The author implores researchers to be mindful of their mobile audience and accept that mobile survey access is no longer optional for those concerned about customer and respondent satisfaction.
Editor's note: Kurt Knapton is president and CEO of Research Now, Plano, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article appeared in the October 28, 2013, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.
If you knew that 25 percent of your prospective customers encountered a locked door or a busy signal when trying to reach your company, would you be concerned? If you knew that 25 percent of your company's Web site visitors received an "under construction" message, would you be alarmed? And what if I were to tell you that one-fourth of survey respondents today attempt to take online surveys from a mobile device but very few market research firms have designed mobile-ready surveys?
This is exactly what we see at Research Now. On any given day, up to 25 percent of online survey attempts are now coming through mobile devices, with less than 10 percent of our clients having mobile-optimized survey instruments in place. The result? Either the client survey disqualifies mobile respondents altogether or worse - the mobile respondents are allowed to start a torturous, 40-minute, complex-grid survey experience that is inappropriate for a mobile screen.
Is now mainstream
There is no doubt that mobile is now mainstream in society. How would you assess your company's current research approach to mobile survey respondents? If you shun them through disqualification, you are missing the voice of a large and growing portion of the population, which can only negatively affect the accuracy of your data collection results over time.
On the other hand, if you have not yet optimized your survey experience for mobile respondents, you may still miss the voice of the mobile mainstream who abandon in frustration or fatigue. At the same time, you risk data integrity issues (inattentiveness or bias potential) from those who doggedly persevere to the end of an inappropriately-designed survey instrument. Of course, neither result is a desirable outcome.
So what are we to do? In a word: adapt.
When the Internet first became a viable solution for conducting market research in the late 1990s, our industry could dictate the pace for integrating this new medium. Clearly, consumers and businesspeople were spending more and more time online but most everyone still relied heavily on traditional communication devices. Therefore, incumbent methodologies like RDD and CATI remained relevant for researchers and our industry was not forced to quickly adapt to online solutions, despite its emerging ubiquity.
We didn't shift to online research because we had no other avenues to reach our target audiences for research; we adapted because of the huge speed and cost benefits that it would bring to us as an industry. The shift didn't happen overnight. We transitioned (and are still transitioning) over a full decade and a half.
Now, nearly 15 years later, our industry is presented with another major change (and opportunity) to adapt to an exciting new technological paradigm: the mobile device. However, this time around we do not have the luxury of being so deliberate in adapting. The consumer transition to mobile devices is nothing less than the fastest major technological consumer adoption in human history - faster than radio, faster than TV, faster than the Internet itself.
Creates new benefits
Some large CPG firms and others are earnestly testing how to best conduct surveys on mobile but more work is needed. The good news, however, is that mobile research creates new benefits and capabilities that far outweigh the challenges of adapting our surveys.
The perks of mobile include:
- Increased response rates. Respondents respond at higher rates (and more quickly) on mobile devices vs. current methods.
- Increased convenience. Respondents have better experiences when they can provide feedback when and where they want to.
- Broader reach. The ability to reach respondents in developing and remote countries creates a huge opportunity to capture insights in those regions.
- Enhanced targeting. GPS-enabled devices now allow us to target and intercept respondents based on their location.
- Richer content. Respondents can easily share media (e.g., photos, videos voice recordings, etc.) via mobile devices.
The time has come
If we all know this mobile shift is happening, why is it that 90 percent of surveys are still ignoring a potential 25 percent of respondents? The mobile world is real and the time has come for our industry to embrace mobile-ready survey solutions. Let's commit to helping one another make this new transition a successful and smooth one.