Mobile market research: magic or myth

Market researchers have been debating for years about the possible added value of smartphones and tablets. But now the moment seems to have arrived. In 2012 the number of mobile phones will exceed the total world population (TechCrunch 2012) and 51% of all Internet users have a smartphone (InSites Consulting, Social Media around the World 2012). Mobile has become an extension of ourselves, many of us even suffer from ‘nomophonia’ (no-mobile-phone phobia) or the uncomfortable feeling we have when we do not have our mobile phone on us.

The myth

Mobile research is no full-option replacement of quantitative or in-depth qualitative research. It is quite the opposite, actually. Smartphones or tablets are less convenient for writing long texts. Downsizing from a 15 inch PC screen to a 3.5 inch mobile display makes longer, in-depth interactions more difficult. Text-to-speech technology does not solve this problem, as people do not like talking into their appliances if nobody is on the other side.

Less is more

Mobile does indeed open new doors. It allows us to be in close and personal contact with consumers who are not reachable via traditional research:

  • Images say more than words Mobile is extremely convenient for ethnographic applications: consumers perceive their own environment and make pictures or videos which are relevant to a given objective.
  • On the consumer’s skin Mobile research helps us to gather data ‘in the heat of the moment’. Example: consumers can easily log their ‘customer journey’ via mobile, through immediate brief feedback.
  • ‘Second screen’ And finally mobile can also function perfectly as ‘second screen’. A research community participant, for example, can easily stay informed of topics and conversations on the platform that way.

Involvement and trust

Research via smartphones or tablets is by definition much more ‘intimate’ than via other methods: they contain very personal details (pictures, contacts, social media), we take them to very personal places (bed, toilet, bathroom) and they are always switched on. Therefore we need a very close bond with consumers who are involved in this type of research, where openness and trust are key.
In a nutshell: mobile market research helps us break through barriers of time and place, but do not replace the traditional toolbox. It does however help us realise more personal and contextual research.
Tomorrow at the ESOMAR 3D Conference in Amsterdam (NL) Annelies Verhaeghe and Anouk Willems will share findings from recent InSites Consulting research in the mobile mindset. This presentation will describe: 1/ the benefits of mobile surveying, beyond the tool; 2/ the use of mobile in Market Research Online Communities; and 3/ mobile as a topic of research and a huge business opportunity. Stay tuned, cause will share more on this presentation in the coming days.

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