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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Evolution, then revolution

Pala Kuppusamy considers the state of mobile technology and data collection five, ten and fifteen years from now.

Predicting the development of technology is a pretty thankless task. Who could have foreseen just a decade ago the advent of touchscreen smartphones, smart TVs, cloud technology, on-demand services, social networks and the impact they would have on the life of the ordinary person? Technology is rapidly changing our behaviour so it is essential that the ways we measure our behaviour, thoughts and opinions move with the times.

I have worked in the mobile research field for 16 years and, slowly, the uptake of mobile research methodologies is on the increase. But where do I see things heading in the next five years?

Mobile in 2017

I see a gradual evolutionary process by which mobile research becomes a fully fledged member of the market research world. Rather than it being solely a survey platform, progressions in mobile technology will enable far more usability for both researcher and respondent.

“I see a gradual evolutionary process by which mobile research becomes a fully fledged member of the market research world”

The smartphone market is growing. Just over half of all mobile users in the UK, for instance, own a smartphone. The next five years will see battery technology improve which will enable phones to wield more computational power and a greater speed of data transfer. These changes will have a big impact on maturing geo-location tools while also allowing for continuous streaming and data capture - and more besides, thanks to a deeper integration between your phone, cloud computing and your TV or laptop.

The effect of this technological advance on research will be to improve targeting and, in particular, behavioural targeting. Screeners will become a relic of the past. We’ll know where to find the most relevant people to answer our questions at the most relevant time, improving response rates and panel attrition. And with devices seamlessly integrating with each other, research capabilities will also span across devices, allowing us to connect the dots and integrate data from mobile, computer and TV.

More interesting techniques will also start to evolve. A number of current surveys will be replaced by passive listening/behavioural data, but asking questions and listening passively will co-exist.

Mobile in 2022

Trying to see 10 years into the future is difficult, but I believe there could be a quantum leap in how mobile technology advances and, in turn, a revolution in research methodologies and approaches.

“There could be a quantum leap in how mobile technology advances and, in turn, a revolution in research methodologies”

We’ve already seen a glimpse of the future with Google’s Glasses, which integrate all the capabilities of a mobile phone and displays text and graphics through the glass of a high-tech pair of specs.

If this is any guide, mobile devices will look very different from what we see nowadays. Integration of devices will continue and perhaps items like wallets and keys will become completely digitised. But is that where it’ll end?

Mobile in 2027

In 15 years we could see every home electronics device fitted with some degree of smart mobile technology to connect it to the cloud. Our fridges could detect when we’ve run out of milk and automatically place an order for more; our washing machines would be controlled from anywhere; we could even adjust our room temperature before we arrive home.

“Behavioural data will be so ubiquitous by this point that the research industry will move away from predicting behaviour through the collection and analysis of attitudinal data”

This is where the fun starts for the research industry. Behavioural data will be so ubiquitous and continuous by this point that the research industry will move away from its current approach of predicting behaviour through the collection and analysis of attitudinal data in survey form to a point where we can collect behavioural data and infer attitudes from that.

Why will we need customer satisfaction surveys when behavioural data can tell us whether a customer liked the experience, whether they plan to repeat their visit or purchase and what their brand loyalty is? Meanwhile social media recommendations and store visits will provide a form of Net Promoter Score.

The electronic wallet could provide us an instantaneous view of the share-of-wallet achieved by various brands and categories. The refrigerator will tell us about consumption habits, brand switching behaviour and price elasticity. Cloud- connected devices such as TVs, computers and phones will reveal consumer exposure to ad campaigns, media consumption and purchase patterns across channels.

With so many new data sources potentially opening up, it really is an exciting time to be part of this industry. The true revolution may have to wait a few years, but getting there is going to be a lot of fun.

Pala Kuppusamy is the CEO of Research Now Mobile

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