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Mobilizing Market Research: Benefits & Current Uses (Part 3 of 9)

Sabine Stork, Senior Partner and Owner of market research firm Thinktank explains, “One of the big upsides of mobile is that you get...unmediated insight into people’s’re handing over the tools and its kind of empowering I suppose to some extent.”


Editors Note: This is part 3 of a 9 part series by Carrie Robbins, a recent Master’s Degree recipient who did her thesis on Mobilizing Market Research: The state-of-the-art, future evolution and implications of mobile data collection methods in the field of market research. Here are the links to the previous sections:

Part 1: Why Go Mobile?

Part 2: Industry Insights

Since the GreenBook is also a Co-Sponsor of the Market Research in the Mobile World Conference, for the next 6 weeks as we run up to that event we’ll be posting a new section of Carrie’s report here. Registrants of the event will get access to a complete version that will be available via download. Carrie will also be attending MRMW11 and participating on one of our expert panels at the event!

This truly is a comprehensive review of the current state of the industry, the views of many industry thought leaders on what the future holds, and of current best practices being used. It should serve as a great resource for anyone interested in or actively engaged in utilizing mobile technologies for research-based initiatives. Enjoy!


By Carrie Robbins

The experts believe that the benefits of mobile research include further engaging participants, as well as providing them with increased convenience. Sabine Stork, Senior Partner and Owner of market research firm Thinktank, explains, “One of the big upsides of mobile is that you get…unmediated insight into people’s lives…you’re handing over the tools and its kind of empowering I suppose to some extent.” Stork describes it as ‘democratizing marketing’, and Murphy agrees that it enhances consumers’ control over their relationship with a brand.

Gathering in-the-moment data is, however, the most significant benefit of mobile. According to Elaine B. Coleman, Chief Research Officer and Co-Founder of Resolve Market Research, mobile can improve the quality of data. Coleman describes how retrospective protocols suffer from natural degradation of memory over time, decreasing the likelihood of an accurate recollection of an experience. Mobility offers real-time cognition and access to a person’s thoughts and intentions, undoubtedly augmenting the quality of the data. Mike Clarke, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Lieberman Research Worldwide , submits, “I think the potential advantage of getting consumer reaction to an experience more immediately after it occurred is towards the top of the list…it’s a benefit that…. has the potential to be truly unique.”

Because the mobile device is so personal, some interviewees point out that this often leads to more authentic, intimate, and truthful information. Qualitative market research consultant Kristin Schwitzer of Beacon Research states, “…It gives us another tool…that allows us as researchers to go into the moment with our target audience. And be there oftentimes when we’re not allowed or it’s not convenient.” Stork brings the intimacy of mobile to life, recalling, “…We asked people…how and where they like to read their magazines…and one of these readers uploaded a video of her getting into a bathtub with her magazine…fantastic! There’s absolutely no way, no way you would have got that through anything else.”

Close relationships with consumers can be built through mobile, and the interviewees note it increases participant engagement. McCrary explains that people who cannot be reached online can be accessed via mobile and subjects do not need to be tied to a single location. Senior Field Director Cris Sunada and Senior Vice President and General Manager Joanne Robbibaro (both of Lieberman) add that demographics such as youth and ethnicities that are not well represented in the online sphere tend to be accessible with mobile. Greg Bovitz, President of Bovitz Research Group, concludes that mobile increases the reach of a study. Stork specifically refers to the ability to identify the location of the respondent through their devices’ geolocation data as a benefit of mobile.

An interesting benefit of mobile research is the fact that most of the information gathered is user-generated, which lends it increased authenticity, according to Stork. She details a study that was conducted by collecting user-generated content (UGC) from mobile devices to use in a sales presentation to advertisers. This brought the readers to life and was considered more credible to the advertisers, as the images came directly from the consumers.

Current Uses of Mobile Research

Interviewees gave first-hand accounts of how mobile research currently is being used across the industry. They report that it is implemented for in-field data collection during intercepts (such as movie exits) or for short surveys prior to focus groups (Luck). Mobile seems to be best suited for gaining POP and ‘in the moment’ data directly from consumers while they are on their personal devices in the real world. Murphy deconstructs the underlining theory of mobile research by explaining, “we’re combining social media monitoring around brand sentiment with a real-time mobile feedback system…So, it’s primarily taking those streams of data and wrapping that around the idea of brand engagement and brand sentiment.”

Mobile research is often conducted by sending surveys to consumers’ mobile devices, either through a mobile web browser or a downloaded application. While surveys sent through applications are more powerful and tailored than those sent via web browsers, Kuppusamy encourages companies to offer both types in order to reach a wider range of devices and participants in a variety of contexts. Kuppusamy stresses that offering both types of mobile solutions provides a more holistic way to engage consumers “at multiple touch points with high relevance.” Luck and Bhaskaran assert that one benefit of apps is that new surveys can be sent to a phone behind the scenes and appear automatically on the phone without any effort on the part of the participant. Bovitz and Schwitzer point out that mobile is great for targeting mobile users or evaluating apps. Schwitzer observes that mobile is less well suited to older participants who tend not to be used to mobile devices, or when heavy video capabilities are needed.

Due to the physical size and technological constraints of mobile devices, these methods are employed when short sound bites will suffice and lengthy in-depth information is unnecessary. This has led to the use of mobile devices to gain small bits of data from consumers, which are built up over time, creating a longer-term relationship with consumers and establishing a profile of these consumers across a succession of interactions. Due to this new form of continued relationship with participants, mobile would seem to be well suited for panels.

Interestingly, mobile devices are particularly practical for capturing data from emerging markets, and are used to connect brands to consumers in the developing world (Hobson and Stork). Chris Hobson, Chief Operating Office of Txteagle (a sample provider and market research firm specializing in emerging markets) explains,

What people don’t realize is that most people on earth, their first experience with the thing called ‘the Internet’…is on a mobile phone…So if you are a global organization looking to reach consumers in the developing world, trying to find them online – you’re only going to find the top of the pyramid…But when you go to the mobile phone, you have a way to reach deeper into the demographic base, deeper down the pyramid…

It is clear that companies are still figuring out when mobile devices can and cannot be used, and best practices are in the process of being developed (Clarke, Luck and Murphy). The Best Practices section of this paper will touch on those mentioned by the interviewees.

This is Part 3 of a 9 part series. The next section will be posted the week of June 6th and will explore the limitations and future of mobile research approaches.


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