Editor’s note: Jeff Harrelson is chief product officer at M4 Research, Costa Mesa, Calif. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the firm’s e-newsletter.
As a researcher you’re likely following the shift from computers to mobile. You’re probably also aware that in the fourth quarter of 2012, mobile device sales outpaced computer sales for the first time ever. And here’s one more statistic: more than five billion smartphones are going to be sold over the next five years.
These massive shifts in the way people learn, inquire, communicate and access information are creating an enormous shift in the market research industry. But with every paradigm shift comes opportunity and that applies to MR as well; mobile research allows us to conduct in-the-moment research in ways not possible just a few years ago.
Quantitatively accurate, in-the-moment technology is exciting. But as the methodology develops we think that it’s critical to establish fundamental ground rules.
Consider these questions next time you’re thinking about including a mobile component to your next study:
What do you mean by geo-fencing? Geo-fencing, GPS and image capture are all interesting terms but panel company sales teams use those words without defining them. There are vastly different levels of sophistication of technology.
How many panelists do you have and how were they obtained? Make sure to understand how many panelists the provider has and how they go about recruiting their panelists. Many companies simply try to convert a tired and overused online panel, with limited success.
Is this a mobile Web or native app? Web-optimizing existing platforms as mobile-friendly is not a solution. Make sure to ask how much of their platform is native to the app as that will help you determine how feasible the study really is for mobile.
How are you solving screen real-estate issues? It’s obvious that smartphone screens are smaller. But there are ways to mitigate screen real-estate issues when questions are long or have multiple answers. Ask to see examples.
How long can the survey be? Many in the industry claim that mobile surveys can only include a few questions. That’s not our experience. Ask what data they have supporting any premise that surveys can only be a few minutes.