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The Shape Of Mobile Market Research Over The Next Three Years

How will mobile impact society and research over the next 3 years? Ray Poynter gives his predictions.


Editor’s Note: Ray and I have debated the topic of mobile in research for many years; where my prognostications are often based on connecting disparate points of early directional evidence aligned with my gut, Ray is a dyed in the wool quant guy and now the data supports the conclusions he makes below.  This is a great summary of the implications of what we are seeing in our mobile world today and I suggest all involved with the insights industry pay close attention: this is indeed the shape of things to come.

By Ray Poynter

Having just read Navin Williams’ great blog The Mobile Players in 2014 & Mobile MR I felt moved to add my thoughts on where I see mobile market research going over the next three years.

The important thing about looking three years ahead is that is where people planning to get into mobile market research need to aim for. Aiming for where mobile is today will leave newcomers too far behind.

First my assumptions:

  1. The growth of 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi coverage will continue at current rates.
  2. The growth in the sales of smartphones will continue at the current rate
  3. Android will continue to dominate smartphone and tablet sales for the next three years
  4. There will be no legislation that will fundamentally change what is possible with mobile and market research.
  5. There will not be an economic crash.

If any of these assumptions are way out, then my forecast is likely to be out too.

In terms of smartphone growth, IDC reports that in 2013:

  • Smartphone sales grew at 38%
  • 1.8 billion were sold 2013 (and there are about 7 billion in use according to the ITU)
  • 1 billion were smartphones, about 56% of the total
  • Of the smartphones, just over 15% were Apple
  • Android was most of the rest

The forecasts

And let’s see how I do in three years.

1) Market research will focus on smartphones

In the developed markets, almost anybody who wants one will have one, and in the developing markets over half of the economically active population will have one – and these are often the people who brands want to research.

As a bonus prediction, this research will be Android focused, with iPhone being added because the installed base is so big. Windows Phone machines could make it into the set, but I doubt it.

Tablets, and phablets will also be used heavily, again with an Android focus and an Apple extra, and maybe Windows OS.

Most research will be conducted with mobile devices that have 3G or better. Many of today’s pioneers are working with feature phones, many of which are not connected to the web. But, people entering mobile market research over the next couple of years are going to, mostly, focus on web enabled and connected smartphones – subcontracting the tricky stuff to the pioneers if they have to deal with feature phones.

2)  50% of online will be mobile

My research, with the leading vendors, suggest that 20% to 30% of online surveys are currently being taken by people using mobile devices, and the number is rising. In three years I expect this to be at least 50% – anybody doing online will be doing mobile, and mobile will, in effect, be one of the largest channels for market research.

3) Most CATI will be with mobile only

This is already true in some of the developing markets, in the developed markets, when researching economically active people under 65 the case for seeking out the landline only people will be weak for commercial market research.

4) The use of apps will grow

Apps are getting better, with the advent of so many smartphones the economics are getting better, and it is becoming clearer where the benefits are. In particular

  • Panels and communities will utilize an app, because their ongoing relationship with their members builds trust and makes it in the members’ interests to download the app.
  • Functional apps, such as retailers shopping apps, transport apps etc will have MR functions added to them.
  • Qual will continue to blaze a trail for the use of innovative apps, because sample sizes are smaller the researchers and recruiters can spend the time to help people download new apps and the incentives are often large enough to make it worth participants’ time.
  • Passive data collection and location based research will grow and will utilize apps.
  • Media measurement will increasingly use personal mobile devices, and again this will be app based.

5)  Location based research will grow and will be based on short range signals

Yes, I expect the use of GPS tracking to grow, but I expect short range techniques to dominate the picture. For example technologies like iBeacon, which puts an emitter in a location (such as a restaurant, a store, or even part of a store) and which tells a participant’s phone where they are, seem to be capable of being converted into usable insights more efficiently and reliably than GPS.

I suspect that research may piggy back on schemes like ShopKick which give people coupons for downloading their location app and having it turned on when they go into stores.

6) Messaging services will be BIG!

Like Navin Williams, I think the arrival of services like WhatsApp and WeChat could be a genuine game changer, at least for technologies like SMS and maybe Twitter. Will messaging systems be useful to market research? It is too early tell, but it will be the biggest over-hyped topic in late 2014 and 2015.

7) ‘In the moment’ research

One of the great uses of mobile is ‘in the moment’, because our phones are always with us. In addition to surveys they facilitate passive data, single questions surveys, taking photos, and recording video.

However, not all sorts of research benefit from ‘in the moment’, so my forecast is that in-the moment will change the following;

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Media measurement
  • Audit work and mystery shopping
  • Shopper studies, including pathways to purchase
  • Experience tracking
  • In home placement tests

I think ‘in the moment’ will have little impact on:

  • Concept tests
  • Ad testing
  • Brand awareness and brand attitude tracking
  • Most opinion polling
  • Omnibus type projects
  • Most NPD research

Note, all of these will use mobile market research, but they won’t be focusing on ‘in the moment’ approaches.

And, I think ‘in the moment’ will expand and create a new genre of research which focuses on understanding what people do. In some ways this will be a replacement for U&A studies. As Mat Lintern of MMR Research was saying to me, let’s send people a query at breakfast time to find out what they are thinking and what they are doing, let’s send them a message when they are in the supermarket to find out what they are thinking and doing.

This enhanced U&A type of research will need to combine different thoughts from the same person to build a complete picture. Maybe in the morning I am the sort of person who is not going to have a drink of beer tonight, but maybe, in the evening, with my friends, I am the sort of person who might have a beer, or even two.

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12 responses to “The Shape Of Mobile Market Research Over The Next Three Years

  1. Interestingly it’s all of the additional uses of mobile beyond strict ‘mobile surveys’ or mobile apps that are supporting other modes and increasing mobile ROI. I’m seeing increased retention of panels with tasks, CATI appointment setting, SMS reminders to online line/mobile web surveys to increase response rates…etc.

  2. Great article! Mobile facilates in the moment, allowing to capture the consumer experience more accurately. The resulting ‘consumer-generated-content’ can be used to get insights in a research context, but also for new marketing actions and to build a brand community.
    This kind of feedback is best captured without app, because it’s easier for the respondents when they do not have to install anything. Our advice is to use apps only when you need native mobile phone functions that cannot be accessed through the browser.

  3. I think you took many words to say
    mobile is increasingly relevant to research
    and “in the moment” and “geo targeting” will become increasingly relevant to mobile research
    I believe the MR space has retread many of the same predictions for 2-3 years now
    When MR consumers see companies making the predictions actual deliver the innovation?

  4. Very timely.

    The only thing I would add is that Wearables will extend the power of Mobile to deliver “in the moment” data and analysis.

    Whether it is Google Glass, Go-Pro or other Internet connected wearable devices with picture, video and/or audio recording that are appearing, the capability to capture respondents not just based on their profile, but also on their activity, location and time of day, and receive audiovisual data whilst providing instructions to the respondent, will, as you say, expand the types of market research that are possible into new categories.

    It will also expand into the offline world the kind of analytics and user experience and usability testing common in the online world.

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