NEWS30 November 2020

‘Things have moved on’: Panel companies call for research to adapt to mobile

Mobile News North America UK

UK & US – Researchers must improve the mobile survey experience to future-proof the business, according to a panel discussion and analysis from Dynata, Kantar, Toluna, Lucid and the MRS.

woman typing on a mobile phone

There has been an increase in surveys being started and completed on mobile devices, however growth has slowed in the past year, according to the latest results of a joint annual research initiative between MRS and the four panel companies.

The aggregate data, based on seven markets, has found an increase in surveys being started and completed on mobile devices across the four years of the study.

In 2019, the percentage of surveys being started on a mobile device increased to 36%, compared with 34% in 2018.

The proportion of survey starts that did not allow participants to use a mobile device has decreased, from 22% in 2018 to 17% in 2019.

During a recent MRS webinar on the results of the research, Chris Stevens, chief quality officer at Kantar Profiles, said: “We had quite big movement from 2018 to 2019, so it’s gone down, but at a slower rate which is a concern. We would have expected this number to be lower than 10% by now.”  

Stevens added: “There are tough decisions to be made. We cannot accept the response that a research project doesn’t work on phones. Things have moved on past that point. All surveys need to adapt.”

The analysis also found a gender difference – women are more likely to complete a survey on a mobile device. In 2019, there was a 6% increase in the proportion of surveys completed via mobile by women, compared with 2.6% for men.

The research project has consistently shown that survey attrition is higher for mobile respondents than those completing via desktop.

Pete Cape, director of global knowledge at Dynata, said: “What’s clear from this research is the rate of dropout is higher for mobile responses than for PCs. It’s not hard to conclude that it must be to do with the experience of doing a survey on a mobile device.

“It’s a little bit like the tragedy of the commons. Each of us has to a job to protect that common resource by doing the best we can to protect dropout.”

Cape highlighted examples of poor mobile optimisation and mobile survey design issues including font size appearing too small and squeezing a grid to fit on a screen.

This year, the initiative also conducted research to understand consumer preferences on devices for survey completion. Dynata, Kantar, Lucid and Toluna each deployed a survey among their panellists, with results collated and analysed by MRS.

The survey in Australia, the US and the UK found that across younger age groups showed a higher preference for responding to surveys via mobile, across all markets, while older age groups skewed towards desktop.

Mardien Drew, director of product strategy at Toluna, said: “It’s not surprising that higher age groups are starting on laptops rather than mobile devices. It’s important to recognise this will change in future as younger age groups become older – as they prefer mobile.

“As an industry, we need to provide the best survey experience, regardless of device. Increasingly, panellists are starting surveys on mobile devices but don’t all complete on mobile. The way to complete them is to ensure they work well, not only technically but also in terms of the survey design. It’s the only way we’ll be able to future-proof our business and make sure the panellists keep participating in our surveys and we don’t lose them forever.”

Cape said: “Not allowing mobile devices means missing out on potentially half of the under-30s in the world. It’s a relatively high price to pay for something that is relatively easily fixed. Researchers can’t use the excuse that they only want to use PCs because that’s what they did in the past.”

Diana Trifu, senior manager, product success at Lucid, said: “As an industry, we need to focus our attention on adapting to a more mobile world. We’re not suggesting either desktop or mobile is ideal – but we should provide participants with the option.”