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This is part 4 of a 9 part series by Carrie Robbins, a recent Master’s Degree recipient who did her thesis on Mobilizing Market Research: The state-of-the-art, future evolution and implications of mobile data collection methods in the field of market research. In this one, we’re getting into the meat of the matter; what are some of the current limitations of the mobile model and what does the future hold for us as we overcome these limits. Many thought leaders participated in giving Carrie their views and I think you’ll find it very informative.

Editors Note: This is part 4 of a 9 part series by Carrie Robbins, a recent Master’s Degree recipient who did her thesis on Mobilizing Market Research: The state-of-the-art, future evolution and implications of mobile data collection methods in the field of market research. The previous sections are:

Part 1: Why Go Mobile?

Part 2: Industry Insights

Part 3: Benefits & Current Uses

In this one, we’re getting into the meat of the matter; what are some of the current limitations of the mobile model and what does the future hold for us as we overcome these limits. Many thought leaders participated in giving Carrie their views and I think you’ll find it very informative.

Many references are cited in this piece. For a complete list of all of the references click here.

Since the GreenBook is also a Co-Sponsor of the Market Research in the Mobile World Conference, for the next 5 weeks as we run up to that event we’ll be posting a new section of Carrie’s report here. Registrants of the event will get access to a complete version that will be available via download. Carrie will also be attending MRMW11 and participating on one of our expert panels at the event!

This truly is a comprehensive review of the current state of the industry, the views of many industry thought leaders on what the future holds, and of current best practices being used. It should serve as a great resource for anyone interested in or actively engaged in utilizing mobile technologies for research-based initiatives. Enjoy!

By Carrie Robbins

The main limitation of mobile research is the short length of mobile surveys. Hobson explains, “The promise of immediacy is somewhat balanced by the challenge of the small screen and the fact that somebody doesn’t want to be sitting with their mobile phone for two hours answering a survey.” However, Luck sees the short nature of mobile questionnaires as an opportunity for more thoughtful research. She states, “There’s been a lot of industry discussion about survey length and how it impacts data quality and respondent satisfaction…You just have to do much shorter surveys on mobile, you don’t really have a choice.” Luck considers this aspect of mobile surveys to be an improvement over longer, traditional versions.

Many interviewees note penetration as a limitation of mobile methods (including President of BrainJuicer North America Ari Popper, as well as Coleman, Luck, Sunada and Robbibaro). Although this should become a non-issue in the future as smartphone penetration deepens, a representative sample is currently difficult to obtain through smartphones alone, unless of course the population of interest is smartphone users. In addition to limitations on penetration, mobile methods can lack depth, and due to their self-reported nature are not as open to examination as other methods. The inability to dig deep and obtain detailed information is a shortcoming mentioned by Robbibaro and others. Stork similarly explains that it is difficult to get at the inconsistencies that usually emerge when data is self-reported, as it tends to be with mobile.

Other more minor limitations of mobile are that participants can experience technical difficulties (Schwitzer), app-based research is impacted if people do not wish to download the app (Popper), and Stork warns that in emerging markets affluence can affect entry into a study rather than age, as tends to be the case in developed countries where mobiles are generally used more frequently by a younger population.

At the same time, Murphy suggests that rather than focus on the limitations of mobile, one should consider mobile to be a shift towards building stronger relationships with participants. Bhaskaran also refers to it as a paradigm shift rather than allowing the limitations to deter him. He champions the idea of reframing how research is done, insisting one must reach participants through their preferred channel, which appears to be mobile.

The Mobile Future

Though not currently a widespread method, an increase in mobile research is predicted in the near future. As previously mentioned, Murphy’s 2011 GRIT report shows that firms foresee an increase in its use in the next year. Interviewees believe this will occur much more quickly than the uptake in online research did, citing the exponential acceleration in technological advancement and adoption described by Moore’s Law (Murphy, Coleman), as well as a rush to stay ahead of the curve (Bhaskaran). As smartphone adoption increases and mobile research becomes more popular, mobile methods will become normalized and may cease to be referred to as a separate technique, becoming integrated with other methods (Stork).

Many agree that integration across mobile methods as well as between the back and front ends of mobile research systems will occur in the future (McCrary, Popper, Coleman, Murphy). In this way, mobile will become increasingly agile, or ‘smart’ (Murphy). A few experts suggest that the personal mobile device itself might change, becoming something between a mobile phone and a tablet device in terms of size and capabilities (Murphy, Coleman). Mobile devices could allow finger movements to be tracked on touchpad screens, which may lead to a better understanding of how consumers explore advertisements and other web components (Murphy).

While Clarke and others admit that the future of mobile is unclear, most interviewees are in agreement that there is a need to establish best practices and to gain a better understanding of the ideal contexts for mobile methods. Popper points out that like any new method, it will solve some problems while creating new ones.

Most interviewees agree that app-based research is the future of mobile. Bhaskaran explains that this is because companies like Apple “have invested very, very heavily in each of these [app] systems…and obviously all these are a great revenue generator for them. So…they will…not let it die.” Coleman goes a step further and speculates that apps will continue to become increasingly sophisticated and more richly embedded into the actual hardware of the device itself as mobile browsers become a thing of the past.

However unclear the future of mobile may be, most interviewees agree that the technology has brought about a shift in the relationship between researchers and participants that amounts to a type of continual conversation. Hobson refers to it as a shift away from “monolithic questions and answers” towards an “ongoing dialogue.” Interviewees also expect social media to become increasingly interconnected with mobile research (Murphy, Bhaskaran, Stork, Popper, Whaley, Luck). Whaley predicts the integration of social media will incite a shift away from the use of panels and towards the use of communities where participation takes on a more social aspect for members. Luck anticipates that geolocation data also may be combined with pshychographic information culled from social media . The result could be used to profile participants for segmentation purposes, to perform network analysis, to map influence and to understand how word-of-mouth travels in the real world.

Another evolution expected by the interviewees is that the overlap between market research and marketing on mobile devices will expand. Bhaskaran offers as an example of this the flow of coupons and discounts to participants’ mobile devices upon the completion of a mobile study. McCrary also predicts that measuring the effectiveness of mobile marketing will emerge as a new field, and more customer satisfaction and relationship management will be conducted through mobile methods. These changes would fundamentally alter the market research landscape, leading to the convergence of the market research field with marketing, advertising, and other industries.

This is Part 4 of a 9 part series. The next section will be posted the week of June 6th and will detail a “Mobile to-do list” to help move mobile research adoption forward.

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The experts believe that the benefits of mobile research include further engaging participants, as well as providing them with increased convenience. Sabine Stork, Senior Partner and Owner of market research firm Thinktank http://www.thinktank.uk.com/, explains, “One of the big upsides of mobile is that you get…unmediated insight into people’s lives…you’re handing over the tools and its kind of empowering I suppose to some extent.” Stork describes it as ‘democratizing marketing’, and Murphy agrees that it enhances consumers’ control over their relationship with a brand.

Editors Note: This is part 3 of a 9 part series by Carrie Robbins, a recent Master’s Degree recipient who did her thesis on Mobilizing Market Research: The state-of-the-art, future evolution and implications of mobile data collection methods in the field of market research. Here are the links to the previous sections:

Part 1: Why Go Mobile?

Part 2: Industry Insights

Since the GreenBook is also a Co-Sponsor of the Market Research in the Mobile World Conference, for the next 6 weeks as we run up to that event we’ll be posting a new section of Carrie’s report here. Registrants of the event will get access to a complete version that will be available via download. Carrie will also be attending MRMW11 and participating on one of our expert panels at the event!

This truly is a comprehensive review of the current state of the industry, the views of many industry thought leaders on what the future holds, and of current best practices being used. It should serve as a great resource for anyone interested in or actively engaged in utilizing mobile technologies for research-based initiatives. Enjoy!

By Carrie Robbins

The experts believe that the benefits of mobile research include further engaging participants, as well as providing them with increased convenience. Sabine Stork, Senior Partner and Owner of market research firm Thinktank, explains, “One of the big upsides of mobile is that you get…unmediated insight into people’s lives…you’re handing over the tools and its kind of empowering I suppose to some extent.” Stork describes it as ‘democratizing marketing’, and Murphy agrees that it enhances consumers’ control over their relationship with a brand.

Gathering in-the-moment data is, however, the most significant benefit of mobile. According to Elaine B. Coleman, Chief Research Officer and Co-Founder of Resolve Market Research, mobile can improve the quality of data. Coleman describes how retrospective protocols suffer from natural degradation of memory over time, decreasing the likelihood of an accurate recollection of an experience. Mobility offers real-time cognition and access to a person’s thoughts and intentions, undoubtedly augmenting the quality of the data. Mike Clarke, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Lieberman Research Worldwide , submits, “I think the potential advantage of getting consumer reaction to an experience more immediately after it occurred is towards the top of the list…it’s a benefit that…. has the potential to be truly unique.”

Because the mobile device is so personal, some interviewees point out that this often leads to more authentic, intimate, and truthful information. Qualitative market research consultant Kristin Schwitzer of Beacon Research states, “…It gives us another tool…that allows us as researchers to go into the moment with our target audience. And be there oftentimes when we’re not allowed or it’s not convenient.” Stork brings the intimacy of mobile to life, recalling, “…We asked people…how and where they like to read their magazines…and one of these readers uploaded a video of her getting into a bathtub with her magazine…fantastic! There’s absolutely no way, no way you would have got that through anything else.”

Close relationships with consumers can be built through mobile, and the interviewees note it increases participant engagement. McCrary explains that people who cannot be reached online can be accessed via mobile and subjects do not need to be tied to a single location. Senior Field Director Cris Sunada and Senior Vice President and General Manager Joanne Robbibaro (both of Lieberman) add that demographics such as youth and ethnicities that are not well represented in the online sphere tend to be accessible with mobile. Greg Bovitz, President of Bovitz Research Group, concludes that mobile increases the reach of a study. Stork specifically refers to the ability to identify the location of the respondent through their devices’ geolocation data as a benefit of mobile.

An interesting benefit of mobile research is the fact that most of the information gathered is user-generated, which lends it increased authenticity, according to Stork. She details a study that was conducted by collecting user-generated content (UGC) from mobile devices to use in a sales presentation to advertisers. This brought the readers to life and was considered more credible to the advertisers, as the images came directly from the consumers.

Current Uses of Mobile Research

Interviewees gave first-hand accounts of how mobile research currently is being used across the industry. They report that it is implemented for in-field data collection during intercepts (such as movie exits) or for short surveys prior to focus groups (Luck). Mobile seems to be best suited for gaining POP and ‘in the moment’ data directly from consumers while they are on their personal devices in the real world. Murphy deconstructs the underlining theory of mobile research by explaining, “we’re combining social media monitoring around brand sentiment with a real-time mobile feedback system…So, it’s primarily taking those streams of data and wrapping that around the idea of brand engagement and brand sentiment.”

Mobile research is often conducted by sending surveys to consumers’ mobile devices, either through a mobile web browser or a downloaded application. While surveys sent through applications are more powerful and tailored than those sent via web browsers, Kuppusamy encourages companies to offer both types in order to reach a wider range of devices and participants in a variety of contexts. Kuppusamy stresses that offering both types of mobile solutions provides a more holistic way to engage consumers “at multiple touch points with high relevance.” Luck and Bhaskaran assert that one benefit of apps is that new surveys can be sent to a phone behind the scenes and appear automatically on the phone without any effort on the part of the participant. Bovitz and Schwitzer point out that mobile is great for targeting mobile users or evaluating apps. Schwitzer observes that mobile is less well suited to older participants who tend not to be used to mobile devices, or when heavy video capabilities are needed.

Due to the physical size and technological constraints of mobile devices, these methods are employed when short sound bites will suffice and lengthy in-depth information is unnecessary. This has led to the use of mobile devices to gain small bits of data from consumers, which are built up over time, creating a longer-term relationship with consumers and establishing a profile of these consumers across a succession of interactions. Due to this new form of continued relationship with participants, mobile would seem to be well suited for panels.

Interestingly, mobile devices are particularly practical for capturing data from emerging markets, and are used to connect brands to consumers in the developing world (Hobson and Stork). Chris Hobson, Chief Operating Office of Txteagle (a sample provider and market research firm specializing in emerging markets) explains,

What people don’t realize is that most people on earth, their first experience with the thing called ‘the Internet’…is on a mobile phone…So if you are a global organization looking to reach consumers in the developing world, trying to find them online – you’re only going to find the top of the pyramid…But when you go to the mobile phone, you have a way to reach deeper into the demographic base, deeper down the pyramid…

It is clear that companies are still figuring out when mobile devices can and cannot be used, and best practices are in the process of being developed (Clarke, Luck and Murphy). The Best Practices section of this paper will touch on those mentioned by the interviewees.

This is Part 3 of a 9 part series. The next section will be posted the week of June 6th and will explore the limitations and future of mobile research approaches.

The background research on mobile methods, detailing the benefits and uses as well as the limitations, give a good indication of why proponents of mobile research urge others to adopt it. Surveys of market research firms have quantified what the industry thinks of this new method (Macer & Wilson, 2009a ; 2009b ; 2011 and Murphy 2011 ), but a more in-depth, qualitative understanding of what leading experts think about the topic could be useful to supplement these numbers. This qualitative approach offers insight into when and how mobile methods can best be leveraged, going beyond the numbers to take an in-depth look into the mobile market research landscape.

Editors Note: This is part 2 of a 9 part series by Carrie Robbins, a recent Master’s Degree recipient who did her thesis on Mobilizing Market Research: The state-of-the-art, future evolution and implications of mobile data collection methods in the field of market research.

Here is the link to Part 1: Why Go Mobile?

Since the GreenBook is also a Co-Sponsor of the Market Research in the Mobile World Conference, for the next 9 weeks as we run up to that event we’ll be posting a new section of Carrie’s report here. Registrants of the event will get access to a complete version that will be available via download. Carrie will also be attending MRMW11 and participating on one of our expert panels at the event!

This truly is a comprehensive review of the current state of the industry, the views of many industry thought leaders on what the future holds, and of current best practices being used. It should serve as a great resource for anyone interested in or actively engaged in utilizing mobile technologies for research-based initiatives. Enjoy!

By Carrie Robbins

The background research on mobile methods, detailing the benefits and uses as well as the limitations, give a good indication of why proponents of mobile research urge others to adopt it. Surveys of market research firms have quantified what the industry thinks of this new method (Macer & Wilson, 2009a ; 2009b ; 2011 and Murphy 2011 ), but a more in-depth, qualitative understanding of what leading experts think about the topic could be useful to supplement these numbers. This qualitative approach offers insight into when and how mobile methods can best be leveraged, going beyond the numbers to take an in-depth look into the mobile market research landscape.

Further, many industry leaders and firms have published case studies individually; therefore an overview of what mobile proponents think of these methods is opportune. The Industry Insights section of this white paper aims to offer just that – a summary of what some of the industry experts currently say about mobile research methods. In speaking with these thought-leaders, themes emerge regarding the convergence of market research with other industry sectors and a shifting relationship between researchers and consumers. The interviewees provide a thorough look at the state-of-the-art of the market research industry as it pertains to mobile methods.

Fifteen industry leaders were interviewed during March and April 2011 to determine their opinion of the state of mobile methods, the future of these methods as well as the implications of a shift towards mobile to the field of market research. The interviewees consisted of both professionals from market research firms who use mobile methods for data collection, and those whose organizations’ create the technology used for such research. Firms that provide samples for the specific purpose of mobile research were also included in the interviews. The interviewees are listed below, and the following is an overview of the collective opinions of these industry experts.

First Name Last Name Title Company
Vivek Bhaskaran President and CEO Survey Analytics
Greg Bovitz President Bovitz Research Group
Mike Clarke VP/GM Lieberman Research Worldwide
Elaine Coleman Chief Research Officer and Co-Founder Resolve Market Research
Chris Hobson Chief Operating Officer Txteagle
Palanivel Kuppusamy Founder iPinion Surveys
Kristin Luck President, Chief Brand Egvangelist Decipher
Michael McCrary Managing Director Cint, AB
Leonard Murphy CEO BrandScan360
Ari Popper President, North America BrainJuicer
Joanne Robbibaro SVP, General Manager Lieberman Research Worldwide
Kristin Schwitzer President Qualitative Research Consultant Beacon Research
Sabine Stork Senior Partner & Owner Thinktank
Cris Sunada Senior Field Director Lieberman Research Worldwide
Jim Whaley VP & Social Media Consultant Globalpark USA

 

 

The Current State of Mobile Methods

When asked how they define mobile data collection methods, most experts mention mobile devices including smartphones, feature phones, basic cell phones as well as tablet devices. Leonard Murphy, CEO of market research firm BrandScan360, defines mobile methods as

An approach that’s optimized to engage consumers in real time at the point of their experience to give feedback on that experience via a mobile device. And a mobile device would primarily be a mobile phone or tablet.

Some of the experts did not consider tablet devices in this definition, arguing that they are too similar in size and format to laptops and desktops to be considered a separate mobile category. Kristin Luck, President of market research firm Decipher, makes an argument for tablets as a mobile research tool, explaining,

“it is different…It’s kind of like a hybrid between a mobile device and a laptop…It is inherently more portable just because of its design.”

Vivek Bhaskaran, President and CEO of software provider Survey Analytics, describes mobile as both a research-facing and consumer-facing tool, as it can be used to aid researchers in the field in addition to being a means of connecting with participants through their personal mobile devices.

In general, the interviewees noted that mobile methods have existed for a while, but in a much more basic form – mainly through SMS polling. This generally consists of sending a text message to a consumers’ mobile phone and having them reply with a numbered response option. Both Luck and Bhaskaran consider this method to have limited capabilities and a fundamentally weak consumer interaction. Mobile methods recently have taken on a much more interesting and dynamic role, thanks to an explosion in connected mobile devices with online capabilities. Although Michael McCary (Managing Director of market research firm Cint, AB) considers this method to be in  its third iteration (text being the first, web-based the second and app-based the third), he and  the other interviewees described mobile methods as emerging and in a state of exploration and experimentation.

When asked about the state of mobile methods, Jim Whaley (VP at Globalpark USA ) was careful to make a distinction between different actors involved in the methodology, including end-user clients, respondents, and market research agencies as well as those actors who provide the technology and the best practices needed to use it. Whaley’s insightful distinction between actors allows him to point out that the state of mobile methods is different depending on the point of view of the various actors. He states,

From a technology standpoint there are really no limitations at this point in time…from an agency standpoint…they still are…struggl[ing] with the idea of…their sampling methodology.

Some interviewees compared the current stage of mobile methods to the emergence of online methods. Some interviewees, such as Luck, believe people need time to catch up and get used to the idea of mobile methods before embracing them. However, Bhaskaran thinks there is actually less resistance to mobile from the market research community than there was to online methods because people do not want to be behind the trend. He states,

…I’ve been through these kinds of paradigm shifts…in 2003 and 2005 the paradigm really shifted…online…The difference that I see right now is that during that time there was enormous resistance from the entire market research community to go online…I think this time around I have not seen that much resistance…So I think that’s good news.

Palanivel Kuppusamy, Founder of mobile survey provider iPinion Surveys describes the move towards mobile as being driven by an increase in smartphone users, while Murphy describes a sort of ‘perfect storm’ of distinct elements, stating,

…Social media was this explosion in terms of the ability to get unstructured, unasked feedback…At the same time…was the smartphone revolution…So there are these two converging technology drivers that really kind of changed the equation. And at the same time, there was the recession…research became very commoditized…They all kind of converged where mobile becomes this ideal delivery system.

 

The interviewees emphasize the importance of mobile methods, explaining that they are imperative in order to combat drop-off in traditional online surveys. Luck states:

“We did a big study for a client of ours and we found that almost 40% of the people coming into the survey…were actually accessing it from their mobile device.”

Mobile is also considered an effective way to generate an increase in participation, which is currently seen as a serious problem in the field of market research. Bhaskaran explains:

“…The fundamental key…is engagement really…It’s got to be fun, it’s got to be engaging, it’s got to really be something the users want to do rather than they are forced to do.”

Mobile is considered a useful way to engage younger participants, and a shift in paradigm to a participant-centered model, in which the researcher goes to the participant, rather than the participant coming to the researcher.

A desire to stay ahead of the curve of emerging methods also is cited as an important consideration. In Bhaskaran’s words,

“We want to get a head start over everybody else…It’s better to start a little bit early than come into the party a little bit late.”

This is Part 2 of a 9 part series. The next section will be posted the week of May 30 and will explore the benefits and current uses of mobile research approaches.

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