Jul 282014

During the last week I have made three separate presentations in Tokyo on the topic of the key trends in mobile market research and I have found that creating a big picture has helped get my message across. I use the big picture as the first and last slide of the presentation to show where I am heading and to sum up the message. The audience seem to feel that a big picture makes the ideas clearer and helps provided an integrated understanding of what is happening and why.

So, in this post I share my Big Picture of the Key Trends in Mobile Market Research.

Why is mobile so interesting?
The key reasons are all shown inside the phone. Ubiquity refers to the fact that about 70%-80% of the world’s adults have a mobile phone, and the penetration is growing. Mobile phones are the most widely owned device on the planet, and they are changing the way humans communicate.

Because people have their phone with them all the time, 24/7, they provide a better way of contacting people. Better than waiting for people to answer the phone, open their email, or answer the door. The phone is with people ‘in the moment’, i.e. when they are actually doing things.

Increasingly phones are smartphones and connected to the internet. In 2014 we can’t assume that enough people have smartphones connected to the internet to ignore other methods and options, but the trend is towards most of the people that we tend to research being fully smartphone and tablet connected.

Mobile devices can do so much more than just surveys, passive data, push notification, and location based services are just the start. The phone is becoming a window into people’s lives.

Mobile is already a major part of ‘traditional’ research
Marketers, insight professionals, and market researchers need to be aware that mobile is already a major part of existing research methods. In terms of CATI, the amount that is conducted via mobile phone has been rising in most developed markets and is currently around 40%-60% in many markets. In the emerging markets, such as most of Africa, the mobile percentage is much HIGHER. In countries where incomes are lower, it tends to be just the well-off who have a fixed-line telephone, most people have just mobile phones.

20%-30% of online surveys are being attempted by people using mobile devices (phones, phablets, and tablets), so most people doing online are already doing mobile.

In terms of face-to-face and qual research, mobile devices are increasingly being used, for example in mCAPI where the interviewer has a tablet or phone instead of a clipboard.

Mobile is creating/expanding other forms of market research
Participative, or WE-research, is enlisting the person previously known as the respondent to be an active player in the research process. Participants are seeking out experiences, capturing photos and videos, and suggesting commentary. This reaches places that researchers could not reach and empowers customers and citizens.

Passive data collection adds objective information to the subjective picture the participant can supply, and with no effort required by the participant, and no reliance on their memory. Passive data is telling us what people do, when then do, how long they do it, and in many cases where and with whom they do it.

In the moment research is reminding us of how bad our memories are. Collecting fresh insights, in the moment when products and services are being experienced is opening the door to much more accurate, detailed, and relevant research. Location based services are allowing us to follow people through their day and ‘push’ requests to them based on where they are and what they are doing – giving us the best possible in the moment data.

Want more?
Of course, whilst a big picture is all some people need, a detailed picture is what others want. For mobile market research the detailed picture is going to be available in about a month with the release of our new book, “The Handbook of Mobile Market Research”, which is being published by Wiley and is available from Amazon. You can download a free chapter from the NewMR website, click here.


Apr 012014
Larnaca April 2014

I am currently at an academic conference on mobile research in Cyprus, a WebDataNet event. I am a keynote speaker and my role is to share with the delegates the commercial market research picture.

I really enjoy mixing with the academic world, and I am intrigued and fascinated by the differences between the academic and commercial worlds. This post looks at some of the key differences that I have noticed.

In the academic world, timelines are usually longer than in market research. For example, an ethnographic project might be planned for 8 months, in the field for 4 months, and spend 12 months being analysed and written up. A commercial ‘ethnography’ might spend 4 weeks in design and set-up, the fieldwork might be wrapped up in 2 weeks, and the analysis and ‘write up’ conducted in 2 weeks.

In many ways the differences in the timelines result from differences in the motivation for doing a research project. Commercial market research is often conducted to answer a specific business question, which means the research has to be conducted within the timeline required by the business question – which is typically rapid. Academic research is typically conducted to advance the body of knowledge, which means there is often not a specific time constraint. However, there is a need to establish what is already known (the literature review) and a need to spend time creating a write up that embeds the new learning in the wider canon of knowledge.

The balance between preparation, action, analysing, and writing up

In the commercial world the answer is the point of the study; the method, providing it is acceptable, is less relevant.

In an academic study, the value of the specific answer is sometimes almost the least important feature of the project. For example, a commercial project looking at five possible ads for a new soft drink would seek to find the winner. An academic project would normally find that sort of result too specific (i.e. not an addition to the canon of knowledge). An academic project might be more interested in questions such as, what is the relationship between different formats of ad and the way they are evaluated, or the extent to which short-term and long-term effects can be identified. Indeed, in academic project the brands and the specific ads tested will often be obscured, because the study is about the method and the generalizable findings, not (usually) about which ad did best.

The definition of quality
Academic and market researchers have a hierarchy of types of validity but the hierarchy is not the same. Market researchers tend to value Criterion validity (does the measure correlate with or predict something of interest) as their ‘best’ measure.

By contrast, the academic world tends to prioritise Construct Validity, which relates to how well new findings relate to an accepted theory of how things work. This again probably relates to the specificity of the objectives. Market researchers need something that works well enough to solve a particular business problem. The academic is seeking to build knowledge and to connect that research to a wider framework.

The difference in samples
Most market research is conducted with a sample drawn from the target population and usually the sample is constructed to be similar to the target population in terms of simple variables such as age and gender – although it usually falls well short of being a random probability sample. By contrast, a large proportion of academic research appears to be conducted with convenience samples, often students.

The most common reason, for using convenience samples, is lack of resources. In some cases there is a belief that the phenomenon being researched is equally distributed across the population, such as preference for using left or right hand.

Access to the results
In commercial research the results are normally private to the client, unless they are for PR purposes. Traditionally, the results of academic research have been made available to the wider academic world. The future of access to academic research is subject to two contradictory trends. Firstly, commercially sponsored research is tending to be more secretive, because of the commercial interests. Secondly, Governments (who are often a major funder) are pushing the Open Data agenda, making research less secretive.

Which is better?
Academic research and market research differ in several ways, but that is mostly because they have different objectives. If you wanted to use a market research project for academic purposes you would need to add a literature review, add a comprehensive write-up, and be prepared to mount a robust defence of your method. If you wanted to use an academic project for a commercial project you would need to check the ethical clearance, check the timelines were going to be relevant, and check whether the study was likely to give an actionable result.

Jan 272014

As I and others (see this great post by Reg Baker in 2011) have been pointing out, people have been saying mobile is the next big thing for over 15 years, even in the days when that meant SMS, or WAP, or writing 100s of apps for different types of phones. At conferences and client sessions I keep being asked “So, when will mobile be the big thing?”

The answer is that it is now a big thing, and it has been for probably 18 months or more. There are lots of interesting aspects to why mobile is so important, its role in mobile ethnography, its role in audience measurement, its use in location based services, and the gloss that is the quantified self.

But there are two massive areas that outweigh all others. The first is online and the second is CATI.

I have been talking to a wide range of survey providers as part of the book on mobile market research I am writing with Navin Williams and Sue York (due out in September) and there is a consensus that about 20% to 30% of online surveys are being taken (or attempted) by people using mobile devices – and the number is still climbing. If you are doing online research you are almost certainly doing mobile research – the question is whether you are doing it well?

The second big indicator is the way that CATI centres are having to change their calling patterns to recruit more mobile phone users. The US Pew Center (a body that still try to do research right) recently changed its ratio so that 60% of its calls will be with people on mobile phones in the US. The picture is even stronger in the developing markets, interviewer face-to-face is moving to mCAPI, CATI is dominated by mobile (because that is what people have), and companies like Jana and TNS are conducting masses of research on feature phones using SMS or USSD.

So, passive data, iBeacon triggering, app collecting, HTML5 friendly, tap and squeeze mobile research is very interesting, and growing, but mobile becoming the dominant element in CATI and perhaps one-third of all online by the end of this year means it has arrived and it is very big – very big.

So, at last, we can all, me included, stop asking when mobile is going to arrive and focus more on the best uses today, and the best options for tomorrow.

Oh, and if you want to start wondering about the next big thing after mobile, start wondering when messaging apps, like WhatsApp, SnapChat and especially WeChat become the dominant form of interpersonal communication (displacing SMS on the way).


Jan 192014

As part of the book on Mobile Market Research that we are working on we are including some tips on how to stay up to date in terms of mobile market research.

Here is the list we have at the moment:

  • Workshops and conferences organised by research bodies such as ESOMAR and MRS.
  • The MRMW series of conferences (Market Research in the Mobile World) organised by the Merlien organisation.
  • The Global Market Research report (annual) and the Global Prices Study (every two years) from ESOMAR.
  • The yearly GRIT report from GreenBook.
  • The Confirmit Annual Market Research Software report.
  • The Mobile Course provided by the University of Georgia’s Principles of Marketing Research course.
  • Online events and recordings at NewMR.org, and its Mobile reference page NewMR.org/mobile.
  • Useful sources of data and information include ITU, press releases and reports from IDC and Gartner, and reports available from the Pew Research Center (www.pewresearch.org/).
  • Useful news sites/blogs include: Mashable.com, Techcrunch.com, ZDNet.com, and cnet.com.


Jan 072014

As part of the book on mobile market research that Sue York, Navin Williams and I are writing we need to give an overview of mobile qual, before going into depth. Do you think the image below helps?


  • What are we missing?
  • What would you change?
  • What about the titles for the segments?

By WE-research we mean projects where participants are recruited to capture a variety of qualitative data about their lives. They might be asked to capture images of waste, or videos of travel problems, or audio comments about the school run, for example. The term WE-research was introduced by Mark Earls and John Kearnon a few years ago. But, do you have a better term for this type of research?

We are planning on three chapters on qualitative research, indeed we have written three chapters, an overview which covers all four segments above, followed by chapters specifically on the top two segments. Our view on techniques like passive tracking, Google Glass etc is that there is simply not enough material yet to have a chapter on it, there is too little experience around.

If you’d like to help by reviewing one or more of these three chapters, please email ray.poynter@thefutureplace.com – we’ll acknowledge you contribution in the book :-)

Dec 092013

In collaboration with other authors we have produced an initial draft of the chapter on Mobile Market Research, for the ESOMAR book Answers to Contemporary Market Research Questions, and we are seeking feedback.

The video below shows Sue York’s presentation at the recent NewMR Training Day and you can download a PDF of the current draft. Remember, the Contemporary Answers book is intended for people new to research or new to a topic – it is not supposed to be the definitive or comprehensive answer.

We have already received some feedback (following the Training Day), but we’d love to hear more. So, please add your comments to this post using the comments facility. The mobile chapter, along with new chapters on International Research and Polling will be added in 2014.


Jul 172013

Following the discussion on tablets in mobile market research, this post addresses the wider issue of why somebody would want to conduct a study that is mobile only.

Having spoken to a wide cross section of clients and researcher, typical reasons for a mobile only study seem to include:

  1. Because the data needs to be collected, or is better if collected, ‘in the moment’. Where ‘in the moment’ typically means as people are making a decision, whilst using something, or immediately after using something.
  2. To collect passive data, as people go about their everyday lives.
  3. Because mobile gives a more appropriate sample than other similar methods. For example, in a country where 80% of economically active adults have a phone and 50% have internet access, mobile can provide the better sample.
  4. In order to change CAPI to mCAPI, re-energising CAPI.
  5. To add items like photos and videos to traditional survey responses.
  6. Where the mobile device can assist or improve data logging and collection.
  7. Research on the mobile ecosystem, for example of mobile advertising and campaigns.
  8. To research mobile data collection, part of what researchers call RoR, research-on-research.

Another example of point 3, a more appropriate sample, is provided by French company ELIPSS who have created a panel of people, selected via random probability, to whom they have given an internet connected tablet, creating a sample source that is both internet enabled and broadly representative of the group they are seeking to represent.

Two items which are currently not on the list are a) to be cheaper, b) to be faster. This may change in the future and faster and perhaps cheaper could become drivers of mobile usage. But here is why we don’t see them as drivers at the moment

There is doubt that mobile will be cheaper than online surveys in the foreseeable future for like-for-like surveys. The cost of programming a study for online and mobile is, at its best, the same. Testing for online and mobile is, at its best, the same. Incentives, are at their best, the same. And, the processing costs are typically the same. In fact, at the moment, mobile studies typically cost more to program and test since there are more contingencies to consider and to deal with.

However, if the desire to use mobile drives researchers to use shorter surveys, the net effect could be cheaper studies – as well as better and faster.

Faster is a plausible benefit for mobile, although this is a matter of degree. When online research, coupled with online access panels, burst on the scene, one of the key benefits was speed, days instead of weeks. In terms of mobile the speed difference for data collection is likely to be hours instead of days. However, this does not mean that most project turnarounds will reduce by the same factor. A project includes, design, scripting (the writing and testing of the survey), the fieldwork, and the analysis. Reducing the fieldwork from, say, 48 hours to 4 hours might reduce a project from five days to four days – good, but only crucial sometimes.

However, mobile data collection may come into its own when researchers start requesting, near, instant results. Consider the launch of a campaign, or assessing an open-air event, or dealing with the impact of a product disaster like a recall, a mobile survey could be sent out within minutes and a broad, cross-section of people could reply within minutes, potentially allowing real-time management of the campaign, event, or news.

In many cases there are methodological reasons to want the fieldwork to last at least 24 hours, and potentially longer. Different times of day attract different sorts of respondents. Researchers have reported that responses in the morning can be different from responses collected in the evening, and quite often that the first third of responses are different from the last third – although this may be due to more than just speed as the last third is often the part of a sample where there is a struggle to fill quotas – i.e. the last third are often demographically different from the first third.

Big shout of thanks to Frankie Johnson for highlighting mCAPI in relation to the previous post, and to Gerry Nicolaas for bring Elipss to my attention.

So, what are your thoughts? Would you make any major additions, deletions, or amendments to our list? Are you aware of interesting examples of people doing some of the less common alternatives?