Is the market research industry finally coming around to a more meaningful conversation about best-practices for mobile research?
GreenBook’s recent “sneak preview” of the next edition of its biannual GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) report bodes well for a more useful discussion in the new year. It’s not yet the fully illuminating discussion the industry should be having, but it’s definitely a step forward toward a better-informed community of insights professionals.
The key improvement is GreenBook’s decision to ditch the blanket term, “mobile surveys,” in favor of the somewhat more specific “mobile first surveys.” While not defined in the GRIT preview, “mobile-first” would seem to indicate surveys conceived and designed from the get-go to be taken on smartphones, with the specific needs and experiences of smartphone users foremost in mind. As the article notes, 50% of the insights professionals surveyed for the coming GRIT report said they employ “mobile first surveys.” Previously, when the answer choice was labeled “mobile surveys,” 75% affirmed having used them. The large difference suggests we’re already having a more nuanced conversation that’s beginning to take into account the varying levels of capability and sophistication involved in different approaches to mobile research.
But what’s still largely missing from the industry-wide lexicon is the crucial distinction between “mobile first” and “mobile app” research. They are two fundamentally different approaches, both in technology and research methodology, for understanding consumers via their smartphones. Here’s a brief comparison of how the two processes work:
- Panel Recruitment: Solicitations via emails and natural or invited visits to websites.
- Survey Invitations: Panelists receive emailed links.
- Accepting Invitations: Panelists click on links and are taken to surveys housed online.
- Survey Experience: Inconsistent, because it’s subject to common mobile-web glitches such as slow downloads and uploads of survey questions, weak signals, and slow or dropped connections that lead to dropped surveys, frustrated panelists, and lost completes.
Panel Recruitment: Panelists discover and download a publicly rated and reviewed survey app, establishing engagement and high performance expectations from the start.
- Survey Invitations: Push notifications via the app.
- Accepting Invitations: Tapping the app instantly embeds the survey in the phone itself.
- Survey Experience: Reliable, because it takes place offline, avoiding hazards of weak signals and slow or dropped web connections.
According to eMarketer, mobile consumers in the U.S. use apps 85% of the time for their digital access, compared to 15% of digital-access time devoted to the alternative, connecting to the internet via a phone’s browser. It’s a key indicator of the quality of mobile-app activities, and how much consumers prefer them.
One further thought: the conversation about mobile surveys would be better grounded in the realities of the research process if “mobile web surveys” and “mobile app surveys” were adopted as the discussion’s keywords, rather than “mobile first.” This would align with terminology routinely used by eMarketer and others who track digital access and usage.
So to walk the best walk in our mobile research, let’s talk the most precise talk, and make “mobile app” and “mobile web” the key terms and key distinctions as we pursue our conversations about the opportunities and best practices of smartphone-based consumer research. And, as always, for a productive conversation about how advanced mobile app research can meet your projects’ specific needs, just click here.