If you read my blog regularly, it should come as no surprise that I am an ardent fan of using mobile devices — whether mobile phones or tablets — for market research purposes. I have discussed how consumers are already forcing our hand into the world of mobile and that market insights professionals are not conducting mobile market research but instead are conducting market research in a mobile world.
Given this, I was both delighted and dismayed when attending this year’s ARF Re:think 2013 conference. Why was I delighted? There was a marked increase in the number of talks that focused on the role mobile plays — whether as a research technique or how it plays a significant role in consumers’ lives. Of just the talks I attended, which were a lot, almost 60% of them discussed the role of mobile. And a lot of these “mobile” talks were in the main track session. Talking with colleagues who attended last year, it’s clear that mobile has definitely moved front of mind compared with ARF Re:think 2012.
But I was dismayed that it was still just talk, talk, talk. At the conference, I was surrounded by tablets and smartphones, and people were using them all the time. And while we’re living this mobile life, we’re listening to speeches telling us how we need to start thinking about the role of mobile. Dare I say that we need to do a bit more than just thinking at this point in the game? We clearly have to get our act together soon.
At Forrester, we believe that 2012 is an inflection point for mobile market research. Specifically, 2012 will be considered the “big bang” for a new era in market research — one in which mobile devices will become a critical vehicle to connect, engage, and subsequently understand the consumer. As such, we have recently published two reports that address this very important emerging methodology for Market Insights (MI) Professionals.
The first report, entitled “The Mobile Market Research Landscape 2012,” explains why mobile research will become the heart of market research. Although only a fraction of MI Professionals are currently leveraging mobile, the report reviews the reasons why mobile is here to stay and the advantages of leveraging this approach — such as the ability to capture real-time insights, gain access to hard-to-reach sample, or get more personal with respondents. In addition, given the opportunities to collect different types of data via mobile phones, we provide an overview of the quantitative, qualitative, and behavioral approaches currently available. And, no overview report is complete without a discussion of the current challenges that still face mobile research, such as security and privacy, and our recommendations for what MI professionals need to do to prepare for this shift to this new world.
The second report, entitled “How To Plan For Mobile Online Survey Takers,” addresses a growing issue not often discussed among MI Professionals — the increase of what we call mobile online survey takers. We define this group as:
As an analyst, my job is to examine the emerging research methodology landscape and see what trends are evolving and how market insights professionals are leveraging and integrating these new techniques into their research toolkit. While this type of research is extremely enjoyable, every now and then I am lucky enough to be able to get my hands dirty and play with some of these methodologies. This time around, I got to play with passive mobile behavioral measurement data.
Similar to online behavior tracking, mobile behavior tracking passively records the activities that consumers perform on their mobile phone. With this data, you are able to know, for example, how many inbound and outbound texts are made, when and for how long a person uses an app like Facebook, or how many megabytes of data they downloaded or uploaded. Vendors that provide this tool include Arbitron Mobile, comScore’s MobiLens product, Research Now Mobile (formerly iPinion), and RealityMine (a spin-off company from Lumi Mobile).
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I love talking about cool, emerging, and innovative research methodologies. Over the past two years, I have been focusing a lot of my time on researching these techniques and have written several blog posts on this topic. For example, how prediction markets can help determine which concepts will succeed or fail in the marketplace. And how 2012 is the year of mobile, and market insights (MI) professionals need to leverage this channel.
In continuing with this theme, I am launching a blog series focused exclusively on highlighting emerging methodologies that MI professionals should take notice of and examine whether to incorporate into their research tool kit. I will highlight any cool research techniques I come across, as well as any vendors that are building interesting technology tools for market research purposes.
For this inaugural post, I will highlight location analytics. Essentially, market insights professionals can use a consumer’s location information that is transmitted by their mobile phone to understand what they are doing in their daily lives. For example, you can understand where your target customer is shopping, how she got there, and which competitor stores she drove past. The consumers being tracked do not have to “check in” every place they go to gather this information. Instead, all of the location data is passively collected after a consumer opts in.
I’m sure you’ve noticed from the latest data digests that I'm really in a mobile mood, but there's just so much going on with mobile globally! Last week, I was at a research conference on “Mobile Research in a Mobile World”; it presented many interesting case studies on how to use mobile for research purposes in both developed and developing markets.
One of the most intriguing presentations was by Mikhail Zarin from Mobiety and Artem Tinchurin from Tiburon Research. They shared the challenges they encounter with doing research in Russia and how adding mobile adds a layer of complexity with regards to questionnaire design, engagement, and sample management.
This reminded me about a report I recently worked on with a colleague called “The Introduction To The Russian Consumer.” My colleague is from Russia, and she taught me that many consumers pay their bills or top up their phones at machines that take cash. And these machines also act as eCommerce platforms: You can use them to purchase airline tickets, for example. During their speech at the mobile research conference, Mikhail and Artem shared how they use these machines to ask people to participate in research. Although response rates are low, overall participation is quite good because there are so many ATMs.
My colleague Reineke Reitsma and I have been championing mobile market research for quite some time. In fact, we published the first Forrester report on this emerging and innovative methodology back in 2009. In the report, Reineke wrote about the value of its mobility and flexibility to gather insights into consumers’ behavior anytime and anywhere. And for mainstream adoption to occur, hurdles such as cost, technology, privacy, and representation must be addressed.
July has been a “sizzling” month so far, and I don’t just mean the weather. Although its pretty hot and humid here in Miami, the market research world has been burning up with talk about mobile market research over the past three weeks. First, we kicked off the month with a debate I moderated about whether mobile research is the great hope or the false dawn. You can listen to a recording of the lively debate here. And now, the Merlien Market Research in a Mobile World conference just wrapped up. This conference brought together more than 200 client-side senior executives, market researchers, and mobile developers to discuss the challenges and opportunities mobile technologies can bring to generate customer insights.
Is all of this talk warranted? Yes! Just take a look at some of these facts. Forrester forecasts that by 2014, 65% of the world’s population will own at least one active mobile phone (click here for details; subscription required). And, earlier this year, Mary Meeker of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers stated that we have globally reached an inflection point in Q4 2010―the global shipments of smartphones and tablets surpassed the global shipments of desktop and notebook PCs.
About six weeks ago, I attended the Mobile Research conference 2011 in London, where a variety of vendors and clients talked about their experiences with mobile as a research methodology. They shared a range of mobile research methodologies, like using text messages in emerging markets, mobile ethnographic studies, geolocation tracking, and mobile behavioral tracking data. You can find most of the presentations here, and if you want to see me in action as roving reporter, you can click here.
During the whole conference, there was a clear line between the benefits and challenges of online research versus mobile research, and how the two can strengthen each other. Then at the end of the second day, someone asked the following question to the audience: “Do you consider tablets a PC or mobile device?” The answer was almost unanimous: a mobile device.
This got me thinking about the whole concept of mobile research in more detail. In fact, I was wondering if something like a mobile research conference would still exist in a couple of years, because the rapid technological developments of smartphones and tablets will blur the line between mobile and online research. Can we, as researchers, continue to define the research methodology in the future, or are the respondents going to do that? This line of thinking led me to ask this question to our community members: Should research be device-agnostic?
When I came back from holiday last week and looked at my mail, I was delighted to see that the most recent issue of Research World (the ESOMAR magazine) had a number of articles on mobile research. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, mobile research has really won me over (see also my report, The Challenges And Opportunities Of Mobile Research for full details). The “anytime, anywhere” aspect of the mobile phone, combined with people's emotional attachment to it, makes it an ideal device for people to share their thoughts and opinions in a research context.
When reading the articles in Research World, however, I feel that the industry is missing out on a great opportunity. The emphasis of the conversation here is on mobile research's methodological challenges, such as sampling, guidelines, and research bias. I agree that there are still some hurdles to overcome with regards to representation, costs, technology, and privacy, but I believe market researchers shouldn't get too caught up in these but should instead embrace mobile phones as a new research channel and look for innovative research approaches.