Cubs vs. Indians was Dramatically Great. Now comes Google Home vs. Amazon Echo 

Posted by admin on Nov 7, 2016 9:30:56 AM



It already has carved its place among the legendary moments in American sports history: last week’s epic World Series Game 7 was saturated with drama as the Chicago Cubs overcame not only the Cleveland Indians, but 108 years of bad breaks and ineptitude to emerge as Major League Baseball’s champ for the first time since 1908.


Drama junkies now can turn from home runs to home technology as Amazon and Google square off to see who’ll be the champ in an intensifying competition to see whose smart speaker is smarter. Can Google Home, which debuted over the weekend, outscore Amazon’s Echo?


The New York Times did an interesting comparative evaluation to see who has the early advantage as the two technology titans position their smart devices on the playing field of innovation. Writer Brian Chin’s first take on the action suggests that this one could be a close, dramatic contest that will likely keep software engineers and marketers on both sides working into extra innings.


Topics: News, MFour Blog

Six Ways Smartphones are Changing Thanksgiving

Posted by admin on Nov 3, 2016 9:30:52 AM



It's been 295 years since the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving feast in Salem, Massachusetts. That day’s agenda of gratitude and fellowship will never change. But in the smartphone era, new technology dovetails with old traditions. It's giving us new work-arounds for familiar holiday season hassles. 

  • The trip: over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go – but now we're equipped with GPS guidance and driving directions apps to keep us from getting lost or snarled in traffic.
  • The entertainment: no more tug of war over the remote; a screen in every hand means a program for every taste.
  • The meal: digital home cooking site Epicurious has a new app this season that houses a library of more than 35,000 recipes, plus cooking videos, including a series on Thanksgiving dishes that require exactly three ingredients. Leftovers become opportunities. 
  • Thinking of absent friends: video phone calls and posting pictures and videos have made "the next-best thing to being there" much better -- never out of sight means never out of mind. 
  • Next-day shopping frenzy: if you get a thrill from lining up at the door before dawn, go for it. Some of us prefer browsing the virtual aisles in a bathrobe and slippers.
  • The flip side of impulse buying: is impulse giving. A good deed in keeping with the season is just a tap or three away. 

Topics: News, MFour Blog

Will Zombie Data Bring on the Market Research Apocalypse?!!

Posted by admin on Oct 31, 2016 2:16:55 PM



Halloween is scary fun, but the scary aspects of online panels are just plain scary.


Just ask Count App-ula (pictured), who came to our office on Halloween to announce that only knowledge -- and advanced,  all-mobile methodology -- will empower us to stop the threat before it's too late. Consider yourself warned against these common tactics of the monsters who lurk in the hidden, dimly-lit, ominously non-transparent recesses of online panels:


The  “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” Effect


As in the classic sci-fi/horror films (we recommend both the 1956 and 1978 versions), authentically human consumers are replaced by manufactured “pod people” who replicate actual, thinking survey respondents.


In the movies, the pod people spread confusion and paranoia en route to destroying the very idea of autonomous human thought and action. In online research, habitual, self-repeating survey takers sign up for dozens or scores of surveys and survey panels, infecting  data across multiple studies with mass-manufactured responses. Too much data coming from too few people is a hidden horror of online research. And for online methods, the only antidote is out of reach: a large, robust, engaged panel that could easily encompass all demographics. Lacking the antidote, online panel purveyors are forced to look the other way and tolerate pod people for the sake of filling survey quotas.


The Mad Robot-Scientist Conspiracy


A technically gifted mastermind creates a robot army that swarms the online data universe, turning it into an unreliable mess. This is no fantasy: savvy code-writers can unleash software robots that create multiple email accounts so they can receive multiple email invitations and take multiple online surveys. Questionnaires answered by robots pour multiple rewards into their masters' accounts while injecting toxic data into online studies. Insights turn into insanity. It's downright inhuman.


The Zombie Apocalypse


Robots and survey-taking pod-people churn out so much brainless-replicant data that online market research stops matching observable reality and falls under suspicion. Clients begin to wonder whether the data they're getting has been infected to the point where it's undermining instead of informing sound, fact-based business decision-making. 


Yes, folks, it looks as if we're in for a very dark and tragic ending....But wait!  


All-Mobile Rescue Unit Saves the Day


Pod people, robots and zombies wreak havoc on online data, but they cower at the sight of a smartphone. That’s because smartphone owners who’ve downloaded a proprietary market research app – MFour’s Surveys on the Go®, for example (in fact, it's the only survey app whose panel is mobile-only)  – can’t be turned into pod-like replicas of themselves. Nor can they unleash robots to profitably game the system and bring down a study’s reliability. 


The Saving Power of in-App Surveys


The survey app is a secure environment that banishes Bots and detects body snatchers before they can invade. Unlike email accounts, which are easily multiplied by a single greedy individual or a bot, smartphones correspond one-to-one with a single, individual, flesh-and-blood owner. For further verification, each phone has a unique, identifying code and can be pinpointed with GPS location.


MFour/Surveys on the Go® has a variety of ways to verify panelists' identities, including sign-ins through their Facebook accounts, payouts through PayPal, and log-ins using fingerprint validation. All are reliable markers of individual personhood and earnest intent.


Another advanced safeguard is Demographic Remembering – which can detect whether respondent's answers from survey to survey include inconsistencies that signal an attempt at impersonation or duplication. 


Perhaps most important, there's no mysterious cloak of gloomy night and graveyard mist enshrouding an all-mobile panel if it's carefully recruited and highly engaged. The proof that its members do their own thinking and answering is on display in the bright daylight where apps are downloaded: Apple's App Store and Google Play. There, Surveys on the Go® has received tens of thousands of overwhelmingly positive, unsolicited comments and ratings from people who sound off as individuals about the experience they've had as survey-takers.


You can tell from their comments that our panelists are human and alive and individual -- and that they care about a good experience and appreciate that a good experience is exactly what they get. A panel that's in it for the engagement as well as a reward is verifiably human. Pod people and robots and zombies don't care, and they won't reciprocate with an honest effort to share what they think, do and feel. Our engaged panel of more than a million demographically representative active panelists give your research the verifiably human element that makes it valid and useful.


As Count App-ula says:  


“Zombies and robots are taking online surveys. Mobile doesn’t allow that. It’s all fresh blood.”

Topics: News, MFour Blog

Meet Andreas: Busting Mobile Myths, Bringing Mobile Solutions

Posted by admin on Oct 31, 2016 8:00:11 AM




As the market research industry tries to get its collective head around mobile research, nobody has a better sense of what it’s going through than MFour’s Solutions team. And there’s nobody better qualified to help.


These are experts who educate clients and prospective clients about what advanced mobile research can achieve (by “clients and prospective clients,” we mean anyone who has a professional stake in obtaining consumer data that will generate insights into how today’s smartphone-loving public thinks and acts when it comes to shopping and buying).


The solutions staff’s job is to show researchers how MFour’s wide-ranging products and services can be individualized to tackle each research challenge that needs a solution.


Sometimes, our reps have to help MR professionals unlearn what they know about generic “mobile” before they can take the necessary next step of learning about the benefits of advanced, state-of-the-art mobile. They ain’t the same animal.


Andreas Hoelting, an MFour Solutions Development Representative, recently had an illuminating exchange with a prospective client who we’ll call Stan.


After several emails went unreturned, Andreas managed to make contact. Stan said he had read one of them, but let the chance to learn more about mobile research pass because he already “knew” that mobile surveys “have to be kept short” – and that wasn’t going to help him with the complex studies he needed to field.


That’s hardly surprising: “mobile = short” has become the conventional wisdom. Here’s one example published in the November, 2015 edition of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review:


“Participants completing mobile research have, on average, a significantly shorter attention span than those using desktop devices….. a long survey delivered on mobile will suffer high dropout rates due to a lack of engagement, but the same survey delivered on a desktop offers space for detailed, reflective feedback.”


Stan clearly had read this or something like it, or had absorbed the idea of “mobile = short” in conversations with fellow MR pros who’d received the same impression, either from reading, from conference presentations, or from direct experience with what they thought was a mobile study.


Andreas was able to explain that Stan had it exactly right – the kind of mobile research he’d heard about does need to be kept short. But it’s not the kind of mobile you should buy. We think of it as “quick fix” mobile – designed as a jerry-rigged, technologically lethargic attempted fix for the escalating failure of online surveys to reach a public that increasingly and overwhelmingly has embraced smartphones.


The quick fix mobile response is to cram a traditional survey designed to be taken on a laptop or desktop computer onto a smartphone screen, then hope that whoever tries to respond will put up with the messy user experience long enough to answer a few questions. With a quick-fix mobile approach, five minutes, tops, seems about right. 


Others claim they’ve raised the bar by achieving “mobile optimization.” It may look better on the screen, but there’s nothing optimal about it. Panelists still have to open and click on an email invitation – which competes with the zillion other messages stuffed into their inboxes, most of them unwanted. Those who do click are connected to a website where the survey is housed.


Then the survey begins. Technologically, it’s an inelegant and inefficient game of ping pong, with the website sending a question and the respondent sending back an answer. Each exchange is a separate, back-and-forth transaction that has to be repeated over and over until the survey is done.


The trouble is that if the panelist’s internet connection becomes slow or the signal drops out – and who hasn’t been through that? – the process will collapse. The researcher ends up not only losing a complete, but loses the ongoing help of the respondent – who will take out his or her frustration by sending the next email survey invitation straight to trash.


Does this sound "optimized" to you?


Andreas quickly explained all this  (thankfully, it’s easier to talk a client through it than put it in writing, so thanks for bearing with your faithful blogger). And then he said the magic words: “native app.”


Stan hadn’t heard the term, but by now he was curious to see where Andreas was going with this explanation of how “all mobile is not created equal” and “not all mobile surveys need to be short.”


Long story short: Andreas walked Stan through how MFour’s surveys are conducted.


  • They take place inside a proprietary app – Surveys on the Go® – that more than a million engaged active panelists have downloaded to their smartphones.
  • Those burdensome email notifications are cut out of the equation.
  • Instead, panelists welcome push notifications telling them of a survey opportunity.
  • Welcome, because, after all, they’ve downloaded the app and know how it works (Andreas mentioned SOTG’s unsolicited rating of five stars at the Apple Store and more than four out of five at Google Play -- both the highest ratings for a survey app).
  • No internet connection needed – “native” means the app instantly embeds the entire survey into the phone.
  • The panelist can answer offline, at his or her convenience.
  • The result is a completion rate of more than 90% for surveys with LOI of 20 minutes or more, with a drop-off of just 6.5%. 


What makes state-of-the-art mobile so well-suited to long game studies and not just to quick-hit surveys? Like all smartphone users, research panelists expect smooth functionality on their devices, and will stay engaged when they get it. But they'll discard  any app that fails to deliver, as surely as they'll keep tapping on those that provide rewarding experiences. 


Again, Andreas explained all this quickly, and Stan quickly got it. The conversation could now turn to Stan’s specific research needs, which had to do with in-store product and packaging evaluations – tasks for which app-based research is ideally suited because of the phones’ photo and multimedia capabilities.


 If you’re like Stan and have only heard about short-LOI/short attention span mobile, we envy you – you’re about to learn some cool stuff about advanced, app-based, state-of-the-art mobile that solves problems and makes your professional life better. Andreas and his Solutions colleagues can tell you all about it.


To reach one of them,  just click here.



Topics: News, MFour Blog

3 Weekly Insights on Mobile Research

Posted by admin on Oct 28, 2016 10:45:27 AM




Here's your Friday roundup of 3 items from the MFour blog to keep you up to speed on mobile research as you head into the weekend.

Whatever else you do, don't forget to check at the bottom for something to tickle your bones.

And here's a Friday tune to put you in the Halloween spirit.

Topics: News, MFour Blog

App-lause, App-lause: We've Got 5 Stars in Apple's App Store

Posted by admin on Oct 26, 2016 11:23:37 AM





For a batter, it’s going five for five.


For a golfer, it’s a hole in one.


For a bowler, it’s rolling 300.


For a movie, it’s an Oscars sweep.


And for a mobile app, it’s a five-star average rating in Apple’s App Store.


MFour is especially proud that the latest version of our Surveys on the Go® mobile market research app (officially, iOS App V2.13) sports a five-star average rating – based on hundreds of unsolicited ratings since it was introduced on Oct. 1.  


The average reflects just a tiny bit of rounding by Apple –the vast majority are five stars and all but a few are either 4’s or 5’s. Some of our most pleased panelists are just tough graders.


Below you’ll see some characteristic comments in full. But first you need to know why our five-star rating matters to you.


Market research is experiencing huge problems recruiting panelists – online surveys can’t find the right people and they can’t find them fast enough. The advanced mobile research that MFour pioneered when it introduced the first version of Surveys on the Go® in 2011 solves these problems with a harmonious marriage of technological innovation and a carefully cultivated, high-quality panel. 

  • We’re in the smartphone era, and there’s nothing that impresses a smartphone user more than an app experience that works perfectly and is fun and rewarding.
  • A smooth and engaging survey-taking experience such as our panelists enjoy is crucial to capturing reliable data.
  • Clients access the industry’s only all-mobile panel, now totaling more than one million active members.
  • The panel is growing by more than 2,000 daily, just by word-of-mouth recommendations such as those you’ll see below.
  • Surveys on the Go® has been the most downloaded market research survey app in the App Store each month for nearly three years.
  • And since everybody in the smartphone sphere likes it, everybody is present and accounted for, including Millennials, Hispanics, African Americans and parents of young children -- groups that researchers who remain committed to outdated online survey methods still consider hard to reach.
  • With advanced, app-based mobile research, all U.S. demographics are at researchers' disposal.                                                                                                                            


Enough explanation. The people have spoken, so let's hear them speak!






For the full story, click this link, then click on "View in iTunes" under the green "On Go"  logo.

Topics: News, MFour Blog

85 Billion Reasons Why `Mobile is King'

Posted by admin on Oct 25, 2016 12:29:30 PM




AT&T’s proposed $85 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc., is the latest big-bet business move driven by a huge corporation's need to stay competitive in the mobile era that's defining our lives as consumers and social beings. 


"This deal further solidifies the fact that mobile is king," former Time Warner executive Peter Brack told the Los Angeles Times.


CNNMoney correspondent Brian Stelter's take is that this deal is happening because of "the ways that phones have changed our lives."


“Changed our lives” most decidedly includes the life of the market research industry. Its present and future depend on whether it will take a cue from giants such as Facebook, Google and Intel -- and now AT&T -- and embrace the mobile era.


For AT&T, acquiring Time Warner (in a deal that is subject to federal antitrust review), would make it an all-purpose mobile colossus, ranging across the landscape as both a provider of mobile connections and a seller of highly desirable mobile streaming content in news, sports and TV and film entertainment.


Time Warner brands – including HBO, Warner Bros., Turner Broadcasting and CNN, would give AT&T new opportunities to package content to attract and retain customers in the hotly competitive mobile carrier sphere.


 “Think about the way you use your phone,” CNN's  Stelter writes. “Even in the age of Snapchat, you spend a lot more time watching media than you spend making it. And if you're anything like me, you're increasingly watching that media right on your smart phone and other mobile devices.”


AT&T's big bet reflects its own analysis that the vast capabilities and the near-universal embrace of mobile devices are signals to plunge in as deeply as it can. For market research, it’s a move worth following – not just as a news development, but as an example of high-level business strategy following consumers' reality. 


After decades spent gearing studies to personal computers and online panels, MR professionals increasingly recognize the need to pivot to mobile. Embracing advanced, state-of-the-art mobile methodology will solve lingering, widespread panel problems. Besides making traditional research survey data more reliable and demographically representative, smartphone capabilities open up entirely new windows, such as in-their-own words video responses and location-based studies powered by phones' GPS feature.


If you'd like to learn about the possibilities and best practices in mobile research, don’t be shy. Just click here. We won't inundate you with 85 billion reasons to go mobile; just a few ideas and research solutions will start you off on the path to your mobile future.

Topics: News, MFour Blog

Our Halloween Treat: Another Month at #1

Posted by admin on Oct 24, 2016 9:00:49 AM



We at MFour are really looking forward to Halloween.


It isn’t just the candy, the costumes, and the spooky fun. It’s also the end of the month – and that means another opportunity to extend a winning streak of which we’re really proud.


Come Oct. 31, we expect our Surveys on the Go® app to be ranked yet again as the most downloaded market research app at Apple’s App Store. It would be our 32nd consecutive month at #1, going by end-of-month rankings compiled at


It’s no accident. MFour pioneered all-mobile, app-based market research when it debuted Surveys on the Go® in 2011. Our software developers in Labs & Engineering have been adding new features and functionalities ever since, keeping us at the forefront and defining the state of the art in mobile research.


Because the technology is right, the app works beautifully, and our clients get to field sophisticated surveys that are simple for respondents to answer. This sets up an ongoing virtuous feedback loop, in which smooth, problem-free functionality creates satisfied and engaged survey takers. And satisfied, engaged survey-takers satisfy clients’ need for fast, reliable and insight-laden data.


The Surveys on the Go® panel has grown to more than a million active members, all by word of mouth. It continues to grow by more than 2,000 new members each day, making the panel ever more efficient when it comes to putting clients in touch with representative numbers of the Millennials, African Americans, Hispanics and parents of young children they can’t reach by any other means.


Obviously this is an instance in which quality has led to quantity – which is just how a business ought to grow.


Our nearly three years at #1 in downloads is compelling on its own, but there’s another number we’re extremely proud of: our average rating of 4.5 stars out of a possible five at the App Store, generated by nearly 14,000 users who have posted unsolicited, public ratings and reviews of Surveys on the Go.®


So come Oct. 31, chances are we won’t need candy to experience something very sweet.


A very happy Halloween to all.


And to researchers who haven’t yet experienced what MFour’s advanced, state-of-the-art mobile research can do, remember that we’re on a big winning streak. It’s no trick, and you can get in on the treat.



Topics: News, MFour Blog

Why Online Survey Data is Like a Ball & Chain

Posted by admin on Oct 19, 2016 9:00:31 AM



Remember the Beatles refrain that goes "Boy, you're gonna carry that weight a long time?"


One of the big risks in market research is having to pile too much weight on too few respondents. When a study requires a certain number of responses from a given demographic, but just can't get enough valid completes, the data will distort reality instead of illuminating it. Data from too few qualified panelists gets too heavily weighted -- sending the study down the long and winding road to unreliability. 


A recent article in the New York Times tells a cautionary tale of what can happen when a thin sample becomes too heavily weighted.


A respected national online political poll was unable to reach enough African American Millennials as it tracked the presidential race. The pollsters found themselves forced to put a drastic amount of weight on the single African American respondent they were able to reach in the 18- 21-year-old age group. He happened to be a Donald Trump supporter -- and therefore highly unrepresentative of African Americans overall, who overwhelmingly favor Hillary Clinton. The poll fell out of sync with other national election surveys -- and, it appears, with the facts on the ground.


Consumer surveys that can't access the right respondents face the same burden, and inevitably will fail to reflect reality. It happens all the time, and the problem has become especially troublesome for tracking studies. But it doesn't have to be that way.


Online surveys designed for desktop and laptop computers and relying on email notifications are faltering because the public they need to reach has embraced today's technology, the smartphone, over yesterday's -- the personal computer. The solution for researchers is simple: they can go where the public has gone and embrace the smartphone, too.


Recognize that the U.S. public has migrated to mobile, and that it responds faster and more reliably to in-app survey alerts than to email notifications. Seek respondents on their ever-present smartphones and you'll quickly and efficiently find exactly who you need.


Our panelists include fully representative, reliably accessible numbers of all the supposedly "hard to reach" groups -- African Americans, Hispanics, Millennials and parents of young children -- who are especially engaged with their phones. When they are present and accounted for, there's no need for distorting weighting.


Here's some (unweighted) data that tells the story:

  • Among Millennials, majorities of African Americans (57.1%) and Hispanics  (51.6%)  spend five hours or more per day on their smartphones. 
  • 92.3% of Millennials use their phones at least several times a day, compared to 32.1% for laptops.
  • Only one-third of Millennials (33.1%) say they use a desktop computer at least once a day.


(These are findings from MFour's Millennial Insights Project, a demographically representative recent survey of 1,000 U.S. Millennials.)


A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found that “smartphone ownership is nearing the saturation point with some groups: 86% of those ages 18-29 have a smartphone, as do 83% of those ages 30-49."


Is there any good reason for market research, whose job is to understand what people think and feel, not to reach out to the public on the device it has chosen overwhelmingly for expressing thoughts and feelings?


Granted, older demographics have not gravitated quite so thoroughly to mobile. But even among them the numbers are growing.


In tracking studies that need to encompass all age groups, it can still make sense to continue using online surveys for the older demographics that remain more comfortable with them. Researchers can then blend those results with mobile data from the mobile-oriented  majority.  


Through integration and calibration, the validity of past online tracking can be preserved through a gradual transition to mobile research. Continuity with historic tracking data need not be broken.


Yes, this is weighting. But it's judicious weighting that increases tracking studies' reliability while helping them move gradually into the mobile era.


Change is never easy, but the rewards of all-mobile, app-based research are too great, and the consequences of remaining behind the times with online surveys and email notifications are too drastic. Soon, political pollsters and consumer researchers alike will be happily mobile and relieved to work with data that's not burdened by a lot of unhealthy weight.


To get a personal demo of how app-driven mobile works, and how it will work for you, please click here



Topics: News, MFour Blog

When it Comes to Panel Demographics, `Diversify or Else’

Posted by admin on Oct 18, 2016 9:00:57 AM





Here’s a headline worth pondering: “Brands to Ad Agencies: Diversify or Else.”


It tops a New York Times article that relates how some big clients “have publicly put pressure on the agencies they work with to hire more women and minorities.”


Market research also faces a work force diversity challenge.


We’re not talking about whether the staff members at MR firms and brands’ research departments sufficiently mirror the public they’re trying to understand. We wouldn’t presume to claim any insights about that.


We’re talking about the vast work force that provides market research with the raw material the industry’s professional staffs need to do their jobs. It’s a work force of millions of survey respondents, and it’s absolutely imperative that they mirror our nation in all its diversity. They produce the raw material on which our industry thrives: data about what they do, think and feel as consumers. From the data they give us we mine insights into how American business can satisfy the wants and needs of the American marketplace.


When it comes to survey respondents, “diversify or else" is just common sense. 


It’s MFour’s contention – actually it’s MFour’s entire premise – that the only path to understanding American consumers in all their diversity is to approach them in a way that’s familiar, comfortable, engaging and convenient. It means reaching out on the smartphones that are in almost every hand, pocket or handbag.


The smartphone is our society’s great common denominator. It serves multitudes in myriad ways, and is embraced by nearly all. This is the fact of how information is exchanged in the 21st century. Now, more and more professionals in the market research industry are starting to come to grips with this reality. 


It’s sinking in that online research is no longer a reliable pipeline for rich, representative data. Reaching Millennials, Hispanics, African Americans, and, increasingly, any other consumer demographic, means finding and engaging them on the devices that are instrumental to their day-by-day, hour-by-hour existence.


It's also important to note the public's growing indifference to (and frustration over) stuffed email inboxes, where invitations to take online surveys land, then are readily deleted or ignored.


Online panelists are expected to open an email, then click on a link to access a survey housed on the web. It's cumbersome and inefficient -- in contrast to all-mobile "native" apps that simplify the process to a single step: answer a push prompt that sounds on the phone,  then take the survey. The app is integral to the phone, and therefore appreciated. Each panelist has chosen to download and use MFour's Surveys on the Go® app. Each is free to sound off about it with public ratings and comments at the App Store and Google Play. SOTG's rating at both sites is more than four stars out of five.


Survey apps align with the ethic of transparency and accountability that Americans cherish. And in strictly practical terms, they harmonize with Americans' preferences in information and communications technology.



So when it comes to market research,  “diversify or else” is just another way of saying "app-based mobile or else."



The best way to get there is to click here.


Topics: News, MFour Blog

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