If you’ve been late to the party in adopting advanced mobile market research, you have perhaps two more years to get on board with today’s unique mobile data solutions – or else. The longer you remain in a state of inertia by clinging to the online studies that have been a steady standby since at least the early 2000s, the less representative your data will be. Online representation of U.S. consumers is crumbling at an accelerated pace, and in two years it will be a memory.
Call it the threat and the opportunity of a rising G-force.
In physics, G stands for “gravitational” and represents the amount of resistance encountered by objects in motion. “Because of the stresses and strains on objects, sufficiently large g-forces… can be highly destructive,” says gforces.net.
“Stress,” “strain” and “highly destructive” are unavoidable conditions for researchers and brands that ignore the inexorable effect of a different kind of G-force in which G is for “generation” – the term communications technologists have coined to describe advances in the speed and efficiency with which successive generations of smartphones process mobile data.
This “G” spells great opportunity for market research that’s committed to meeting today’s consumers in the mobile sphere where they live. But it’s disastrous for those who remain slow to adapt to the new reality. Online consumers continue to morph into mobile-only consumers, and for the vast majority of U.S. residents, smartphones already are the dominant means of receiving, sharing and creating information. Now online is about to suffer a death blow from the next G-force in communications: the advent of 5G mobile access to the internet.
- The dawn of 5G smartphones is rapidly approaching. 5G adoption is expected to take off as soon as 2020, thanks to data speeds 10 to 100 times faster than the current mobile standard, 4G.
- “5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before,” reports techrader.com, with United States mobile providers leading the way. “Many companies are busy making sure their networks and devices are '5G ready' in time for 2020, meaning some networks may launch before then.”
A recent rundown from Business Insider summarizes what the onslaught of 5G will mean for consumers as mobile data races ahead of online data.
- “Mobile 5G networks will be able to transfer data at speeds that are 10-100 times faster than on 4G…making mobile internet activities…more seamless and enjoyable on smartphones….
- “Mobile 5G will provide consumers with internet speeds even faster than their current home internet speeds.”
- “For instance, AT&T's impending mobile 5G network will have peak download speeds of 400 Mbps,” quadrupling the average speed of current home broadband connections.
In fact, the destruction of online consumer research representation already has crossed beyond the point of reversal.
- Pew Research Center, which tracks Americans’ internet access, reported earlier in 2018 that fully 20% of U.S. adults rely solely on mobile and have abandoned traditional online broadband access to the internet. That’s up 67% from just two years earlier.
- The number of these “smartphone dependent” adults who lack home broadband rises to 29% for 18- to 29-year-olds, and 24% for those ages 30 to 49. If you’re not reaching these key, mobile-only consumers, your research representation already stands 20% or more below the threshold of reliability. There’s no trusting data that comes from such a narrow bandwidth of the public.
The takeaway isn’t hard to see: if you’re not already studying consumers with advanced in-app mobile location-tracking and surveys, you’re digging for data in all the wrong places.
The good news is that it’s not hard to play a rapid game of catch-up. Scores of leading brands and market research firms partner with MFour for mobile-app research technology and the fully-representative first-party, all-mobile consumer panel MFour has cultivated around its groundbreaking Surveys On The Go® mobile research app. Among MFour’s offerings are mobile brand tracking studies whose data is of-the-moment, but can be integrated with historical online tracking data to avoid a sharp break with your existing data sets.
Those who fail to integrate mobile successfully into their trackers will have a woeful time getting quality data. It’s just one of the ways in which winter is coming for online market research.