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MrWeb 21 YEARS FEATURE: 4 Keys to Mobile Qual Success

March 5 2020

Delivering Great Mobile Qualitative: Four Keys to Success
by Ross McLean, Vice President, Mobile Qualitative at 20|20 Research

Smartphone-based mobile ethnography platform Over the Shoulder, of which Ross was co-founder, was recently acquired by 20|20 Research, developer of research software and services including QualBoard and QualMeeting

Ross McLean

This has already been an interesting year for us, with our acquisition by 20|20 Research, which has brought the best qualitative platforms together with great recruiting and other project expertise to make online qual easier and better for practitioners.

One thing we didn't plan for was what happened when we combined Over the Shoulder's pool of smartphone research designers with the research management team at 20|20. Vigorous discussion and debate began immediately around the topic of how to best design online and mobile projects for maximum participant engagement and the best possible insight. Designers with decades of experience in online qualitative of all types compared notes. Tips and tricks began to fly, and we decided to boil down the best of it into this list of four crucial tips for great mobile qualitative.

Tip #1: Design Your Project to be Entertaining and Engaging

The best mobile qualitative leverages the enjoyment participants get out of telling their stories and sharing their truths. Your study design should always reflect this. So:

  • 'De-formalize' and 'conversationalize' your language. This ensures your participants feel comfortable and know there really is a true human at the other end of the research.
  • Fill your study with 'Easter Egg' questions. These fun tidbits can provide moments of levity and little emotional rewards to participants
  • Use a platform that lets you set up logic to give real-time acknowledgement to your participants. For example, if you ask a participant to rate their test-drive experience from 'Amazing' to 'Disappointing' and they chose 'Disappointing', following up with 'Oh no! What do you mean when you say 'Disappointing'?' makes participants feel like they're engaging with someone who really wants to hear what they have to say, not a machine.
  • Use emoticons to let participants express themselves, and use them in your design for standout, visual appeal and clarity.
  • If you include scales, remember that having your participants rate the moment they've just experienced on a scale of 'Best time ever' through 'Major bummer' is more fun and conducive to emotional disclosure than rating it on a scale of '1-7, with 7 being extremely satisfactory.'
Just about any project (whether it's a board, smartphone qualitative or something else) can be designed to be engaging to interact with, and the insights you get back get better when your project is inclusive and fun.

Tip #2: Always Participate in an On-Device Test Before You Launch

Seriously. We never let a study we've designed and built for a client go into the field without its designer going through it on their own smartphone (NOT an on-screen emulator).

Even our most experienced project designers, who have designed hundreds of digital and smartphone qualitative projects for our clients, will tell you they almost invariably learn something from doing an on-device test. Often it's something that can make the participant experience of your project better and the project more successful. Not to mention that walking through your study on the same device your participants will use will instantly reveal if you've broken tip #1. Plus, knowing what it feels like to be on the receiving end of your assignments, journals, and questions will definitely make you a better project designer.

Tip #3: Use Media Wisely to Allow Participants to Easily and Comfortably Express Themselves.

One of the most exciting things about mobile qualitative is obviously the ability to submit beautiful 'selfie' videos in answer to your questions. And there's no doubt that a great in-the-moment HD video can be an insightful showstopper in a presentation.

But video isn't the right capture medium in all situations. For example, if you've sent your hemorrhoid-suffering participants into the drug store to check out the shelves and tell you about the product that's most relevant to them and why, asking for an in-store selfie video will make them uncomfortable (or should we say 'even more uncomfortable'). But they can easily take a photo of the product that's doing the best job of addressing their current needs, then hold their phone up to their ear (feigning a phone call) and make an audio recording telling you about the thought process that made the product stand out and be chosen. You'll get far better insights for it, not to mention better compliance. More thoughts on choosing the right media can be found in 'In praise of audio recordings'.

Tip #4: Choose the Tool that Best Matches your Project's Needs

For example, if the most important element of your project is extensive, in-the-moment journaling that includes multiple instructions, logic, a photo and a video, go with a dedicated smartphone app. A well-designed smartphone qualitative app puts your participants as little as three screen taps away from sharing their real life with you as it happens. And that makes a big difference to how much of their reality you see and can learn from.

On the other hand, if your project relies on group interaction, or requires activities that are well-suited for desktop as well as mobile, consider a community message board. These online discussion platforms are constantly adding powerful new features and functionality so it's important to know what's out there and what will deliver the findings you're looking for. Another option? Think through your activities and consider a combination of tools to get the right mix of insights.

With the power of smartphones, it's easy to be with your desired audience at the moments that matter to your research. These four tips can help ensure you design a study that makes the most of the power that a mobile device provides, so you can deliver the right insights, every time.


Other 21 YEARS / Mobile Age content now available (read and download the full supplement here):


Accuracy and Authenticity - How Smartphones Revolutionised Research, by Richard Preedy, Verve

Mobile Election Polling - Abraham Muller, CTO at Brandwatch Qriously, looks at how mobile methods can make election polling easier to implement and more accurate.

7 Steps to a Better Mobile Survey - QuenchTec Survey Designer Dennis Sewberath highlights seven ways to turn a survey into a 'beautiful conversation', for the sake of better feedback and higher completion rates.

You've Missed the Boat - RealityMine CEO Chris Havemann looks at the continuing opportunity for market researchers in a world of consumers and media changed almost out of recognition by the mobile revolution. Part 1 of 2.

...but there's another one along in a minute - in part 2, RealityMine CEO Chris Havemann looks at Why MR firms are 'fundamentally well-positioned', and where the immediate opportunities lie.

3 Mobile Marketing Myths - Andy Chandler, General Manager, UK & Ireland at mobile measurement and fraud prevention specialist Adjust, debunks three fashionable but misplaced ideas from this booming market.

Interview - Giles Palmer - the Brandwatch founder & CEO talks sifting through 1.5 trillion pages of data; pulling apart the Model-T Ford; and why our industry could grow fivefold in 5 years.

Little Did He Know - Mario Paic, Global Head of Data Science, looks at the rise of the smartphone and discusses its central role today at Ipsos Audience Measurement.

Did You Get the Message? Reach3 Insights CEO & founder Matt Kleinschmit looks at the rise of the mobile messaging-based Survey - with case studies from work for Jagermeister, Hyundai and Kimberly-Clark.

An interview with Tugce Bulut, the inspirational founder and CEO of app-based feedback business Streetbees.

All articles 2006-20 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.

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