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A Big Glass Of Good Stuff From BrainJuicer & Others on Mobile Market Research

We’ve been posting a lot recently on the topic of mobile research; most of the Top 10 posts here are about mobile MR. Here is another post with what we hope is interesting content related to the topic.

We’ve been posting a lot recently on the topic of mobile research, primarily because that is one of the hottest topics in global MR right now, but also because several of us believe that the emerging trend of adoption of this technology for MR is immensely transformative for the industry and will be more ubiquitous in five years than online methods are today.  Based on our blog stats, it appears that you agree; most of the Top 10 posts here are about mobile MR. Since we are nothing if not eager to serve our faithful readers and the industry as a whole, here is another post with what we hope is interesting content related to the topic.

Kicking things off, our good friends at the Merlien Institute recently conducted an interview regarding mobile MR with Paul Roberts – Managing Director, Customers and Employee Experience – BrainJuicer® (U.K.). They asked if we would mind posting the interview, and of course we jumped at the chance. BrainJuicer is one of the firms that is charting a new course for the industry and when they talk, I sit up and pay attention. In this case Paul has exceptionally forward thinking ideas on where mobile MR is today and where it is going. It’s a fascinating discussion, and here it is:

1. What is the current state-of-the-art in terms of mobile research? What are your thoughts in terms of future mobile technologies and how it will impact market research?

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly capable and versatile, and consumers are beginning to see their mobile devices as much more than phones or e-mail devices. This shift in consumer behaviour opens doors to a completely new set of opportunities for research. However, most research suppliers are attempting to shoehorn traditional surveys onto mobile phones as opposed to rethinking how a mobile platform enables a different kind of consumer feedback and more robust market research results.

The mobile platform offers the exciting opportunity to capture consumers’ reactions to a particular experience in what we call the ‘mobile moment of truth’—the exact instance in which a consumer is making a purchase or usage decision. Because smart phones are changing the way that consumers interact and communicate, researchers will need to strive to adapt research design and incentives to changing trends in consumer behaviour.

As the number and proportion of smart phone users in the market increases, creative application development will become increasingly important. Companies like BrainJuicer who are interested in developing more innovative research tools and not restricting access to consumers with smart phones, will take advantage of the evolution in mobile tariffs and other variables to accelerate access to more “mobile consumers”.

We believe that future developments in browsers and their respective underlying technologies are key: we have already seen highly functional web-based applications for mobile that offer a similar experience to those found in desktop or laptop applications. The combination of more sophisticated applications and broader adoption of smart phones should increase participation rates in mobile research from 30% – 40% of the population which we see today, to as high as 90% in the near future.

2. What are the common challenges of doing qualitative research using mobile tools? e.g. ethnography.

Collecting consumer verbatim responses is a highly valuable and revealing feature of qualitative research, but one that is very difficult to collect using most online surveys, much less in mobile research methods. This is due to the fact that it can be more cumbersome to communicate verbally using a mobile device with a limited keyboard when compared to communicating in person, by phone, or even in an online survey using a computer.

Mobile researchers are faced with the challenge of finding innovative ways to collect real consumer language and verbatim responses. For example, at BrainJuicer, we have addressed this obstacle by introducing tools for the mobile platform for measuring emotion using clickable images of faces (FaceTrace®) and for quantitative analyzing consumer verbatim responses (MindReader®).

In conducting research using mobile phones, researchers also encounter trouble ensuring that participants complete the survey process. In our customer satisfaction solutions, for example, we have found that issuing reminders to participants near the exact time of the experience has significant impact on participation rates.

3. How are the incentives for consumers to participate in mobile research studies compared to traditional methods?

Currently, incentives are often significantly higher for participants in mobile research as compared with respondents for online surveys recruited from panels. This stems from the perception that mobile research is more intrusive and comes at a cost to the respondent, the fact that few panel providers actually maintain lists with critical masses of respondents willing and enabled to take surveys on smart phones, and the historically low (but rising) proportion of smart phone users.

Changing consumer behaviour provides new opportunities for creative incentives as mobile research evolves. Smart phones have become a tool for on-the-go entertainment and personal expression; consumers are able to constantly broadcast their thoughts using social media and can remain connected to email while away from their computers. Further, as consumers become habituated to using their phones and accepting charges along the way (e.g. downloading music, making reservations, paying for apps to facilitate buying goods and accessing social media, the idea of incentives will need to transcend a purely financial model. Pop/American Idol is a great example of an effective, non-financial incentive structure: millions of people vote via SMS, many of whom incur charges in doing so, without a monetary reward. The industry needs to experiment with identifying intrinsic motivators that can pull consumers into participation.

Paul Roberts is a speaker at upcoming conference on Market Research in the Mobile World: The Next Frontier on the 2 & 3 December 2010 in Berlin. More info about the conference can be found at

Good stuff, especially about the need to develop new incentive systems and engagement models. For my money, I think we could learn a thing or ten from the social gaming model and location-based SM offerings on how to build new respondent engagement strategies. These companies seem to have shown that consumers will engage on a regular basis for non-traditional rewards such as gaming, social prestige, and brand-centric coupons or offers. A new article in Advertising  Age titled Expecting Something in Return for Your Check-in Efforts? discusses this idea from the mobile-specific model of location-based SM rewards. Here is an excerpt:

This set of loyalty apps also takes the check-in-to-places phenomenon that Foursquare has popularized right to the mall or grocery aisle. Rather than checking in to alert your social network or post to Facebook, users can check in for discounts to use at the register or for points that add up to gift cards, prizes or donations.

And there are some big-name proponents. Mikael Thygesen, chief marketing officer at Simon Property Group, just spent the past few weeks traveling to big-name retailers with Shopkick’s founder and CEO Cyriac Roeding. “They have all been intrigued and interested,” Mr. Thygesen said of the meetings. “The fact that, for the first time, you as a retailer are going to be able to identify a shopper when they cross the threshold of the store, not when they’re at the point-of-sale and getting ready to exit the store, that’s a game changer.”

This same model can be applied to point-of-experience research and for engaging consumers in a new breed of “social mobile panels”, where consumers engage in a whole host of research initiatives  and participate based on their location and brand interactions. The possibilities for new levels of real-time insight and revolutionary brand reinforcement are really limitless.

To use another example, I recently came across Miso, a company that describes itself as “Foursqure for TV”. In an interview on App Market TV CEO Somrat Niyogi the Miso model is explained and the idea of how to engage consumers comes up. Here is their take:

Why do you focus on game-mechanics?

“People love to share what they watch – why not make it a little bit more fun.  We think of game mechanics as an opportunity to reward people for tuning in every week to their favorite show.  We have been working with networks in the US, such as TNT and WE tv, to use our social TV platform as a marketing vehicle to incent people to tune-in to their favorite shows – such as using “check-ins” to translate to wining physical prizes or unlocking virtual badges.  Game mechanics will continue to be part of the Miso experience.”

Will you integrate real-time social chatter in Miso?
“We are exploring the idea of real-time chatter within Miso, but it’s still to early to tell what people want while they watch TV. There is an increasing trend of people watching time-shifted TV, so we are building an experience for people to enjoy Miso no matter what time they watch TV, so we’ll need to see how real-time fits into the mix.  We do know, however, that for the right pieces of content, the idea of real-time conversations does make sense – such as watching sports.  We are focused on building a social TV platform that no matter what you watch, and no matter what time you watch, Miso is still useful and fun for you.”

What is striking here is that companies like Foursquare, Miso, Gowalla, and others are effectively building very broad based mobile diary panels and they don’t even seem to know it! The are proving that the model of engagement works, consumers are signing up in droves, and they are creating a model that could very easily be applied to MR. So why are we not doing it?

Just to tie this into a nice little content package, Target Latino reports that according to a national survey from CTIA and Harris Interactive nearly half (47%) of US teens say their social life would end or be worsened without their cell phone, and nearly six in 10 (57%) credit their mobile device with improving their life. The Millennials could also be called the “Mobile Generation”, and the results of this study clearly indicate that this global population is most likelyto engage in research via their mobile devices rather than other channels.

The study also confirmed that texting is replacing talking among teens. Teens admitted spending nearly an equal amount of time talking as they do texting each month. The feature is so important to them that if texting were no longer an option 47% of teens say their social life would end or be worsened – that’s especially so among females (54% vs. 40%).

Teens say texting has advantages over talking because it offers more options, including multitasking, speed, the option to avoid verbal communication, and because it is fun – in that order, according to the study.

With more than 1 billion text messages sent each day, it is no surprise that 42% of teens say they can text blindfolded, the study found.

“Teens have created a new form of communication. We call it texting, but in essence it is a reflection of how teens want to communicate to match their lifestyles. It is all about multitasking, speed, privacy and control,” said Joseph Porus, VP & chief architect, Technology Group, Harris Interactive. “Teens in this study are crying for personalization and control of exactly what a wireless device or plan can do for them.”

Devices of the Future

The survey asked teens what future changes they’d like to see in wireless services and devices and found that respondents want cell phones that break boundaries and are personalized to fit their lifestyles.

Teens remain excited and openminded about the wireless possibilities and their ideal future mobile devices would feature five applications – phone, MP3 player, GPS, laptop computer and video player, according to Harris.

“In the future, mobility for teens means mobile banking, mobile voting, location based services, personal entertainment – the sky is the limit for how mobile our lifestyles can be,” said Steve Largent, president and CEO, CTIA – The Wireless Association. “We’ve certainly come a long way in 25 years and expect teens to be a growth driver for the industry and have a major impact on the wireless landscape for years to come.”

As this important segment ages, these communication preferences will only become more ingrained in the population, and as that happens the insight function has to learn to develop innovative new models to engage with them on their terms, not ours.

I was talking to a good friend and colleague earlier and we agreed that this is a very exciting time for our industry. New technology and cultural trends are creating unrivaled opportunities to reinvent MR and assume our seat at the table as vital strategic channels of insight, data, and consumer engagement. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

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