OPINION3 September 2014

Reaching the multi-platform respondents


As consumers switch between devices, this cross platform behaviour is affecting survey completion. Aaron Jue, market research director at Decipher has some best practice advice for researchers managing surveys in this environment.


And there’s no doubt that this was the right move: in 2014, the number of mobile internet users will outnumber desktop users globally for the first time. Half of Gartner’s 2014 Strategic Technology Trends are tied to mobile.

To stay current with today’s consumer, we must meet them on their own turf – and studies say that turf varies. Not only from person to person, but within each individual’s daily life. In a recent study conducted by GfK and Facebook, 60% of adults use two online devices a day and 40% use three devices a day. Over half of those on two devices and as many as 77% on three devices, switch mid-task: beginning on one device and ending on another.

This cross-platform behaviour is definitely affecting survey completion and market research outreach. By tracking trends in respondent behaviour from more than 20 million survey starts in the past few months, we found that roughly 80% of these respondents took the survey using a PC device, 13% were on a smartphone, and the remaining 7% of respondents used a tablet. And tablet and mobile access is growing quickly. Planning ahead to address each one of these access points will help to maintain data collection integrity and respondent participation.

We were able to pull together some core best practices based on our research that will allow researchers to plan for the future and address cross-platform survey access:

  • Design: Start with designing for the ‘weakest device’, usually the smartphone or feature phone, and build out from there for the remaining devices (e.g. tablet and desktop).
  • Consistency in design: Maintaining question structure and labelling consistency across device platforms is key to ensuring data integrity and comparability.
  • Question layout: Design questions that work, functionally, on a small screen, such as changing from a grid question to a card sort, to help reduce dropout rates.
  • Technology and survey functionality: Limit survey input requirements to touch-and-tap events (point-and-click for PC) and keep the number of open end questions to a minimum.
  • Auto-save: The study showed that just by enabling auto save, survey response rates jumped by 10%. This allows the cross-platform respondent to come back – perhaps even on a different device – and finish the survey later.
  • Due diligence: Finally – test, test and test some more across all platforms. This will save many headaches after the survey is deployed.

The marketing research industry is still in the midst of transforming traditional research to accommodate the new multi-device consumer. Research is showing that cross-platform culture is here to stay, so we need to fundamentally reform survey designs to embrace respondent preferences and take full advantage of platform capabilities. As an industry, we must take steps to redesign survey research, and ensure each survey meets readability, usability and performance standards across every device before launch. Unless we move forward with these best practices, we risk completely alienating respondents and delivering client data that lacks actionability and representativeness.

Decipher’s paper ‘Planning for a cross platform survey’ can be viewed here.