If market research can’t keep up with consumer preferences and behaviors, what industry can? Sadly, this is no longer a rhetorical question.
The answer should be, “of course market researchers are the first to know where consumers are right now, and where they’re heading.” But the industry’s unaccountable failure to embrace mobile research effectively calls into question its ability to keep up. And a new report on Americans’ mobile behavior from Pew Research Center shows that the huge gulf in understanding between U.S. consumers and skeptics in the market research industry is growing at an alarming rate.
The Pew report focuses on which devices Americans use to access news – the consumer behavior that in its very nature is perhaps most akin to market research’s own mission, which is to inform. The findings, based on a survey of 4,151 respondents conducted in March, make one wonder what’s keeping any industry from embracing mobile without hesitation.
- “Use of mobile devices for news continues to grow,” Pew reports, with 85% of U.S. adults getting news on mobile at least some of the time – up from 72% just a year ago.
- Among young Americans and those in early middle age, mobile news access is virtually at the saturation point: 94% for those 18 to 29, and 94% as well for the 30 to 49 age group.
- Mobile news consumption soared among older demographics during the past year, from 63% to 79% among 50- to 64-year-olds and from 43% to 67% for those 65 and older.
- 85% of Americans said they alternate between using mobile devices and desktops for news. Among those who use both, 65% said they prefer mobile, up from 56% a year earlier.
- For 18- to 29-year-olds who get news on both mobile and desktop, 77% prefer smartphones over PCs.
News publishers have gone all-in on mobile, for obvious reasons. Is there any doubt that the same reasons apply to consumer research?
Apparently there still are doubts among insights professionals who continue to see online surveys as the most useful way to find and understand consumers whose every other communications preference favors mobile. Due diligence would seem to suggest the need for some research on the part of panel and research technology buyers into whether there's been a shift in the communications atmosphere. You could start by assessing your own behavior when it comes to getting the news.