Entrepreneurs are building cloud-based products for customers with an ever-growing list of ways to access those products. There’s the web browser, tablets, smartphones, phablets (which are still incredibly awkward), wearables, browser apps, plugins, bookmarklets, etc. Who knows what devices will deliver software products in five years (my money is on the computerized contact lens).

The interesting part is that for any given piece of software, consumers are accessing it via different devices for different reasons. They’ll use the mobile phone app for a certain task while using the desktop for something else. Or they’ll use the tablet app for one thing, but the mobile phone app for another. These are the behaviors that must be understood to deliver a satisfying and delightful product experience. Entrepreneurs need to know which device customers are using to build appropriately.

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This “By Device-Action” concept is best illustrated with an example. At Kashoo, the company where I work, we build cloud accounting software for small business owners. As with most cloud-based applications, our customers can access Kashoo via web browser, a native iPad app and a native iPhone app. The typical Kashoo customer is what we consider the “new entrepreneur.” They’re not tied to a desk. They don’t work five eight-hour days. For better or for worse, the line between work and personal is blurry at best. Instead, they work from wherever, whenever, thanks to the devices that allow them to.

Customer research and data analysis has showed us that our customers are doing specific accounting tasks on specific devices. For example, they’re using the iPhone app to quickly snap a picture of an expense receipt.That makes sense. Imagine someone at an airport food court opening up their laptop and holding a receipt in front of their webcam. No one would.

Box is another great example. Typically, document generation happens on the desktop but once uploaded to Box, collaboration, access, editing, sharing and plenty more happens most often via mobile devices. Box understands this product use by device-action and thus builds accordingly.

Extracting trends from your app analytics will help you understand how your customers are accessing the product and what specific tasks the doing. When the product is in its infancy, without a significant dataset, ask your current and potential customers what they might use your tablet app for versus what they’d use your smartphone app for. Have them tell you what they’d expect to get out of the desktop app. You’ll likely be surprised by their responses and you’ll have a better idea of how to build.

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