FEATURE10 August 2012

Time to mobilise your fieldforce


Mobile data collection is undoubtedly growing. The question is, how big will it get? We asked four experts for their views.

Going mobile

Steven Hughes
Managing Director
Cint UK

The relationship between mobile and online research is evident, and we anticipate seeing more online surveys being opened through mobile browsers. At the same time mobile and tablet devices will become more widely used in face-to-face interviews and mystery shopping.

Mobile is where qualitative research can be conducted on a quantitative scale, and where survey data can be complemented with passively collected behavioural data. The personal and portable nature of mobile devices presents the opportunity to access people virtually anywhere in the world all while getting immediate feedback.

It is expected that by 2015, 95% of the mobile devices sold in western Europe will be smartphones. These statistics alone highlight the enormous potential growth of mobile applications and mobile sites. From our perspective the development of applications and sites that gauge customer feedback ‘on the go’ is essential to fit into people’s busy lifestyles. Statistics also tell us that within one or two years more people will be accessing the internet through their mobile device than from their PC.

In order to engage individuals in market research and get the customer feedback we desire, we need to look for our targets in places where they spend more time during their downtime; the signs suggest that will be on their mobile devices.

No monopoly

Will Ulstein
Group Business Development Director
SPA Future Thinking

Mobile fieldwork will be a force to be reckoned with in the next few years. But mobile is just another tool, with its own strengths and weaknesses; it won’t monopolise spend.

Speed is an obvious advantage, but more crucially you can reach your target audience at the point of experience and without an interviewer being present. The ‘always on’ nature of mobile means we can ask for opinions while people are consuming products, experiencing events, exposed to advertising in situ or in places we could never otherwise reach them. It is also a cost-effective alternative to ethnography or face-to-face interviews because it enables access to people out-of-hours and allows us to witness their more infrequent behaviour over longer time periods, which means we can build and share stories like never before.

One of the greatest opportunities for mobile will come from emerging markets. The lack of comprehensive fixed broadband infrastructure means that digital research has thus far been limited in those markets – mobile is changing this.

But we need to wield this new tool wisely and know its bias and limitations. Penetration of smartphones and tablets is by no means universal, so the target audience must be considered. Furthermore, recognise the mode and mindset people are in when using their mobiles.

A niche tool

Gregg Peterson
Senior VP of Operations
Market Strategies International

Mobile is extremely promising but the revenues and the volumes of data produced are relatively low compared to more traditional forms of research. Limitations facing mobile are still too common and come at extra costs that make it more of a niche tool designed to help brands looking for instantaneous data.

Currently, the mobile service is only suited for shorter surveys of less than 15 minutes, and only limited passive data capture is possible. There are other considerations such as roaming charges and upholding privacy standards. Brands have to forgo any use of Flash and the more “fun” interaction tools.

Mobile apps do offer tremendous capabilities such as location-based and ethnographic studies for in-the-moment feedback, whether through videos, pictures, audio, barcodes or GPS capture. The problem is some demographics won’t find these sorts of projects easy. This makes mobile more of a niche entity – one that won’t be fully exploited for some time yet.

Side effects

Elaine Coleman
Managing Director Media and Emerging Technologies

Mobile technology is changing the way consumers and professionals interact with products and brands like never before. Researchers are even questioning whether their phone and online sampling methods are still viable.

The best part of using smartphones or tablets as tools for research is that context becomes paramount. A researcher can assess activity while it unfolds in the wild – e.g. I can identify someone in an aisle shopping for a particular product and ask them to answer two or three questions on their phone. We were only able to conduct this type of work qualitatively before and now
we can do this in more robust ways.

But we need studies that understand the mobile experience and compare modalities so we can begin to understand the validity of what we are measuring more accurately, as well as control for any “smartphone effects” that we have yet to discover.

1 Comment

12 years ago

i wonder if anyone is collecting/will collect statistics of response rates on people approached on their mobiles "at the point of experience"? I know what my response would be if approached in the middle of a tricky or complicated transaction of any kind - and it wouldn't be at all polite! I can see the advantages of doing this but the poor respondent will have to be wooed or persuaded rather carefully.

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