FEATURE23 August 2012
FEATURE23 August 2012
Otherwise known as ‘ten principles of the mobile revolution’. Whether you are a newcomer or a seasoned professional, you’ll find the following to be a solid set of rules to live by.
There’s no denying that smartphones and apps can do many cool and interesting things. But mobile research is about using those capabilities to get a better understanding of real consumer behaviour. Observations can be brought to life through text, photos and videos while purchases can be monitored using barcode scanning, QR codes or data capture from mobile browsing – but the technology isn’t the be all and end all.
Data collectors must create explicit privacy policies and ensure that users are aware of what data is being extracted and how it will be used. This applies to all forms of data collection but is particularly relevant where mobile data capture is concerned. The amount of private information you can glean from an individual’s mobile phone is really quite scary and that information needs to be handled with care.
The beauty of the mobile device is that it’s not confined to a desk – people take theirs everywhere with them. Thus mobile lets researchers and brands understand the consumer at the point of experience. The ability for researchers to interact with consumers at these moments provides deeper insights into the ‘why’ of a particular behaviour. But the consumer needs to know they have full control over how they participate, and when.
Mobile fieldwork might be all those things, but it is much more besides. If used correctly, the mobile as research tool can provide a wealth of information – in real time and at source – that was not possible to get using more traditional means of data collection. Telephone, online and face-to-face surveys usually only capture responses to events after the fact, so are prone to memory bias and post-rationalisation.
Mobile survey design requires a completely new way of thinking. Surveys need to be created to fit both the usage and the technical limitations of the device. Keep your surveys short and be aware of how different mobile browsers work, their lack of Flash support and the variety of available screen sizes. Remember, mobile can do a lot but it can’t do everything. That’s where other research modes come in.
Developed and emerging markets require different mobile fieldwork strategies. In some markets, app-based research might be the best approach, whereas projects built on SMS messages will be more useful elsewhere. Also, be aware of local protocols, laws and customs. Mobile research projects have been closed down in China, for example, because the authorities became suspicious of the volume of texts going to foreign numbers.
The mobile device is an expert observer of human behaviour. Firms can use passive metering to track a handset owner’s web browsing activity and purchase behaviour with appropriate permissions. With apps, passive data is an even bigger opportunity thanks to geo-location abilities that can push users to relevant surveys based on where they are in the world.
It’s important to remember that the mobile platform is able to accommodate both quick-response surveys and more in-depth ethnographic studies which require respondents to record their behaviour in real time. As users become more comfortable with mobile research, you can begin to extend the ways you ask them to participate.
Always be aware of how experienced users are with the different facets of mobile data collection. For certain demographics you might consider setting up individual briefings with respondents to ensure they are able to use the mobile apps/SMS correctly, especially for mobile diaries that need lots of interaction.
Mobile technology never stands still. Handset manufacturers continue to play around with new smartphone additions like near-field communication for mobile payments and machine-to-machine applications, such as Ford’s partnership with communications network provider AT&T to allow electric vehicle owners to control vehicle settings wirelessly via a smartphone app. Chances are that within five years, the standard mobile research techniques won’t even have been thought of yet. The potential is enormous.