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Mobilizing Market Research: Best Practices & What’s Next?

In part 6 of a 9 part series on the evolution and implications of mobile data collection methods in the field of market research, Carrie Robbins explores the current accepted best practices and deciphers what it all means to the research industry.

W3C Best Practices to Create Smarter Mobile Web Applications.



Editors Note: This is part 6 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

Part 3: Benefits & Current Uses

Part 4: Limitations & The Future

Part 5: Going Forward – The Mobile To-Do List

We’re closing in on the finale of this great series and the information is becoming more and more actionable. Today Carrie explores the current accepted best practices and deciphers what it all means to the research industry. This one is a “must read”!

Many references are cited in this piece. For a complete list of all of the references click here.

Since the GreenBook is also a Co-Sponsor of the Market Research in the Mobile World Conference, for the next 5 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

It is important to realize that mobile is a very different platform from online, and the context for mobile methods must be taken into consideration when designing a study. Luck laments, “It’s sort of like when we first started doing online research as an industry…people were basically trying to take a phone survey and slap it up online and call it online research…You can’t really just migrate one to the other.”

The experts stress that mobile surveys must be kept short. Luck champions five to ten questions as the ideal survey length. Participants should be able to do one while waiting in line at the grocery store, or during other “in between” moments. Bhaskaran even reinforces best practices by having his system flag any survey over 10 questions long and by preventing surveys over 15 questions long from being sent out through his system. He does this to avoid degrading the participant’s experience.

Stork and Schwitzer caution that mobile should be used alongside other methods rather than alone. Stork suggests using it to supplement face-to-face studies, and Schwitzer prefers it as the first phase of a hybrid qualitative research study, with in-person, online or both used as follow-up research phases to dig deeper into the mobile posts and further explore related topics. The decision to go mobile, whether alone or in conjunction with another method should certainly be based on the aims of the study and the client needs, rather than on a desire to use the method for its own sake (Schwitzer, Stork, Bovitz, Luck). Bhaskaran suggests linking the decision to use mobile to the audience base, as certain demographics are easier to reach via mobile than any other method.

Kuppusamy stresses the need for both app and web based surveys, explaining that apps are best for regular users such as panel members, while web based is best for one-time participants. Luck suggests using “sniffers” to detect where participants come from and automatically reroute them to the optimal format for their platform of choice.

Other best practices proposed include ensuring the consumer will not incur any cost for participating (i.e., they have an unlimited data plan), avoiding heavy use of video which can still be cumbersome for many mobile devices, and considering the sample needs as smartphone penetration has not reached the entire population. Implicit in all of these best practices is the idea that the participant’s experience should come first – it should be as enjoyable, easy, and convenient as possible. With an overall decline in participation rates, this is more important now than it ever was.


Do Don’t
Detect platform & optimize accordingly Repeat online layout
Keep it short Use same length as online
Use to supplement other methods Use alone
Offer both web & app based surveys Offer one and not the other
Assure participant is not incurring cost Assume it is free for participant
Base decision to use mobile on client needs Use the tool for its own sake
Use video judiciously Load up on video
Consider sample issues Assume smartphone users tell whole story


So What?

Why does a shift towards mobile methods matter, and what are the direct implications of this emerging new methodology? Luck explains that it challenges researchers to think harder and more creatively about how they gather information. The way in which sampling is addressed may become more flexible (Murphy). While an increase in participation and improved data quality may occur (McCrary), more direct interaction between consumers and companies could potentially threaten the field of market research (Whaley).

The face of market research will surely shift, as it becomes increasingly integrated with marketing (Bhaskaran), advertising, gaming and other industries and as the business model changes and it must compete with new sectors  (Murphy). Market research will have to work across new industries  (Murphy) and will potentially gain a more global scope and insight (Whaley, Schwitzer). These methods will allow us to tie behavior and activity to attitudes, an exciting prospect for the future of market research (Whaley).

This is Part 6 of a 9 part series. The next section will be posted the week of June 27th and will provide guidelines to choosing a mobile methodology and wrap up the initial overview of the space.


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