By Ben Leet
I recently attended the Esomar 3D conference in Amsterdam and, unsurprisingly, much of the content focused on emerging technologies and techniques such as social media monitoring and of course, mobile devices. The content was wide-ranging, diverse, and thought provoking. I came away with one very clear message – the MR industry was about to experience imminent upheaval.
My philosophy behind this is very simple – there will come a point in the near future where our mobile devices (note: they are not just phones any more!) know more about our habits than we do, as they morph into our brain’s external hard drive. Since market research is all about delving into people’s brains, it seems only fitting to delve into mobile devices in order to more accurate access this data that we crave as an industry.
My phone already knows a lot about me; it knows which flights I have taken in the last year; it knows which shops I have recently visited; it knows where I ate dinner last night. And most of all, it knows my Facebook profile and my Twitter handle; hundreds of valuable nuggets of information, a goldmine of data waiting to tell a story about me, my friends, family, likes, dislikes, media consumption, the list goes on. And this is the tip of the iceberg when I think about how much more intelligent and familiar it will become in just a few short years.
This sounds amazing – we can easily tap into people’s brains, so what’s going to stop us?! However, there is one obvious barrier to this – respondent consent. The MR industry cannot simply mine this data without asking permission to do so, and many people will rightly be nervous about an already sensitive subject of privacy.
I would also argue that, like today, a simple incentive, or “cash purchase” of this data will suddenly make a lot of privacy concerns disappear. Many leading global brands are already pushing the boundaries in this area, so I don’t doubt that the consumer acceptance of MR mining this data will be swift when there’s a reward to be earned.
The key for the industry then (and this was apparent at the Esomar conference during an open forum on the topic), is to move quickly to establish guidelines and to work with legislation bodies around the world to ensure our research “privileges” regarding PII data are maintained into this new digital age.
The other barrier is logistical – data mining is easy enough, but analysis and interpretation of this big data is currently time consuming, potentially inaccurate, and costly. Just one example from a presentation by Mike Rodenburgh of Ipsos tells the whole story – 1000 Facebook users could generate millions of data points to be analysed – right now we don’t have the right tools to deal with that efficiently and effectively! However, with the inevitable emergence of big data analysis tools, I would predict that this problem will go away reasonably swiftly.
So in summary, it is not long before MR will be tapping into this mobile goldmine. The mobile device will become our brain’s external hard drive; we will outsource many decisions to this device, and as a result, thousands of data points will be created; it will eventually know more about us than we can fathom. Questions certainly remain over privacy and consent, but once tackled, the MR industry is looking to be very well positioned to benefit from these technological advances. The Mobile revolution is truly upon us.