Editor’s note: George Wilkerson is president of Market Strategies International, a Livonia, Mich., research firm. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Remember payphones? Communication trends and data trails will transform market research.”
It certainly wouldn’t be a revelation for anyone if I were to point out that our society has been impacted heavily by communications and information exchange capabilities that are commonly referred to as “mobility.”
Our personal communications streams run constantly and in multiple threads. In addition to calls and texts from anywhere, we browse the Web and interact with social sites such as Twitter and Facebook. We also request specific information through QR codes or by clicking on e-mails.
Mobile devices have virtually halted the use of landline phones. Once upon a time, payphones were the way we communicated when we were traveling. Think about how quaint that seems. Only in our workplaces and for security purposes do landline phones still have any meaningful presence today.
The growth in non-voice and text usage of very smart communications devices is beginning to be impactful. A smartFOCUS survey recently conducted found that: “Two years ago the mobile phone was almost entirely used to read, filter and delete unimportant e-mails, whereas now 30 percent of users are reading and replying to e-mails through their mobile.”
So we now have meaningful numbers of people owning and using devices that provide “good enough” support for them to start using e-mail and Websites in ways that were previously limited to netbooks, laptops and desktop PCs.
The important point here is that, very recently, most e-mail tasks handled by a mobile phone were limited to sorting and deleting e-mail. The sharp rise in e-mails being answered by mobile devices should trigger serious concern to anyone selling PCs, as smartphone sales have long since outstripped sales of PCs.
This isn’t just us business nerds still using BlackBerrys.
The ExactTarget Channel Preference Survey (registration required) found the majority of smartphone users are “…sending and receiving more personal e-mails as opposed to work-related e-mails through their smartphones.”
Combining texts, social media posts, calls and e-mails from smartphones creates an entirely new communications dynamic that simply didn’t exist just a few years ago. My company recently conducted a Web-based survey for a telecommunications firm. That survey was not optimized for mobile devices but approximately 20 percent of all completed surveys were done through smartphones.
It is my opinion that this trend in how we communicate combined with the digital data trails we now leave will change the marketing research industry more than anything since telephones became widespread enough to eliminate most sample bias issues.
Location-based surveys; short and frequent information exchange with respondents; and panelists who agree to load smartphone apps that report where they are, what they are doing and even record what they think are all in place today … and growing in use. The oft-discussed efforts to harness big data is relevant as well (much of that data is mobile-related in some way). Personally, I think we’re just on the front end of all this change and look forward to the journey.