Don't Let Young Adults Go Under-represented in Your Consumer Surveys

Posted by MFour on Apr 2, 2019 6:00:00 AM

All market research consumer panels are not created equal. Only those that reliably represent the segments most relevant to a brand’s success are worth using. 

Less understood is the decisive role research technology and survey methodology play in determining whether a given study will include enough of the right respondents to reflect consumer reality.

Here’s a brief summary of recently published results from an online market research study that illustrates how online methodology is falling short when it comes to demographic representation of key Millennial and Gen Z consumers.

Project: A trade association that represents producers of a food that’s a staple of grocery stores’ fresh-produce departments sought data on U.S. consumers' attitudes, purchase frequency and purchase-drivers for the fresh-food item.

Methodology: A quantitative, nationwide survey that collected about 2,000 completes over the course of about two weeks, obtained from an online panel. Qualifiers were consumers who stated that they play a role in shopping for their household’s groceries.

Segmentation: Using screening questions, the study identified respondents by a variety of demographic categories, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, household income and education.

Shortfall: Only 2% of respondents in the produce-shopping study were ages 18-24. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 9.4% of Americans are ages 18 to 24 – nearly five times as many as were represented in the survey.

Meanwhile, 40% of the study's respondents were 55 and older, when they actually make up 29% of the U.S. adult population. 

The numbers don't align with reality because online research approach is increasingly incapable of fully including the key younger age groups. Pew Research Center reports that 94% of Americans ages 18 to 29 own smartphones, and 28% in that group are “smartphone dependent,” the term for consumers who rely solely on their phones to access the internet. That means more than a quarter of younger Millennials and Gen Z consumers in their late teens and early 20s are off the radar for online studies.

In-app mobile research is much more efficient and capable of representing younger consumers. Here's why:

  • Mobile-app surveys are  congruent with their lifestyles: smartphones and mobile apps are Millennials' and Gen Z's preferred portals for receiving information and expressing ideas and opinions.
  • They are naturally more inclined to take surveys on their phones, as long as the experience is technologically smooth and problem-free.
  • Mobile-app methodology also is a gateway to GPS location-tracking of consumers who give informed consent to have their movements observed from store to store.
  • These known, first-party consumers can then be surveyed inside the store or just after they've left. The researcher gets firm validation that they are actually shopping for groceries, and the ultimate payoff is the rich, reliable data captured at the Point Of Emotion® where buying decisions are made and recall is most reliable.

The key advantage of advanced, in-app mobile research is its ability to combine always-on observational data with survey data to give researchers a rich understanding of validated, first-party consumers. It's the only way to reach them in their natural, mobile-app environment for peak engagement and top-quality survey data.

For an example of in-app mobile's ability to reach younger adults, read about MFour’s 2016 Millennials project, which documented that generation’s opinions about entertainment, money and technology. It demonstrates  the ease and speed with which in-app mobile research can access representative numbers of adults in their mid-thirties and younger.

Another project, on validated shoppers’ experiences on Black Friday, 2018, illustrates the benefits of mobile GeoLocation studies. In that case, consumers were located inside one of five top retailers on Black Friday, then received a survey via their Surveys On The Go® app as soon as they were observed leaving the store. Click here for an infographic on the Black Friday findings.

To sum up: researchers seeking insights from grocery shoppers or consumers who are shopping in-store for any other product category can now use mobile location-journey data to find validated, first-party research participants who meet their demographic criteria, with young adults well within reach. There's no need to settle for a non-representative fraction of the young consumers whose preferences are already shaping the product and retail landscape and will continue to dominate for decades to come.

Topics: in-app Mobile surveys, mobile consumer panel, always-on data, observational data, retail research, mobile geolocation

5 Key Questions To Ask Consumer Panel Vendors

Posted by MFour on Feb 26, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Here are five intensely important questions to ask when you’re deciding how to do consumer market research in today’s always-on data environment.

  • How can I get data I can trust, from a consumer panel that’s worth trusting?
  • Given the drastic changes in consumers’ purchase paths, how can I identify all the key touchpoints to collect market research data when and where it truly matters?
  • When confronted with Big Data and its sources, how can I tell what’s gold from what’s fool’s gold?
  • How can I get research projects done fast enough to satisfy my clients or stakeholders?
  • With so many providers launching so many products, how can I tell which ones really work?

Now here are five simple responses that will point you toward the answers. 

Related: Market Research for Consumer Products

Trusting the consumer panel/trusting the data:

  • Just ask specific questions about where your data is coming from. If the answer is not clear and simple, look elsewhere. Recruiting a quality, representative market research panel is widely seen as a Herculean task. MFour’s solution is simple: people love their phones. They especially love using apps on their phones. Partner with a mobile market research provider who has a great market research app that attracts a quality, reliable engaged first-party all-mobile consumer panel.  MFour’s app, Surveys On The Go® (SOTG) has been proving its mettle since 2011 and has attracted more than 2.5 million U.S. users. They’ve validated their engagement by giving SOTG a 4.5-star rating on both the Apple and Google app-download sites.

Staying in touch with changing consumer purchase paths:

  • It’s a long and winding road that leads consumers to your door, and today that door is often a retail website or a brand’s app instead of, or in addition to, the door to a physical store. The common denominator is the smartphone, which consumers use to go online and keep in their hands, pockets or handbags when they’re offline.

The online/offline distinction is becoming less clear because there’s so much toggling back and forth, as in checking prices on the web while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. You need to find research tools and products that can take you everywhere there’s relevant, insights-rich data. It may be online or offline, it may be observational or survey-based, it may be event-triggered or not specific to a moment or a place. But it has to be always on, and it has to take you everywhere your consumers are going along the new purchase paths their smartphones are carving for them.

Big Data Tsunami

  • Just stick to the fundamentals: who are the actual consumers who are providing the data, when did they provide it, and where were they in online or offline space when they generated it? Big Data will confuse you if you don’t have a clear and simple understanding of its sources. It becomes an extremely useful tool for consumer segmentation and other research purposes if you do have the clear and simple understanding of your data sources. Who, exactly , is generating the data you’re observing or actively eliciting, and how have they been recruited?

Fast and faster research

  • It comes down to whether you can connect quickly with known consumers, and how quickly they respond. Waiting for panel aggregators to fill your quotas is slow and leaves a lot to chance. Gathering a first-party consumer panel around a market research app gives you a unified, consistent, always-on data source that’s both validated and fast. You can expect MFour’s SOTG app-users to give you response rates of 25% within one hour and 50% within 24 hours.

Wading through the research product glut

  • Keep it simple. If the consumer panel is reliably representative and quick to respond, the under-the-hood technology and methodology that wins their participation and obtains their data is by definition working smoothly and effectively. If you can get everything you need from a single source – the consumers, the technology, versatile use cases and in-house project support steeped in market research know-how from survey design, programming and fielding through analysis and data reporting, then so much the better.

If one-stop shopping sounds appealing, just scroll to the menu at the top of this page and dive in for details on how mobile app research will drive success with your current projects.




Topics: mobile market research, surveys on the go, in-app Mobile surveys, mobile app research, consumer data

Cold, Hard Survey Data Isn’t Cold or Hard when it Reveals Consumers’ Emotions

Posted by MFour on Nov 15, 2018 7:00:00 AM

Blog Empathy 1Oct18

Empathy is indispensable to strong friendships, marriages, and any other rewarding human interaction. For brands, forging empathetic bonds is the essence of winning customer loyalty. Consumer insights pros have a pivotal role to play in empathy building, since they are the observing eyes and attentive ears who collect the data that leads to understanding, without which there can be no emotion-based connection.

A recent article posted online by the Harvard Business Review explores new ways of training employees to understand and empathize with the customers they serve. It lays out a four-step process that, significantly, begins with “Gathering insights. What is broken, frustrating, surprising or uncomfortable for your customer?”

The article, “To Get Employees To Empathize with Customers, Get them To Think Like Customers,” proposes a bit of unusual game-playing to put employees in customers’ shoes. Authors Erin Henkel and Adam Grant suggest that managers identify a business in an unrelated industry that interacts with customers in ways comparable to the one trying to up its customer-empathy game. Then it sends employees to have a customer experience with the mirror brand, and see how it feels to need service and see where it succeeds or falls short. The idea is that there will be more freedom for discussion if their own company’s policies and execution are not the direct subject of a customer-empathy discussion.

“It takes time and energy to design these experiences,” the authors write, “….but we’ve found them to be a powerful way to ensure that the people in your organization truly understand their customers.”

The challenge for any brand as it tries to understand “what is broken, frustrating, surprising or uncomfortable for your customer” is to strike while the emotions and experiences are hot.

Too often, the data harvested via consumer surveys reflects stale memories, and little, if any emotion, because emotion often flares during and directly after an experience, but quickly subsides.

In an act of empathy for marketers and market researchers, we’ll lay out the bones of our solution, which we call survey research at the Point-of-Emotion®.

First comes the not-so-secret ingredient: a first-party consumer panel of representative U.S. consumers.

Next comes the unique, proprietary ingredient: Surveys On The Go® (SOTG), the research industry’s most advanced and reliable mobile app for locating and surveying consumers during their buying journeys. We’ve empathized with our app-users by giving them great mobile experiences that satisfy their demand for smooth-functioning, fun experiences on their smartphones

Since its debut in 2011, SOTG has received consistent ratings of 4.5-stars out of 5 at the Apple and Google Play stores. Our users’ satisfaction gets you the engagement you need for fast, accurate data.

The right people, engaged by the right technology, gets you the right-now, right-place data you need to uncork emotions and experiences before they’ve gone flat due to the passage of time. You can field surveys while your audience is still in a store, or wait until they exit for a post-visit survey that captures their entire experience.

For an empathetic discussion of how mobile-app location studies can meet your projects’ specific needs, just get in touch by clicking here.


Topics: point of emotion, geolocation, market research, consumer insights, in-app Mobile surveys, consumer experience

In-App Mobile Market Research Reached 2,500 Millennials for in-Depth Consumer Insights

Posted by MFour on Nov 14, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Blog Millennial Women 13Nov18

Accurate consumer insights on Millennials will continue to be essential for decades. MFour Client ROTH Capital Partners (ROTH) has taken the challenge seriously, undertaking an in-depth study of 2,500 Millennial men and women in partnership with MFour.

You can check out ROTH’s announcement of its 2018-2019 Millennial Study by clicking here.

The survey encompassed 181 questions and had an average Length of Interview of more than 28 minutes, confirming respondents’ willingness to engage with longer, in-depth surveys if they’re conducted in the mobile-app environment that has become the most natural habitat for today’s consumers.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Two thirds of Millennials prefer to research significant purchases online, but 57% still prefer to carry out transactions in-store.
  • Virtual Reality shopping has become a fact, with 15% of Millennials saying they have used VR to evaluate furniture, while 16% have used “virtual mirrors” to see how they’ll actually look in cosmetics or clothes they’re considering.
  • Nike’s marketing gamble on Colin Kaepernick has paid off with Millennials – 34% said they’re more likely to purchase Nike products following the ad campaign featuring the controversial NFL quarterback, compared to 15% who said the ads made them less likely to purchase Nike goods.

Mobile studies such as the one by ROTH dispel two main myths of market research:

  • That Millennials are a generation that’s especially “hard to reach." 
  • And that mobile surveys are only effective for quick-hit surveys with short, simple questionnaires.

Increasingly, consumer insights professionals are realizing that Millennials are well in reach and can be understood in-depth if you reach out to them in the mobile-app space where they’re most comfortable.

Topics: millennials, mobile market research, consumer insights, in-app Mobile surveys, in-depth surveys, mobile myths

Stop Looking for Consumer Insights in All the Wrong Places

Posted by MFour on Jun 27, 2018 6:00:00 AM

Smartphone users blog 26Jun18You’re always on a quest for the best consumer insights, so doesn't it make sense to engage consumers in the way they’d most like to be engaged?

A new report from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), tells you exactly where to look. Here’s the key takeaway from the CTA’s announcement of findings from a survey of 2,016 U.S. adults:

“Smartphones continue their meteoric popularity and are now owned in 87% of U.S. homes, second only to televisions at 96 percent ownership.” Laptop computers are in 72% of households.

Adds Steve Koenig, the organizations’s vice president of market research, “The rapid ascent of smartphone ownership in U.S. households exemplifies the versatility of these devices – for communication, for entertainment, for productivity and more. And because of that, it’s possible we’ll see smartphone ownership in the U.S. match that of TVs within the next five years.”Separate studies by Pew Research Center have found that 77% of individual U.S. adults use smartphones, with the numbers soaring past 90% for Millennials and Gen Z. Meanwhile, says Pew, 20% of U.S. adults are strictly smartphone-reliant for online access, choosing to dispense with broadband subscriptions.

If you’re seeking insights from mobile consumers (who are now synonymous with consumers, period), you’ll profit from learning about mobile research best-practices. The crucial distinction to remember as  you explore how best to reach mobile consumers is between mobile research conducted with a proprietary app that’s been downloaded by a large and representative panel of validated, first-party consumers, and the mobile web approach (aka “mobile optimized” or “mobile first”). Mobile-app fully embraces the Smartphone Era and its vast possibilities for consumer insights. Mobile web, as its name implies, takes half-measures by attempting to adapt traditional online surveys to small screens; there's no attempt to master the special app technology required for seamless, sophisticated experiences for the researcher and mobile consumer alike.

If you’d like to learn more about in-app mobile and special capabilities such as location studies and harnessing phones’ multimedia capabilities for qualitative, in-their-own-words “video selfie” feedback, let’s set up a live demo. Just click here.

Topics: mobile research, smartphones, consumer insights, in-app Mobile surveys

GreenBook's GRIT Report Speaks the Magic Words that Will Save Market Research

Posted by MFour on Jun 20, 2018 11:45:03 AM

GRIT Report 2018 Q1-Q2

Why is the new GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report different from all others that have come before it?

It’s different because it's the first to include the magic words that will save market research: “Mobile in-app solutions.”

Here’s the full quote, from an anonymous respondent to GreenBook’s survey of 3,930 global respondents (49% of them from the U.S.):

“Mobile in-app solutions provide for more accurate, reliable and representative sample. As market research suppliers start to adopt this gold standard of data collection, sample and the data output will become better.”

It was one of the few confidently positive assertions in a chapter titled “The Future of Sampling.” That future will be bleak, the report says, unless the industry can find answers to the problems that are rapidly eroding trust in survey data. At the heart of the crisis is consumers’ disengagement from participating in survey research. 

Here's how GRIT's authors sum up the situation: “The frustrations from all sides [of the data-quality crisis] are real, and the risks are growing….The traditional model is no longer sustainable and will require painful change up and down the survey ecosystem.”

To quantify the data quality problem:

  • The GRIT survey found that 39% of the clients and researchers who depend on outside sample providers expect the quality of consumer panels to worsen over the coming three years. Only 19% thought it would improve.
  • Tellingly, 23% of sample providers think their product’s quality will worsen, and 37% expect quality to stay the same.
  • That’s a shocking 60% who think the quality of what they sell is moving in the wrong direction. And in  today’s fast-shifting landscape for just about any industry, those who stand still are going to get run over by those who are innovating to move ahead. 

Another quoted GRIT respondent summed it up without mincing words:

“[I am] completely frustrated with the quality of sample now and have no confidence that the panel companies will do anything to improve it. Frankly, it’s a slimy business and if clients knew half of what goes on behind the scenes, a lot of online research would go away.”

Again, GRIT points to mobile surveys as the way forward:

  • “Surveys taken on mobile devices offer many more methods of validating respondent identity and location,” a key defense against the rampant data fraud that is rapidly eroding confidence in traditional online surveys.
  • "[It] will get better only if the medium changes. Mobile-first sample introduces higher quality data at larger scale vs. traditional online panels, because Mobile Ad IDs are harder to ‘dupe’ than online cookies."  An Ad ID is the unique, validating code that identifies each smartphone. 

But remember: the magic words that will redefine consumer data collection are not "mobile solutions." They are "mobile in-app solutions." There's a critical distinction between accessing a universe of first-party consumers who have downloaded an app through which they can participate in market research, versus continuing to conduct online surveys, but trying to make them more palatable to smartphone users. You've seen this less innovative approach described as "mobile optimized," "mobile friendly," "mobile first" or "mobile web."

Only "mobile web" is a legitimate label, because it specifies an actual research technique: fielding online, web-based surveys to consumers on their smartphones. Using the right terminology clarifies the choice market researchers have to make, once they decide they need to emphasize mobile, and realize that they need to get it right. 

When making that choice, here are key points to consider:

  • Apps, rather than mobile web, are the natural, preferred mobile environment.
  • Proof point: U.S. adult smartphone owners’ average daily mobile app usage exceeded mobile web usage by a ratio of nearly 6  to 1 in 2017 – 145 minutes for apps, and 26 minutes for mobile web. (per eMarketer).
  • When the interface is an advanced mobile app, surveys load instantly into the respondents' phones. They can now answer when it's convenient, with no need for the continuous connection to the internet that's necessary for mobile-web methodology.

You've probably experienced the difference between mobile apps and mobile web yourself. To spell it out:

  • Access to any kind of content via a web browser is vulnerable to interruptions due to poor connectivity.
  • Mobile web/mobile browser connections are vulnerable to load times that are far longer than the one or two seconds experts say is all consumers will tolerate before moving on to something else.
  • For surveys, each question and answer requires a back-and-forth exchange between the respondent's phone and the internet-based survey host. 
  • Slow load time performance and dropped connections leave mobile survey-takers frustrated and alienated, perpetuating the mounting problem of consumers refusing to participate in surveys at all.

There’s a lot here to digest, but it comes down to one overarching distinction that consumer insights professionals must keep in mind: 

There’s no such thing as “mobile methodology” because that would suggest there are other meaningful research methodologies. Today, we all live in a mobile ecosystem. And within that ecosystem, you must choose where to live and conduct your work: inside the safety of a mobile app, or out there, exposed, on the hazardous mobile web.

Thanks as always to GreenBook for keeping a steady hand on the pulse of the consumer insights profession and giving us an ongoing reading of its hopes, fears and best ideas about finding ways forward. This time, the report has gone a long way toward clarifying the problem, and pointing specifically to mobile in-app solutions as the way forward.

You’ll find more about in-app mobile on the MFour blog, and you’ll access the largest repository of in-app mobile solutions on the MFour website,. including an archive of webinars. And to set up a discussion about how in-app mobile research will address your specific needs, just get in touch by clicking here.

Topics: data quality, GreenBook, GRIT Report, in-app Mobile surveys, sample quality

Mobile 101: Why Native App Technology Beats "Mobile-Optimized"

Posted by MFour on Jul 17, 2017 9:30:53 AM



mobile 101


You may have heard the story of the football coach who decided his team needed to get back to fundamentals, so he gathered all the players and began at the beginning: “This is a football.”

Today’s Mobile 101 installment is about the fundamental of all fundamentals, beginning at the beginning: “This is a native app.” defines “native” as “natural, hereditary, connected with something in a natural way.” So a “native app” is one whose natural and sole environment is a smartphone. It’s been created strictly with smartphones in mind, and designed to give perfect performance on a phone.

Researchers who use mobile have to choose between going with native app survey technology or a “mobile optimized” approach that ignores the smartphone’s own native environment and takes place in the same online space as traditional surveys designed for desktops and laptops.

By going the native app route, you get mobile-specific technology that loads your entire survey instantly into respondents’ phones, enabling them to answer without a connection to the internet. It’s like downloading a gaming app and proceeding to enjoy it without interruption because of the app’s fast-twitch functionality.

Researchers who choose “mobile optimized” over native app are asking their respondents to use their phones like ping-pong paddles. It's not exactly an efficient way to harness one of the most powerful consumer technologies ever devised.

  • Mobile optimized surveys don’t load into respondents’ phones. Instead, they depend on users clicking on email notifications to connect with the web page where the survey is housed.
  • Questions are served from the web to the phone one-by-one, and respondents volley their answers back, one-by-one. This back-and-forth continues until the questionnaire is complete.
  • Each volley can fail if the internet connection vanishes or slows. The predictable result is frustration, dropped attempts, and inattentive responses.
  • Surveys take longer, completion rates are lower, and consumers’ overall engagement with survey-taking suffers.

These are the fundamentals of today’s research game. Choosing the right mobile method is up to you – and you need to remember that in-app surveys aren’t just a little different, but different in kind from other mobile approaches. For more information about in-app mobile panel and technology, just contact us at



Topics: mobile technology, MFour Blog, mobile app, in-app Mobile surveys, mobile web, mobile optimized

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