Monday, 18 July 2016

Mobile Surveys vs. Online: Back to the Future for Market Research

Mobile Surveys vs. Online: Back to the Future for Market Research

OnePoint Global’s Dr Tim Snaith’s take on the advantages of mobile surveys

The goal of all market research is to uncover ‘truths’ about people’s beliefs, attitudes and experiences. But while the goal has always remained the same, the technology used to gather the data needed is constantly evolving.

First there was the online survey revolution, making data collection faster, cheaper and easier than ever before. And now another seismic shift is taking place; the rise of the smartphone and the emergence of the mobile web survey. Mobile surveys have the capacity to offer immediacy, location, convenience, higher quantity and quality of responses, and they’re transforming how companies listen to customers.

The mobile survey story

Online surveys emerged at a time when there wasn’t much to do on the internet. People were searching for new ways to interact, and surveys became an increasingly popular way to take advantage of that half an hour to garner opinions.

But these days we’re swamped by content and overwhelmed by the choice of ways to communicate. We can connect to brands through social media and give feedback on our own terms, so the motivation to complete ‘traditional’ online surveys is rapidly evaporating.

And with the rise of the internet-enabled mobile phone, online surveys are naturally becoming mobile surveys; 66% of emails are first opened on a mobile phone, and that means the majority of email links to surveys are likely to be opened on mobile whether you like it or not.

Enter the mobile survey. Designed to be viewed on mobile, shorter, more streamlined; they offer the opportunity for a much more direct link with a respondent.

A stronger connection to people

All market research starts with people. But the challenge of finding people with the relevant experiences willing to share their opinions is getting tougher in today’s technology-rich, time-poor society.

Convenience is key, and that’s where mobile surveys deliver. Instead of being stopped in the street, cold-called at home or sitting at a PC, mobile surveys can be completed on the bus or in front of the TV. And a whopping 98% of customers say they’re likely to leave feedback via mobile if asked for it. That means increased reach and a higher rate of response.

How mobile surveys are changing the questions we ask

A customer buys something in a shop and is sent a short follow-up mobile survey. They answer the questions before they’ve even got back to their car. The experience is fresh in their mind; their answers are immediate and accurate.

Compare that to an online survey, which might take that same customer a couple of days to respond to. Their mood has changed; their recollections are hazy.

When feedback can be gathered at point of sale or behaviour, the nature of the questions we ask changes, focusing on immediate feedback. And while the convenience of being able to complete a survey on the bus or in a shop might mean more people respond, it probably also means they have less time to spend replying, so mobile surveys often have to be shorter than the online equivalent.

The tech challenges of mobile surveys

Mobile surveys offer immediacy and convenience, but they also throw up some tech issues. The latest technology allows for advanced graphics, video and audio, but survey designers have to balance this with the problems thrown up by data connectivity. If a link or video doesn’t load for a user on a poor data signal, they may abandon the survey and not come back.

The issue of connectivity gets more pressing when research goes global and variations in infrastructure come into play. Getting a 4G signal on a London street might not be an issue, but for someone on an unreliable connection in rural Poland a lengthy page load could mean the difference between responding or abandoning that survey.

Thinking globally, phone capabilities vary widely too; screen sizes, hardware combinations, operating systems; these complexities make it a challenge to design surveys that work across the board.

The future of mobile surveys

Great market research should always be the objective. The technology we use should support this goal, not unduly influence it or define it.

We’re moving towards a point where technology will enable seamless data gathering that gets us closer to that ‘truth’; the same survey replicated across many platforms. We’re not there yet, but in the meantime, a mobile-first approach delivers the closest to that seamless experience. What works on mobile works on other platforms, so let’s start with mobile and build from there.

Other channels will always have their place, but mobile offers something new; a high level digital experience increasingly integrated with brand consumption. The future of market research is immediacy, convenience, simplicity and brand alignment. We recognised the shape of the future 10 years ago; now the world is starting to agree. The future is mobile.

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