Mobile Marketing Research: Myth or Magic?
Thursday, April 05, 2012
Posted by: Sheila Gidley
Mobile, it's a word that features so high in many
researchers’ vocabulary our (very unscientific) survey suggests it probably
comes fourth in the rankings, bested only by Quant, Qual and Methodology!
Despite this widespread awareness it can hardly be considered new on the scene.
After all, market research professionals must have been debating the many
possibilities the moment mobile internet was born. Yet it’s still a hot topic,
generating thousands of blog and column inches every month, by those
championing, questioning and developing its worth. We decided to delve a little
deeper and find out why we’re all still trying to figure out mobile.
What is perhaps most surprising about mobile research is not
the vast chasm between those that do it well and those that do it poorly as you
might expect, but actually those that do it well and those that don’t do it at
all. Mobile at its very core seems to scare people; a sentiment which isn’t
just limited to researchers, the public (savvy smart phone users and Sun
readers alike) also seem nervous about letting the industry into their private
Resistance To Change...
The practical and effective application of mobile technology
as a viable research methodology is encountering as much resistance today that
online surveys did when they first came into the fray. The same questions are
being asked about security, quality of information and data protection in
mobile that were asked 15 years ago. If the answers that were given in relation
to online don’t satisfy the issues surrounding mobile methodology it would
suggest that we see the devices used to access these services very differently,
both as users and researchers.
Online research could quite easily be considered ‘heavy’ now;
we’re all familiar with its capabilities (overly so, many would argue) and,
perhaps more importantly, with its restrictions. At one time it was considered
an incredibly convenient and immediate tool for engaging respondents. This may
still be true in many cases, but mobile has the power to be so much more; more
convenient, more immediate, more engaging. It makes sense then that researchers
would be keen to harness a technology which is so light, portable and novel.
Mobile in Numbers...
A clear example of the benefits and results that mobile can
deliver as an effective research approach is evident, when reviewing stats from
projects undertaken by Mobile Fieldwork; 28% of respondents actually opened a
‘tablet only’’ survey via a mobile or smart phone, in many cases you can expect
to achieve 80% of completes within the first couple of hours. Another
interesting observation, which serves to further confirm the impact which
mobile has on our daily lives, is that 65% of people in London check their
primary email account on their mobile phone before checking it on a traditional
desktop. These stats certainly confirm what we know to be true about the
technology’s invaluable role in delivering better levels of engagement and
quicker generation of consumer insights, as well as the increasing supremacy of
mobile over other web-enabled devices. As research professionals we respond
well to facts and stats, reports and rationale like this, but is that enough to
truly understand Mobile?
We would argue that facts and stats alone are not enough to
harness mobile research. Not when we live in a world where many mobile users
treat their phones as an extension of their body (or perhaps it’s more an
external hard drive for the mind), carrying their device on their person at all
times. This kind of closeness and connectivity cannot be matched in today’s
world, but it does present a problem. The more intimate respondents are with a
piece of technology (most people even take their mobiles to bed with them, not
a common occurrence with a desktop we think you’ll agree) the more intimate
researchers are asking to be with respondents. If psychologically a respondent
feels like their mobile space is a part of them, we as researchers must be
sensitive to the fact that we’re asking to venture deeper into their mind than
ever before. This scenario is far more personal and uncomfortable for many
mobile users than if they were asked to take part in research via a desktop or
laptop. How might you feel if a researcher wanted to climb into bed with you,
or ride the No.7 bus together or any number of other personal scenarios in
which potential respondents interact with their phone?
There is nothing to rival mobile in terms of immediacy and
connectivity, no other technology which allows us to engage with respondents
not just at the end of an experience (point of sale is one example), but also
throughout the process, to better understand the emotional, physical and mental
journey being taken.
The Road Ahead...
Taking into account the intimate nature of mobile, the
personal relationship developing between man and technology perhaps, what is
still eluding the industry in the wider adoption of mobile is the expression of
personality to make respondents feel at ease in a more intimate relationship
with research. By adopting, or more crucially, allowing natural personality to
come to the fore, a market researcher or research engagement platform is deemed
friendly, non-threatening and authentically human by respondents. It’s
pertinent to consider that far more people (sorry we don’t have a stat for
that) are likely to talk about their deepest thoughts, hopes and fears with a
friend than they are to tell all to blog or social media account via a mobile
device. In matters of the mind humanity still trumps technology.
This ‘human’ element is being used
to great success by the industry’s end clients to engage with their audience,
becoming a trusted friend in the eyes of their customers. If the market
research industry was to approach mobile in the same vain, allowing the
framework to be built organically instead of being paralysed by a fear of the
unknown/a lack of rules we might just achieve the new levels of engagement that
we’ve been striving for, and ultimately find success.
By Asif Mirza & Jennifer Garrick
Mirza is Managing Director of Mobile Fieldwork and a Founding MMRA Member. He
has had a career in Market Research spanning 18 years. As an online expert, he
has worked for top 10 agencies and Key mobile research software providers,
including opening the UK office for Confirmit in 1999. He has been at the
forefront of new research methodologies, working in Online since 1997 and
Mobile for the last 4 years, having appeared at the first Mobile Research
Conference in 2009.
Jennifer Garrick is the
Marketing Manager of UK field agency, Face Facts Research, who specialise in
postal, telephone, face to face and online field services. Jennifer has held a
number of marketing positions in her previous roles at The Hunt Group and Visit
Lincolnshire, and is responsible for developing the agency’s brand marketing
strategy. Passionate about effective, conscientious and client focused
communication, she can be found championing Face Facts online, offline and to
anyone else who stands still long enough.