Editor's note: Vardan Kirakosyan is vice president of research at research firm MFour, Irvine, Calif. 

We’ve all felt the shift. Recent world events have impacted buying behavior. Forever. Consumers, who were already moving to mobile apps and the web for purchasing, are now buying household goods online. Nearly overnight the retail world, as we know it, changed.

As researchers, we rely on consumer behavior to help our companies make better decisions. Yet the insights we provide are only as good as the data we can collect. In today’s economy, we must meet consumers where they’re spending their time and where they’re buying.

And more and more these days, they’re on their phones. Sharing all kinds of mobile data. That data is powerful. Think about it: Using the smartphone, we have access to in-the-moment, meaningful, validated opinions from consumers. While they’re in the midst of searching, evaluating and buying.

Researchers have actually resisted the change. We now have the chance to fix that and mobile research will be the way we do so. In 2017, a research crisis was declared.1 People were concerned. The most common methods to collect insights weren’t working the way that they used to. Specifically, there were issues with:

door-to-door surveys: expensive, intrusive2

paper-and-pen surveys: slow and hard to review3

telephone surveys: less than 6% answer4

online surveys: only 49% of respondents were satisfied5

Enter mobile research. Today, a whopping 81% of the U.S. owns a smartphone.6 And they spend more than three hours a day on their phones. That’s an easy-to-reach, collective and representative audience.

The idea behind mobile research is to use smartphones to reach consumers. It isn’t tied down by in-person interviews, landlines or desktop computers. It moves with the people you study. 

As an example, let’s look at a major cell phone brand that was i...