That cannot be true.  We all know, with certainty, that IE has the most market share.  So (as Elaine would say), “get out of here!”.

Well, IE probably does have the most market share.  But the key question is, “share of what”?  And that one question is the most important question you can ask when presented with market share data.  Share of what? The TC piece on Wakoopa forces us to ask that question.  The “market share” IE has is really about installations on desktops, not about usage.  A very important distinction.

I cannot say this enough: “share of what”?  There are other questions, like for example is the Wakoopa data statistically relevant, what regions are covered (WW in this case), how does the desktop tracking actually work, what platforms does it sit on, how often is the data updated, and so on. And without reading the Wakoopa data in detail, and the methodology that drives it, you really don’t know what you have. So when dealing with market share, be careful to make sure you are standing upright.

Thanks for stopping by!  And remember to keep your vertical reference tools handy.

Categories: Market Research Tags:
  1. April 30th, 2009 at 08:59 | #1

    @Celtic Curmudgeon
    CC: thanks! To your comment about “useful” I would add that you have to understand the context and the perspective. The installed base of Windows OS is important, as is the installed base of Intel based PCs, because those represent control points. It would hard to change processors without buying a new machine, and users are unlikely to change OS. But it’s very easy to change browsers or have more then one.

    Market share has an important place in the decision making process, but you have to understand it’s just one element among many. More on this topic later for sure.

  2. Celtic Curmudgeon
    April 29th, 2009 at 16:27 | #2

    I learned long ago in an historiography class, a sort of training class for folks interested in actually writing history, that just because it is written doesn’t make it so. We were trained not to take any source at face value, but to evaluate it for biases. Market share numbers quoted by a manufacturer are always questionable, because they’ll never quote a number that makes them look bad, even if they have to parse a number so small as to make it otherwise useless or make a comparison that is meaningless. The number of copies of IE copied on to PC hard drives at the same time as a copy of windows is meaningless, the share of browsers actually used by customers is a more useful number for companies wanting to sell into that market.

Comments are closed.