NEWS29 June 2018

Mobile opinion research misses the mark

B2B Mobile News Technology UK

UK – The market research industry is facing a serious problem of poor mobile optimisation in opinion research, according to researchers from Research Now SSI, Lucid, Lightspeed and Toluna.

Business man using mobile phone_Crop

Speaking at the MRS B2B Research Conference in London, Pete Cape, global knowledge director at Research Now SSI presented findings from a collaborative project between the Market Research Society and the four panel companies.

MRS collated and aggregated two years’ worth of international panel data from the companies to identify response rates between devices by age and country.

The research found that survey completions on a mobile phone accounted for 22% of all completions in 2017 – increasing from 16% in the previous year. Each of the companies studied experienced an uplift in surveys completed on mobile rather than a PC.

While younger people are more likely to use a mobile survey, the research pinpointed a steady decline in efficiency – across all age groups – for mobile surveys from start rates to completion rates. Participants are more likely to abandon a survey on a mobile than on a PC, according to the study.

“We are failing to deliver an experience on a mobile device that a participant can complete, and that’s a problem for us as an industry,” said Cape.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion on what’s holding back market research from addressing mobile issues, Courtney Williams, executive director, quality at Lucid, said the conversation had changed from client perceptions that mobile was only used by “kids in their parents’ basements”.

She said: “It’s very difficult to change tracking research – if you change your mix you might have challenges interpreting the data. Also, there was a perception 10 years ago that mobile was just kids in their parents’ basements – [clients were saying] ‘we don’t want those people'. Ten years on, we need to start from a mobile-first perspective. Those who will not adopt [new approaches] will be left behind.”

Creating better mobile surveys is “not rocket science”, according to Nathan Wimble, UK director of market research at Toluna. He said: “Well-designed, thoughtful questionnaires will always lead to better data, the medium doesn’t matter. We’ve seen some horrendous questionnaires, and that’s nothing to do with the medium, it’s just a bad questionnaire.”

The issue of mobile optimisation in research has arguably never been more critical, even in a B2B context, with research from Opinium presented elsewhere at the conference indicating a clear link between how individuals communicate in a personal and professional context, and technology increasingly blurring the lines between the two.

“The boardroom of tomorrow is coming up on us and they’re going to do this – they are digital natives and it just comes naturally to them,” Wimble said. Change, he added, will be driven by clients and agencies once they reach a “tipping point” – when the absence of mobile optimisation renders the data invalid. He argued that change will happen quickly once the industry reaches that point.

The need for mobile-optimised surveys simply highlights an existing problem: poor survey design generally, argued Cape. He said: “I’m not convinced mobile brings a new problem – I think it brings an old problem into stark reality. Respondents didn’t like clicking buttons on grids on a big screen, so they sure aren’t going to want to do it on a small screen.”

Chris Stevens, CQO at Lightspeed, added: “We have to redesign the survey approach, which we’ve never really had to do before.” He also encouraged researchers to think about where mobile sits within the whole research process, rather than just thinking about the survey.  

So, where next for mobile optimisation? And whose responsibility is it to tackle the issue – researchers, UX designers, research buyers? The panel agreed that the onus is on all stakeholders to address mobile optimisation. To that end, the panel companies are working with MRS to produce new guidance, while the MRS is also exploring other options for improving practice in the longer term.