Research in the mobile mindset

2012 finally seems to be the year of mobile. Smartphone penetration booms, mobile marketing budgets grow exponentially, and online sources like Mashablereport that in the US alone, the app economy has created about half a million jobs in only 5 years’ time. In the slipstream of this, the market research industry has a close eye on the ball.
Both on the technology and the methodology side, we see that our research toolbox is mobile enabled. There have never been more congresses and research events that focus on the mobile dimension. However, while it is a fact that mobile is seeing its breakthrough in our industry, we see that most of the current research efforts are based on either mobile surveying as a tool or mobile ethnography. While in essence there are great projects being conducted by researchers all over the world, we miss a couple of dimensions in the discussion.

Mobile is often put forward as the remedy to avoid recall bias with participants

Recall bias is a type of systematic bias that occurs when the way a survey participant answers a question is affected not just by the correct answer, but also by the participant’s incorrect memory. One of the factors influencing recall bias is the time lapse between the actual experience and the reporting of that experience. In other words, it is crucial to be as close as possible to the experience one wants to measure. Being closer to the experience will rule out the recall bias, since there is no recall at all; it’s happening right there, right then. The link with the power of mobile is obvious: the device that is always in peoples pockets can be an intuitive tool for reporting the experience, which will positively influence data quality.

Apart from data quality, mobile also has potential from a sampling perspective

Within the online research space, and especially looking at online surveys, we see that the majority of projects use a panel-based sampling approach. One clear advantage in comparison with offline data collection from a business perspective is the lower cost and effort that needs to be put in to collect and input data. On the other hand, in some instances offline recruitment methods have the advantage that less filtering is needed; the people that are recruited in a supermarket will be able to tell you something about that supermarket. Especially when looking for users of a product or service, or people who were exposed to a certain ad, you end up with a 100% relevant sample. It is at this intersection of online and offline sampling methods that mobile plays a potential role. By intercepting people via a cue (poster, flyer, etc.) in a public place we can invite them to take a survey on their own mobile device. Additionally, this way of sampling can be very convenient for participants. There is no need to sign up for a panel and to endure regular mails about research; one participates when one wants.

The value of mobile for qualitative research is not only restricted to ethnography but can also help in market research communities

Community members are able to stay in touch with the community more often. This results in richer data, that is more personal and contextual. For example, we have run a community with Australian food mavens. They shared a lot of photo’s of their dinner settings, cooking creations sources of inspiration and more. We even got video’s showing them while they were cooking. So, a mobile app increases the engagement with the community, and results in richer data.

When budgets shift towards mobile marketing and advertising, marketers will be in need of deep insight into what mobile really is all about

However, there is a lack of theory about what it is that really drives people to use their smartphone. Furthermore, very little models and strategic frameworks exist that can help clients to make tactical decisions on how to integrate mobile in their communication mix. Also, in comparison with the evaluations of other communication channels (print ads, websites,…) clear guidelines on what to measure in both the set up stage as when evaluating the effectiveness of a mobile communication effort are missing. Market research should grasp the opportunity to assist clients with their mobile need.

So what is next?

We recently conducted several experiments to fill in the gaps. In order to test your knowledge about these new challenges, we prepared a small quiz that can be conducted on your smartphone! The full results of our mobile experiments were presented at the ESOMAR 3D Conference in Amsterdam last week (awarding us with the Best Presentation of the congress). Next to that we also published the results in the paper below. Enjoy the read!

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