Mobile Research Calls For Creative Research Approaches

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.

The last thing the industry should do is repeat what it did with the first 10 years of Internet research — copying long pen-and-paper surveys into a new channel. I believe that mobile Internet research can significantly change the way that research is conducted: Immediacy will become the standard, and results will be based on a 360-degree view of people's behavior. Questions like "Which of the following brands have you bought in the past three months?" will disappear. Instead, mobile research will give insight into respondents' actual buying behavior in the past week, including pictures, videos, in-store satisfaction surveys, and product reviews.

Market researchers need to think out of the box and come up with innovative ways to conduct research through mobile phones. As an industry, we should keep a close eye on how social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and foursquare are experimenting with mobile applications to engage their users on the go, and we should copy some of the successful elements to our research tool box.

Do you agree that we should loosen up a bit about the methodological challenges that mobile provides and should focus instead on the great opportunities that it can offer? Let me know!

Comments

Researchers must get creative!

Agree completely with your post, and is refreshing to see a call for creativity in the research industry. The opportunities have to be the focus, not the challenges - the research industry must realise that we need to have conversation with consumers when and how it's convenient to them, not to us. And if that means through their smartphones, then so be it.

We've been trialling online research communities with iPhone users and exploring what we can do with mobile research in terms of both the nature of the qualitative conversations we have, and additional data collection methods. They've got no problem interacting with researchers this way, and we've been reassured by their willingness to embrace our approach. Additionally, we've noticed some interesting behaviours in terms of speed and timeliness of responses.

Let's hope others heed your call.

Researchers, get creative!

Reineke:

As usual, we can look to you for calls to action for the industry to embrace change and opportuinities to better serve our clients.

At BrainJuicer we are also experimenting with "Mobile Moments of Truth" using mobile phone based research. As we see widespread adoption of 3G enabled phones, we see the possibilities for richer survey tools, beyond the very limited SMS versions we see most researchers deploying to date. Our point of view is that measuing consumers' gut emotional responses at the moment of interaction with a brand or a message, or at the "moment of truth" in the shopping experience will be critical to understanding shopper behaviours and even customer satisfaction, which is a key element of our SatisTraction (tm) solutions.

Respondents' willingness to participate in these methodologies and the richness of their contributions has been encouraging.

We look forward to Reineke perhaps revisiting her 2009 study for the updated outlook on mobile research as well as a further challenge to the industry to be creative in general.

Susan