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The Brave New World Of A Converged Mobile Future

The emergence of converged mobile as one of the major growth channels for consumer engagement for both marketing and research continues to dominate the news. I suspect by this time next year we’ll see mobile MR following the same trajectory that online research took in the early 2000’s, although vastly accelerated. If anyone is still in doubt about the need to make mobile (and social media too!) a major adoption priority in 2010, this blog post should help convince you.

My belief is that the combined forces of the social media revolution and converged mobile will have a more profound impact  on our industry than any other socio-technological trend ever has. Although I hear many colleagues saying that their clients are not asking for social media or mobile based projects yet, in the next breath they bemoan the decrease of budgets and devaluing of research. I think that we’re missing the connections here:

  1. Marketing budgets are increasingly being allocated to data mining. mobile channels, and social media monitoring efforts outside of the research organization. As Hal King mentions here, “last year, enterprises spent about $30 billion in North America for Business Intelligence investments – our share for custom research was $1.5 billion.”
  2. The emergence of DIY tools (including SMM) is further eroding share of budget for traditional research.
  3. The demand for inexpensive, fast, and actionable insights is an imperative at the c-suite: traditional MR techniques don’t meet that criteria well.
  4. The flood of consumers to an inter-connected converged mobile personal communications paradigm is unstoppable, and just as they demand engagement on their terms from brands, the same applies to MR.
  5. The development of sophisticated syndicated data products, online listening and monitoring tools, and community-centric engagement models continue to gain market share against traditional MR.

It seems to me that all of this points inescapably to the conclusion that market forces are pushing MR to redefine itself or face marginalization, and a major piece of the strategy for our industry in order to grow in relevance  is to reinvent ourselves and embrace these new technologies. Of course, it’s not just about the tools; we have a lot of work in front of ourselves to position the industry as a strategic asset and consulting resource. For the purposes of this post, we’re just going to focus on the impact of a shift towards converged mobile as a primary consumer engagement channel and insight collection methodology.

So, what are some of the basic implications for the industry of a converged mobile future? Here is my take:

  • The dollar value of projects will decrease significantly due to reduced field costs (shorter questionnaires, less expensive programming costs, reduced sample costs)
  • Shorter project time-lines across the board. Rather than 30 days for a study, I suspect we’ll see studies lasting 7-10 days (or less)
  • Sampling and quota design models will have to be re-thought
  • Questionnaires will become short and highly focused
  • As complexity decreases, so will the value of full-service researchers, statisticians, etc…
  • Increased longitudinal and tracking studies will come into play
  • The development of all new hybrid approaches that are based more on “lifestreaming” and ethnography than traditional qual and quant
  • Larger data sets and more reliance on “meta-analysis” of multiple and/or converged data streams

In short the economic models, staffing make-up, business culture, and overall approaches of MR will be drastically re-defined. To a very large degree we are looking at nothing less than the forced re-invention of an industry.

The good news is that many companies (many of which come from outside of  the traditional MR industry) see the writing on the wall and are pioneering this brave new world we find ourselves on the cusp of. Companies such as OnePoint, Conversition, Sands Research, Civic Science, Kinesis Surveys, Communispace, and many others are rapidly defining all new models of how mobile, social media, and other techniques can be utilized to meet the demands of the market.

Still not convinced? Here is a collection of news stories from the last week alone. Click on the quotes to go to the original articles.

First, Placecast, the marketing firm, partnered with Harris Interactive, the research company, to survey 2,046 adults in the country. According to the study a growing number of consumers in the US would like to access offers and coupons via their mobile phones.

Overall, one third of respondents that had opted in to receive mobile alerts from brand owners had visited a specific store after being sent information in this way.

A further 27% agreed their purchase decisions in bricks-and-mortar outlets had been influenced by this form of communications.

More broadly, 28% of participants were at least “somewhat interested” in signing up to programmes providing them with updates about new products, sales or discounts.

According to Booz & Co, the demand among consumers for mobile apps will continue to rise in the next three years, during which time the number of smartphones in use will increase to one billion worldwide.

According to Booz & Co, the revenues related to application downloads will reach €17bn ($21bn; £14bn) across the globe by 2013, a figure that is likely to be topped up by advertising spend and the sale of games.

By this date, it is predicted there will be more than a billion web-enabled smartphones in circulation, with the surge in popularity of these handsets driving an annual growth rate of 73% in app purchases.

However, the direct distribution of applications is expected to be worth just €5.4bn by 2013, with the remainder of the total attributable to broader benefits resulting from greater brand loyalty and reduced churn.

MRWeb reports that Ipsos and mobile data collection technology firm Techneos have partnered to develop new mobile research techniques, technologies and applications.

The tool was used by the pair in May, for their first joint study – ‘The Great British Weekend’ – to uncover how consumers use their mobile phones in everyday life.

This project also incorporated the use of a new mobile research technique which combines surveys with multiple choice, sliding scale, open text, the capture of pictures, and GPS-based locations, to understand people’s lives, moods, environments and decisions. has an article on how Duke University is looking to put iPads to work in their research methods course.

Course tutor Jen’nan Read said: “Our primary goal is to equip our students with a toolset that allows them to make the most of their time in the field.

“As calculation, graphing, and presentation-creation functions of the iPad are put to use in the field, so too is the ability for students to focus on mastering the more complex methods by which they are basing their research.”

Course iPads boast 3G and wi-fi internet access and a variety of research and survey applications that can record and import multimedia interviews and photos, and collect, chart, evaluate and even present data.

TechNewsDaily gives us the scoop on a ComScore study on smartphone usage in the U.S.

Smartphone ownership surged 8.1 percent over the last three months to now comprise nearly 50 million United States cell phone users, the study found.

Meanwhile, the smartphone operating system (OS) that saw the biggest gain over the last quarter was Google’s Android, which jumped from use on nine percent to 13 percent of handsets from earlier in the year.

On a related note, Online Media Daily provides even more data on mobile device trends.

Smartphones are now owned by 49.1 million people in the U.S. as of the three month ending in May — up 8.1% compared with the prior three months, according to a comScore MobiLens report released Thursday.

Mobile browser use also continues to rise. Browsers were used by 31.9% of U.S. mobile subscribers in the three months ending in May, up 2.3% points. Sixty-two percent of U.S. mobile subscribers used text messaging on their mobile device — up 1.4% points. Subscribers who used downloaded applications comprised 30% of the mobile subscribers, up 2.1% points from the previous period. The number of social networking sites or blogs accessed through a mobile device rose 2.6% points to 20.8% of all mobile subscribers.

And finally, we have a report from Nielsen on the explosive growth of social media in the Asia Pacific region, which is already far in advance of the U.S. in mobile convergence.

The survey found that three of the seven biggest global online brands are social media sites – Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube. Close to three quarters of the world’s Internet population (74%) have now visited a social networking/blogging site, and Internet users are spending an average of almost six hours per month on social media sites.

Social media is having an increasing impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions – in Asia Pacific, online product reviews are the third most trusted source of information when making purchase decisions, behind family and friends. This is particularly so for purchases of consumer electronics, cosmetics and cars – products where consumers are most likely to base their purchase decisions on online product reviews. But not ever country shares the same way.

Those are just a few articles on mobile; there is a ton of information out there related to this topic, social media usage and trends, etc…, and of course you can always search our archive for more information.

So, are you a believer yet? How do you think the converged mobile revolution will impact MR?

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8 responses to “The Brave New World Of A Converged Mobile Future

  1. Great post Leonard. I think its not coming its here already.
    Some see it and are preparing to grow with it, the rest will be pushed. Either way no where to run & no where to hide!

  2. I don’t think there’s much point in trying to argue against the idea that mobile is the future. But I strongly suspect that a lot of client companies are going to be disappointed and become frustrated with trying to use SMM as a primary source to shed light on their burning marketing issues – without intervening, they aren’t (and won’t be able) to find sufficiently conclusive answers to specific questions. There’s always going to be scope for a custom study, albeit maybe cheaper and faster than before (ironically maybe with a larger, online, sample size).
    A cynic might say that what we’re looking forward to is just a whole load of bad research. The really easy person to contact or listen in to isn’t necessarily the best – usually, far from it. But it feels like client companies are very prepared to dumb down. If they do, they’ll regret it… but they won’t know until it’s too late.
    As a final point – I can well believe that $28+ billion was spent on business intelligence investments last year in North America – but where’s the return on this? It doesn’t mean that these were good investments. Time will tell, but let’s not beat ourselves up – the only answer is to try and educate the c-suite about the pros and cons of different information feeds, and to reassert the value of custom research.

  3. Hi,
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