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ESOMAR Paper “Smart MR Using Dumb Phones” – Part 1 : Setting the Mobile Plot


By Navin Williams

I was at Melbourne for a week to attend the ESOMAR Asia Pacific 2011 conference. The conference theme was “Increasing Value Through Simplicity”. Sometime last year I had submitted an abstract for consideration titled – “Smart MR using Dumb Phones”. Lo and behold I was asked to submit a paper and speak at the conference in March. I of course roped in James Fergusson from TNS Global who I had partnered with for a study in China. The study, conducted in both rural and urban China covering a Tier 1 city and a Tier 3 city, was conducted using MobileMeasure’s proprietary non-smart phone TPV Blogger platform (TPV for Text Photo Video). Controlled and moderated out of Shanghai, the reach and depth of responses surprised all parties on execution. Further the richness of the data was achieved via coupling with photo & video capabilities and with live interactivity built into the solution allowing us to shadow respondents in absentia like never before. All stakeholders began the journey on a very conservative note but the results exceeded our wildest expectations.

The main message of our paper was quite simple – “Your Consumers Have Gone Mobile – Has Your Market Research?”. We began with stating the current wide gap between the developed world (1.5 billion mobile) and the developing world (3.8 billion mobile); while a decade ago it was exactly the opposite with developed countries dominating the mobile landscape with half a billion mobile users compared to the developing world which was a mere quarter of a billion mobile users. Today India and China alone account for 1.64 billion, larger than the entire developing world put together!

Of course while the developing world is rapidly crossing smart phone penetration in excess of 50+%; the developing markets are overwhelmingly dominated by dumb / feature phones. There was some debate within my team with James sticking to referring to non-smart phones as “dumb phones”, while I played champion of the down trodden referred to it as “feature phones”. Moving beyond the smart vs dumb phone debate, viewing this scenario from a mobile market research perspective a “smart only” strategy is doomed to fail (for now). The MR goal of representativeness can never be fulfilled to its true potential on a Smart Only diet.

Our line – “Smart enough is not good enough” struck a chord with the audience and I was kept busy with quite a few demos for the rest of my stay at Melbourne. Of course before the conference I took some time off to enjoy the sights, sounds and friends in Melbourne. Some of the highlights from my Melbourne trip were the steaks, sea food, the trams and not to forget “The Crown” (casino) where the conference was held.

I’ll post other thoughts on the ESOMAR conference and what we learned about mobile research soon!

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One response to “ESOMAR Paper “Smart MR Using Dumb Phones” – Part 1 : Setting the Mobile Plot

  1. Hi navin,

    I need to connect with you for using the smart phone technology for our reserach in India. Could we fix sometime to talk? Im available on +91-8800500243

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