Ten Ways to Use Mobiles and Smartphones in Market Research

With the ubiquity of mobile devices and smartphones, many researchers are asking how mobiles and smartphones can be successfully incorporated in a research setting. Whether your aim is to improve existing research projects or you’re looking to try completely new research methodologies, these devices can augment other research methods and are also important research tools in their own right.

#1. Add Impact with Video and Picture Libraries
Most smartphones have camera and video capabilities, which can both greatly enhance a research program. Respondents have the ability to film themselves completing a research task, such as describing the products they purchased at a store or how they interact with a new product. It’s a great way to communicate the results too: a montage of the pictures or videos can help make the research findings more impactful.

#2. Quick Data Collection via Pulse SMS Surveys
A one- or two-question survey via text message is a viable way to collect data very quickly (usually within minutes). Younger age groups use email less frequently, making an SMS survey a more effective way to reach this demographic.

#3. Feedback via User-initiated SMS Surveys
A short code can be used to allow potential respondents to initiate a survey using a key word (e.g., Text JAVA to 78789 to start the survey). Standard rates may apply. User-initiated SMS surveys are a useful way to gain feedback on a transactional basis. Using a variety of start words allows you to track where or when a respondent learned about the survey.

#4. Make Reminders More Effective
Text messages are an easy way to remind respondents to complete an online survey or to attend a focus group. Since most people carry their cell phones, the reminders are often more effective than by telephone or email. Many will have internet capabilities on their phones and may opt to complete the survey right then and there.

#5. Support Your Mystery Shoppers
Mystery shopping often requires the shopper to notice many different things during the task, such as the time spent in line or the number of people in the store when they enter. Smartphones provide an easy way for mystery shoppers to record the key points in a discrete manner so that they don’t have to rely on memory. Using technology in this way provides a more accurate result for the client and means the mystery shopping task is less onerous for respondents.

#6. Aid Auto-ethnography
Ethnographic research can provide holistic, qualitative insight into consumers’ lives, but having a researcher in-home is expensive and has the potential to introduce bias into the results. Fortunately, technology can partially automate this involved research process and allow participants to compile much of the information themselves. Rather than have a researcher observe the subject’s behaviour, the participant can fill in a diary about his or her daily activities at specific times. Auto-ethnography relies on the participants to remember to record their activities at specific times, and since many of us have our phone with us at all times, sending a timed prompt to record the necessary information works well. A smartphone can even be used to record the necessary information.

#7. Run Co-research Programs & Spotter Diaries
Empowering research participants as co-researchers can provide a viable way to understand complex cultural factors that researchers may not be able to identify on their own, and these methods are nicely augmented by the use of smartphones. Co-researchers can take pictures or record their thoughts surrounding a common topic as they go about their day. These reflections can be used to uncover market gaps and to design new products. Additionally, since marketing campaigns usually encompass executions across various media, it is difficult for marketers to understand the overlap of the various channels. Having respondents record each time they come across an advertisement for a certain brand (creating a spotter diary) can provide a better picture of the whole campaign’s reach.

#8. Collect Location-Based Data
Using GPS functionality, researchers can better understand location based information as it relates to consumers: how far they travel to a store or other location or their travel patterns within a venue such as a mall or leisure facility. This data can demonstrate issues with congestion, help to optimize within-venue placement, and provide a reference point for advertising metrics.

#9. Use Gamification Methods
Although gamification in research is relatively unexplored, an ideal venue for research games may be on a smartphone. Canadians are already playing games on their smartphones: sixty percent of Canadians do so, according to the 2012 Rogers Innovation Report. If a game is well-designed, analyzing how users play the game could allow researchers to gain insights into consumer behaviour that could not be measured by a survey.

#10. Get Beneath the Surface with Passive Data
Using the functionality of participants’ smartphones, passively tracking data can be used to gain insight that might be impossible using a survey methodology. A user can opt-in to provide information about websites visited, health statistics captured via GPS, communications, or any number of other types of data from their smartphone. This data could even be linked to survey responses in order to compare or to augment the dataset.