According to a recently released article by the Associated Press, 2/3 of all smartphone owners sleep with their phones right next to the bed. While the article also talks about some worrisome trends including increasing anti-social behavior - I believe that such usage will reach an equilibrium after the novelty factors wear out in a few years. In the meantime, I want to focus on what this means for market research.
I have noticed that after purchasing my iPhone almost 3 years ago, I have stopped using my desktop and notebook computers for casual usage. Here is why I think my behavior changed - my phone is my address book, email client, Facebook interface, alarm clock, camera, navigation system (GPS), music player, casual gaming console, and even the web browser. As I think through, I don't think it's merely because these features exist - it's because it just works, has amazing user experience and is incredibly accessible anytime, anywhere. I have at multiple occasions stopped my car on the side of the road to respond to emails. At one specific occasion I was able to program a survey right from my phone and send it out to SurveySwipe community members on the way to Mt. Rainier.
Market research starts with data collection. Most service providers and researchers know that it has been increasingly difficult to improve or maintain good response rates via online samples. Additionally, if increasing number of research studies validate the theory that people are using their smartphones in more ways than they ever used their computers - by not performing mobile research you are simply excluding 1/3 of the population. You don't need to be a statistician to understand that it is a big problem. In addition to being inclusive, smartphones offer several unprecedented opportunities for data collection. Here are some examples:
- Ability to popup surveys when smartphone owner is in close proximity to an entity of interest - Starbucks, Walmart etc.
- Validating stated from observed behavior (photos, videos)
- Qualitative studies where people record their thoughts as they go their shopping experience
Incredulously, we are still at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what will be possible. Good or bad aside, I think we should acknowledge that unprecedented ability to reach people via their smartphones will change everything - not just market research.
P.S: I really wonder about Apple's Net Promoter Score (NPS).