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Is Mobile The “5th Methodology”? The Market Speaks…

It’s must be Mobile Friday! On the heels of the post by Navin Williams earlier today, here is more on the topic of mobile research.

We’ve written a lot about the future of research here, particularly relating to the convergence of virtually all online activities (including research) to a mobile paradigm. A few interesting items on mobile came out this week and they paint a pretty compelling picture for mobile finally assuming it’s role as the “5th Methodology” for global MR.

First, the news of new MR specific entrants into the market picked up this week with a new product announcement from Dexterity on their iPinion app and panel, joining an increasingly crowded market with OnePoint, ThumpSpeak, Techneos, & Kinesis, all of which offer various approaches to the mobile research model.

The iPinion model seems to be a merging of a mobile survey app and a panel. Speaking about iPinion, Palanivel Kuppusamy, CEO of Dexterity said:

“We have been testing this approach of building an exclusive panel of iphone/ipodtouch users and engage them in market research surveys, and are very excited about the panel growth. We are on a mission to build the largest panel of iPhone/iPod/iPad Touch users, making it the most clean and engaged panel community in the market place. With 85 million iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users spending about 80 to 120 minutes per day on apps, we are convinced that every market researcher would want to take advantage of our highly engaged panels. In many terms, like its complex survey capabilities and question types, its clearly the best out there on the Appstore. iPinion panels will help us complete the whole picture to provide holistic data collection services to our Market Research clients.”

Industry legend and innovator Dean Wiltse’s Thumbspeak is making a lot of waves as well. He joined CivicScience (whom I still believe will revolutionize the research model more than any other single company or technology in the history of our industry) and Survey Analytics (a very cool new application for conjoint studies) on the monthly webinar from Peanut Labs: Innovative Technologies for Fall 2010. Their approach seems to be a mobile hybrid of social sampling and a survey delivery engine. I’ve tested the app out myself, and while it seems a little buggy (as expected at this stage of the launch), the potential is readily apparent. I can’t wait to see it on the Android operating system.

It will be very interesting to watch these various firm evolve their offerings and find a firm footing in the market, and I predict some M&A activity and/or partnerships with each other or with the global sample suppliers in the next 6-12 months.  Why do I think that? Because the market opportunity based on global mobile convergence growth is simply immense. For instance, Nielsen recently released a blog titled Going Global Means Going Mobile in Emerging Markets. Here is a summary:

Consumers around the world are hungry for access to information and communication, especially in countries with a growing middle class. Defying classic economic models, the demand for communication (cell phones) leads traditional media growth, signifying a global, disruptive phenomenon. The demand for information via the Internet follows slower, more predictable growth patterns. The implications for marketers: lead with mobile advertising in high-growth, emerging economies.

This is validated by an incredibly comprehensive report issued a few months back by Morgan Stanley. ReadWriteWeb has a good summary of the report on their site:

Perhaps the most remarkable statement in the report is that the Mobile Internet market will be “at least 2x size of Desktop Internet,” which Morgan Stanley bases on analysis comparing Internet users with mobile subscribers.

The report starts out by saying that Apple’s iPhone/iTouch/iTunes ecosystem “may prove to be the fastest ramping and most disruptive technology product / service launch the world has ever seen.” It goes on to state that “a handful of incumbents (like Apple, Google, and Skype) appear especially well positioned for mobile changes.”

Growth in the Mobile Internet is being driven by 3G adoption and the increasing popularity of smartphones, of which the iPhone is the leader in terms of Web traffic. Morgan Stanley predicts that smartphones “will out-ship the global notebook + netbook market in 2010E and out-ship the global PC market (notebook + netbook + desktop) by 2012E.”

Of course, let’s also remember the “Social Media By The Numbers” interactive feed on mobile adoption; it puts it all in perspective.

Not convinced yet? Mashable posted an infographic on the SMS habits of  various populations and it is pretty amazing. Here is the lead in from the post:

Text messaging is one of the most popular communication methods in the world. The cost of a cell phone and SMS plan compared to that of a computer and a broadband connection has made texting extremely popular in developing countries, and “unlimited messaging” plans have made it the communication medium of choice for teens everywhere (beating face-to-face conversation and e-mail in popularity).

Before the rise of TwitterTwitterTwitter, texting was the original short-form messaging art, with participants in every age demographic. Even as smartphones (with e-mail and web capabilities) become more popular, SMS remains the baseline of mobile digital communication, and permeates nearly every social group.

And here is the infographic:

Mashable Texting Trends Infographic

I have 2 teenage daughters, and I can vouch for the veracity of this!

Even Facebook is making a major mobile play with their launch of the foursquare alternative Facebook Places. The Associated press has more:

Facebook users carrying their smart phones will soon be able to “check in” to real-world locations such as bars, parks and live concerts as the social network makes its first foray into the location services craze.

“Where are you?” is joining “What’s on your mind?” as Facebook lets its users declare their whereabouts to their friends and people nearby.

With the much-anticipated launch of Facebook Places late Wednesday, the world’s largest social network joins a growing number of services that let users find coupons, earn quirky merit badges or simply share with friends where they are.

These location services from various startups, including Foursquare and Gowalla, have grow in popularity with the widespread availability of smart phones that have GPS and other means of determining the user’s location.

Facebook’s version initially works through the site’s iPhone application; users will need to download a free update of the Facebook app. Owners of other touch-screen gadgets can get the feature through visiting on their mobile Web browser. Facebook says it will add Places to other smart phone apps later.

Perhaps the most telling statement for MR in the article is this:

Though they are still new, location services present “endless possibilities” to businesses, eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said.

“Marketers want to reach consumers when they are at the point of making a purchase decision and locations services offer that opportunity,” she said.

It also holds promise for shoppers — if they are willing to share their location with nearby businesses.

“If you are out shopping and you check in somewhere and can immediately get a deal, that’s a win-win for you and the marketer,” Williamson added.

It is this inherent value proposition that is driving the growth of mobile research; it is a whole new way to bring brands and consumers together in a fair value trade of feedback for rewards.

So, is mobile research ready to assume it’s role as the “5th Methodology’? The market has spoken and the answer seems to be “Absolutely!”.

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2 responses to “Is Mobile The “5th Methodology”? The Market Speaks…

  1. I think the coming mobile revolution will cement a fundamental shift in market research to “in the moment” vs “after the fact” information. However, I don’t think mobile is actually a methodology. It’s technology – a tool that enables reach into people’s lives with unprecedented immediacy. If researchers show up at that moment on a mobile handset with yet another survey, it;s taking survey methodology and moving it to a different medium. Just like the transition form paper, to phone (landline), to web. I’d argue the methods haven’t changed in pace with the medium. A mobile survey is still a survey.

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