Continuing our focus on 'Insights in the Mobile Age' Mario Paic, Global Head of Data Science, looks at the rise of the smartphone and discusses its central role today at Ipsos Audience Measurement.
It's been almost 13 years since Steve Jobs stood on stage at Moscone Center in San Francisco and introduced the world to the iPhone.
At the time, Jobs knew that this device would change the way we communicate, browse and consume media, but it is likely that even he couldn't have predicted the scale and ramifications of its impact on the future. The iPhone may not have been the first smartphone, but it kick-started the mobile revolution. How the world has changed has been truly remarkable.
Today, around 45% of the world's population use a smartphone - in many countries more than 90%. That's roughly 3.5 billion people using a pocket-sized super computer with an ultra-high definition touchscreen, a camera capable of shooting professional videos and a wide range of sensors that can track motion, position and various environmental parameters. Using it as an integral part of daily life, to communicate, shop, play, learn, navigate, consume media and many, many other more or less essential purposes. With the current pandemic, governments are planning to start using it as a disease-control tool.
One important purpose - for those of us in the industry - is its usefulness as a market research tool.
Its ubiquity, always on and always connected status combined with data-producing hardware and software, and its constant use by and proximity to the user, makes it a perfect platform for all types of market research. This includes audience measurement, the focus of this piece. Specifically, how it's used as a vehicle for delivering and completing surveys and as technology that can passively measure media consumption.
Some smartphone statistics report average daily use in 2019 at almost 4 hours, which is more than watching TV. A great part of this time is consuming media content of one kind or another. More than 20% of us are picking it up and checking it every few minutes; around half of us do so a few times every hour, amounting to 60+ interactions per day for an average user.
So mobile is not just an option, it is central to any measurement of media audiences - newspapers, TV, radio or online.
But have we as an industry fully embraced the 'mobile-first' approach and applied it to everything we do, from sampling, recruiting participants, writing and designing questionnaires to utilising all the tech packed into these devices?
We are still seeing long and participant-hostile questionnaires, optimised for large screens, pushed to participants to complete on mobile phones. Currency data collected from disjointed PC and mobile panels, instead of a single-source all device approach. The list goes on...
When it comes to utilising surveys for measuring audiences, it is crucial that researchers put participants and their smartphones at the heart of survey design. In plain terms, a device-agnostic survey is one that can be completed on any device. But it does not necessarily mean the survey will work well or be easy to complete on that device. Online surveys should be designed as 'mobile-first', so the respondent can easily and comfortably complete them on anything from a smartphone to a computer. This Mobile-First Best Practice Guide outlines the benefits of mobile-first and the simple rules that should be followed when designing or reviewing an online survey.
With regard to passive techniques of audience measurement, at Ipsos we have a core vision that drives our solutions for the next generation of TV, radio and online measurement, which is to embrace the principle of 'Passive Simplicity'. This means building natural solutions to deliver high quality data with a broad measurement scope, ensuring that we keep the subjects of our measurement, people, central to the overall research and technology design.
That's why we utilise familiar and trustworthy devices which already fit into people's lives, and are ideally already in place, such as smartphones. This is the basic premise of MediaCell, a mobile app solution that transforms smartphones into powerful audio metering devices, in which the task for the panellist is to keep them close and charged. As the statistics show, people do this anyway.
One of the best examples of the principles described above is BBC Compass - a single-source, cross-media measurement panel that Ipsos has built for the BBC, to measure the audiences of all of their content and services across all platforms. It employs a customised version of Ipsos MediaCell software known as MediaCell+, which integrates Ipsos' own technology for measuring viewing and listening and Reality Mine's industry leading on-device measurement technology, into a single app installed on participants' smartphones (and other devices).
The BBC Compass panel also forms the foundation of a bigger, 10,000 strong, single-source panel that Ipsos is building as the new industry-endorsed solution for online audience measurement in the UK. The solution - called Ipsos iris - is approved by UKOM (the industry body that defines and governs online measurement standards in the UK) and launches in January 2021. It's a system which maintains a 'hybrid' approach, combining census level traffic data with panels, but recognises the primacy of mobile devices for accessing content online.
And lastly, an example of utilising the smartphone as a platform for passively measuring 'out-of-home' audiences. Ipsos GeoQuest, an app that allows us to track the location of participants, both indoors and outside, using a combination of GPS and Bluetooth technologies. It is a component part of one of the measurement solutions we offer to the Out-of-Home advertising industry.
Perhaps even more relevant in our new world of lockdowns and social distancing, software based passive measurement technology, deployed via contactless recruitment (CATI, online panels), seems poised to become the obvious choice for cross-media measurement.
Having said all of the above, it would be wrong to present mobile phones as a panacea for all the ills of traditional market research.
All articles 2006-20 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.