Joy Liuzzo is Director of Marketing & Mobile Research at InsightExpress, a leading provider of high-quality, digital marketing research and advertising effectiveness solutions.
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Free Range Research
By Joy Liuzzo - 6th October '09
If you arenít seriously exploring, or currently conducting, research via the mobile phone, you are a chicken. Have I got your attention? Yes, I understand that starting out a conversation by calling someone a name isnít the best approach, but you must expect me to be combative when it comes to mobile research. Itís here, itís happening and itís a scalable and powerful tool for any researcher.
Backing up a step, (letís just pretend that I havenít called you a chicken yet), what do I mean by mobile research? At the core of the discussion itís using the mobile phone to gather insights from consumers. At a more abstract level, itís using a widely available technology to improve research insights. Mobile research can take many forms, everything from surveys via text messaging, Mobile Internet, or IVR to acting as a consumer feedback mechanism for diary studies, events, and experiences.
In talking with researchers, marketers, and various other folks over the last few years, the same hesitations and concerns consistently crop up. For me, this is concerning because it means that the core benefits of mobile research arenít overcoming the Ďnewnessí barriers. Granted, this makes me flash back to 1999 when I was starting a research department and was told that I could not explore online research because no one had email addresses or Internet access at home. Here we are, ten years later, and online research is a widely used and accepted methodology. So, I know from experience that weíll get over the newness barriers but sometimes we need just a nudge to start seeing the light.
Letís take a look at the common concernsÖ
Mobile research is not representative
This is a big one and about five years ago, I would have agreed that using mobile phones to reach a sample representative of the general population would be impossible. However InsightExpress has been conducting the Digital Consumer Portrait, a quarterly tracking study, which looks at the mobile behavior patterns of consumers and some of our recent numbers are not only enlightening but comforting.
Mobile phone ownership in the US is roughly 85%. Breaking it down by age group, 85% of 18-24 year olds, 84% of 25-44 year olds, 84% of 45-54 year olds, and 79% of 55-65 year olds own a mobile phone. Now, thatís all good to know, but itís always wise to look at something in comparison. Online access by the same age groups shows that 87% of 18-24 year olds, 83% of 25-44 year olds, 65% of 45-54 year olds, and 65% of 55-64 year olds have Internet access.
For other demographic variables, mobile phone owners and non-mobile phone owners are matched, demographic by demographic, down the line. Combine this with the fact that we see more people with a mobile phone than Internet access and we have a greater potential of reaching a more representative population via mobile device than we do online.
Mobile research is limiting
I agree and disagree with this one. Yes, we canít do a 50 question concept test via mobile phone, no question about it. However, you wouldnít conduct a TURF analysis to figure out if consumers were satisfied either. My point is that mobile research has its place in the methodological world and that place is when immediacy is critical. Mobile research gives us the ability to interact with consumers during or right after an experience, rather than trying to reach them by phone or email at a later date. For this instant access, we do have to make trade-offs.
||The key thing to keep repeating when looking at mobile research is "Mobile is about immediacy".
Iíve found that I have three minutes to conduct a survey via the mobile phone, regardless of the technology I use. This equates to 8-10 simple questions (e.g. single/multi-select, open end) and gives me enough information for most studies. Since weíre dealing with short attention spans and a potential cost to the consumer to participate, I also use an incentive. My experience has shown that the best option is a sweepstakes entry for $250 (or other large prize) rather than an individual incentive like a free ringtone. The reason for this recommendation is that consumers seem to do math in their head Ė a chance for $250 is worth their time but a $1 download is not.
The key thing to keep repeating when looking at mobile research is 'Mobile is about immediacy.'
Mobile research is not something people want to do
Actually, people do want to answer surveys on their mobile phone. As a matter of fact, weíre frequently seeing mobile survey response rates outperform online studies. For one recent study where I was recruiting people from the Mobile Internet, I yielded 700 completes in less than 12 hours! After double, triple, and who are we kidding, quadruple checking the data, I was floored Ė all completes were valid. We see similar response patterns when weíre recruiting from other mobile technologies as well. People are always playing with their mobile phones, looking at them as an entertainment device, so it make sense theyíd be willing to use it as a way to give their feedback.
Recruiting people is impossible
Like any recruitment tactic, we need to be clear, enthusiastic, and within the laws. This means clearly stating what is required and what the costs could be, no spamming or recontacting without permission, and making the experience user-friendly and engaging. Tricky, yes - but not anything that you havenít dealt with before.
Remember. People do want to share their opinions and they do want to participate. The biggest challenge of all is making them aware that you want their opinions. Think jumbo-tron at a big event, think about a message at the bottom of a receipt, on a drink coaster, on a napkin, brand ambassadors, bottom of a TV ad or show or at the end of a radio message. I could go on and on. If your project passed the 'is this about immediacy' sniff test then keep going and ask yourself what is the best way to get in front of consumers at the right time.
If youíve gotten this far in the article, congratulations, you are no longer a chicken! Dust that dirt off your feet because you know when mobile research is appropriate, what to be aware of when youíre using it, and some helpful hints to make your study a huge success.
I would love your comments and feedback Ė feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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