For nearly 100 years, location-based consumer research has been the gold standard for getting insights when they're red-hot. Now, in the Smartphone Era, in-location insights are even hotter, but considerably less complicated and expensive to obtain.
Location studies have come a long way since 1920, when a dozen researchers fanned out through the shopping district and surrounding neighborhoods of Sabetha, Kansas (pop. 2,003 at the time) to query townspeople for the publisher of popular magazines such as Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post. They were on a quest for insights about how much bang these magazines’ advertisers were getting for their buck.
Today’s national or regional companies and brands can accomplish in-location surveys with just one researcher who’s sitting in front of a computer screen that might be anywhere. All it takes is advanced 21st century mobile GeoLocation technology that can pinpoint any phone’s whereabouts -- and, crucially, a quality, highly-engaged research panel whose members carry smartphones and are eager to be located and receive an in-app push notification. Today’s GeoLocated in-location or after-visit studies are direct heirs of that 1920 research posse that came to Sabetha armed with paper and pencils under the direction of market research pioneer Charles Coolidge Parlin.
History – or at least Stefan Schwarzkopf’s account in“The Routledge Companion to Marketing History” -- doesn’t specify what the Sabetha researchers found out about magazine advertising’s efficacy in rural Kansas. But we’re pretty sure that future volumes on the history of market research will have plenty to say about GeoLocation studies.
For decades, paper and pencil, or clipboards and pens, brought research face to face with shoppers in the store aisle or outside the entrance. The result was data about the in-progress or just-concluded shopping experience that set a gold-standard for reliability at the time. But the encounter between a clipboard researcher and an interviewee came with an inescapable potential for bias that's inherent in any human-to-human interchange. Variance between researcher's personalities, training and consistency in asking survey questions can distort the results.
Mobile GeoLocation puts the answers solely (and literally) in the respondents’ hands. Like researchers with clipboards, the lone survey programmer at a desk can identify shoppers when they enter or exit a retail store, cinema, restaurant, or other location that’s relevant to the project at hand. The objectives will be more or less the same as they were in 1920: insights into shoppers’ motivations, actions, thoughts and feelings at or just after the moment of truth. Except that in 2017, smartphone multimedia extends those capabilities and captures a new dimension in vivid insights. Audio and video can easily be embedded with survey questions, or created by respondents at the researcher's request.
We’ll be sharing more about location-based research in this week’s posts, so please stay tuned. But if you’re one of those insights professionals who’s impatient to learn and explore, there’s no need to wait. Please get in touch right now by clicking here. We’ll set up a live, one-on-one demo session that will walk you through how you can achieve today’s gold standard in GeoValidated® research.