Mobile Market Research - How long before it is mainstream?

I recently watched a preview from Liz Nelson, program committee chair of the Mobile Market Research Conference. She makes the following points about mobile research:

  • Mobile research will come and it's inevitable that it will succeed, however the market research industry is slow and is risk averse.

  • It will take several years for mobile research to be profitable drawing upon the experience with online market research when it replaced paper and telephone based market research.

  • The only difference between mobile and online surveys is the questionnaire design.

I want to further comment on each of these.

Mobile Research Will Come, it's Inevitable BUT Market Research Industry is Risk Averse

I think Liz is right on the money about mobile eventually becoming a major market research channel. The challenge is as Liz says how we as market research service providers convince market researchers that mobile research is already possible and may mean better response rates and thus provide better return on the marketing dollars spent.

Like every innovation in any industry, it takes time for people to build mindshare around an innovation. It takes time for people to wrap their heads around economic value of something new that is disruptive. Along with the mindshare, tools take time to mature as well. SurveySwipe has conducted realtime mobile research during State of the Union address, SuperBowl and PSAMA/SDMA joint production MarketMix Conference. The common theme across all these efforts have been that people are more likely to take a survey on a smartphone because it taps into impulse of people to provide feedback in close proximity with an experience that they just had. We have consistently seen about 40-45% response rates in the mobile research projects that we have conducted.

It will take several years for mobile research to be profitable drawing upon the experience with online market research when it replaced paper and telephone based market research.

While it is true that online market research took a long time before it was profitable, I disagree with Liz about the fact that it will take as long for mobile research to be profitable. The reason is simple - online market research had more barriers to entry than mobile market research will have. While smartphone is a quantum leap in technology with respect to traditional cell phones, the concept of having a powerful device is not new. In other words, a smartphone is simply a smaller laptop that has an identity (you as a person carry it with you), access (always on, notifications tell you about events on the phone), and is as close to a conventional telephone (but with mobility) as you can get in this rapidly evolving digital age.

In addition to this, the infrastructure that provide reporting and analytics already exist and in most cases don't have to be rebuilt for mobile. The maturity in tools will come and will come quicker than most people realize.

The only difference between mobile and online surveys is the questionnaire design

Liz is right about this from an operational point of view of mobile market research. With SurveySwipe, you use the same tools that you use to run an online research project in SurveyAnalytics and QuestionPro. With the powerful research engine already time tested, it is incremental work in terms of building mobile functionality for conducting surveys. However, mobile research presents more opportunities that needs our collective creative juices flowing.

i) Location - SurveySwipe provides access to location of the user so that you as a community owner can decide to send out surveys based on location context of the user. For example, it is not far fetched for a gym to send out surveys 10 minutes after a member finishes a circuit training.

ii) People are motivated by rewards. Traditional rewards have been in the form of points that can be redeemed for promotional offers, and in some cases cash - we know that it works in the online world but in the mobile world we can get even more creative about rewards. For example, we have our operations setup to give out free Angry Birds app for iPhone. We have also partnered with Amazon to give out instant electronic gift cards. We hope that by providing rewards that people spend time in consuming (like Angry Birds), they will come back and participate in more research.

iii) Push notifications - Conducting surveys at the right time is one of the keys to drive response rates higher. Besides supporting push notifications on all four major smartphone platforms (iPhone, Android, Blackberry and WinMo), SurveySwipe allows community owners to schedule push notifications so that research projects can be sent out when it is appropriate to do so with instant access to power reporting and analysis - in realtime.

Apple resurrected the smartphone market not very long ago and the number of users using smartphones has nowhere to go but up. The smartphone reach in the United States is about 31%, projected to be close to 45% within a year or two.  We believe that mobile market research will grow faster than most people realize and at SurveySwipe we are well positioned to provide market researchers with the most advanced technology solutions. We are focused in building the right set of tools for market researchers to build mobile communities, reach users in real time and provide services and framework to engage users to improve response rates.


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