Mobile as a means, not the end

Mobile research is a, if not the, hot topic in market research right now.  The world is adopting smartphones and tablets at a scarily rapid rate and we can already see clear signs that this is impacting our behaviour as social beings, media consumers and shoppers.

  • Smartphone adoption in the UK has now breached 50%
  • 1-in-3 mobile users across Europe are regularly accessing their email via their phone (courtesy of ComScore)
  • 5% of on-line sales are now conducted via a mobile phone (courtesy of CapGemini)
  • Our own research at Christmas showed that 8% of UK consumers say they’d bought something at Christmas using their smartphone

So it is a no-brainer that the research and insight industry must keep abreast of these changes and develop tools and solutions that enable us to engage with the mobile consumer through this medium.  And that is why I, in my role as head of digital here at Marketing Sciences, am proud to be one of the founder members of the new Mobile Marketing Research Association (MMRA).

But to say that mobile is a new and exciting methodology is a mistake.  For too long our industry has focussed on the method rather than the aims and the output; talking about neat labels such as quant/qual, CATI/CAPI, etc.  We now live in a complex and multi-faceted world where we use multiple channels, locations & devices to go about our daily lives.  So why can’t research be the same?

I saw an interesting stat in a presentation by Vision Critical recently that on average 10% of online surveys are conducted via a mobile device, and that this reach as high as 50% for certain demographics, something that we can concur with judging by access data from our own NewVista online panel.  But I wonder how many of these online surveys have been designed with mobile in mind with the limitations of its screen size, lack of Flash (on iPhones and iPads) and attention span of the user?  So I wonder how many more target respondents are not completing the survey because they have clicked on the invite link in an email they’ve opened on their phone and given up because of the poor experience?

I believe a device agnostic approach to research where we utilise all channels to engage consumers on any given topic; be that face-to-face, telephone, online, mobile or via social media is the way forward – much as our clients are doing through their own communications.  It may mean our solutions don’t fit in nice neat categories that we can box up on the shelf, but it would mean that we develop research studies that fit with the needs of our consumers and deliver more relevant and contextualised insights for our clients.

Where do you see the role for mobile in research and how do you see this changing over time?  I’d love to hear your views.

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Ian Ralph
01962 842211
Article date - 14/03/2012
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