Wake Up! You Need To Be Thinking About Mobile Market Research Now

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.

What does this mean for market insights professionals? It means a new opportunity for us to connect and engage with consumers, especially in emerging markets. However, we cannot simply transfer what we are currently doing onto a tiny mobile screen. Consumers will not stand for it. We need to be simple in our approach, but we also need to be creative. Take, for example, UK-based mobile tech firm Qriously: Its setup allows companies to embed Qriously’s SDK (software development kit) into their own app to collect real-time, location-based insights. Rather than asking consumers to download an app that is geared only to taking surveys, it allows companies to embed questions into their own app that shows up when consumers use it. Companies can now connect with consumers at the moment they are interacting with the company or brand and ask simple and critical questions like customer satisfaction. This is just one of the many examples of how access to consumers through mobile will help us generate richer and deeper insights.

While hearing of examples like Qriously can get any market insights professional excited about the opportunities that mobile can provide, take note that it will not always be the most appropriate method. You must approach each research question with a blank slate and ask what methodology makes sense. And if mobile is the answer, take the shackles off and don’t let what you did in the past with other methodologies dictate how you structure your mobile research. Start from scratch and get creative!

Mobile is heating up and you need to start thinking now of how you can enrich your research with it. What do you think? Are you already conducting mobile research? If not, what are the challenges you face in adopting mobile research?