Much has been written about the rise of connected mobile devices (tablets and smartphones), and their now seemingly ubiquitous ownership. A recent study by media agency OMD found that the average Briton shifts their attention between their smartphones, tablets and laptops a staggering 21 times an hour. So if your company doesn’t have a clear digital strategy, a responsive website, interactive digital advertising, a mobile site or an app, the chances are that you are behind the times and behind your consumer.
In the market research industry, we always keep the respondent at the top of our mind. They are fundamental to our work. Researchers are always working towards improving their experience, recognising that by doing so we are also encouraging a better quality of data collection. And this is more important than ever as different connected devices play a more central role in consumers’ lives.
Whether or not you are involved in the process of distilling market research findings into manageable and meaningful insight, it is easy to forget that real people have taken time to provide you with their views and opinions about your service or product.
In the research industry, it has been ‘the year of the mobile’ since around 2007. We are well versed in the benefits of mobile research and its place in the market research toolkit. In recent times, we have moved away from thinking about the benefits of mobile data collection and are more focused on ‘device- agnostic’ data collection, in other words data collection that allows participants to take part in the research using whatever connected smart device they choose.
Respondents are ready to take surveys on their mobiles and devices. Deloitte recently found that a third of smartphone owners look at their device within the first five minutes of waking up in the morning and one in six people check their mobiles more than 50 times throughout the day.
As more of our 6.5 million panellists choose to interact with us via mobile devices – and as we are keen to keep them happy and eager to complete our surveys – we have had to deliver our surveys in a format that makes this possible.
Wide-ranging benefits from mobile research
Better sample representation: By enabling respondents to take your survey on a mobile, you remove an element of sampling error. In its extreme form, there may be a section of the population that are excluded from taking part in your PC-based survey because they only have mobiles.
Over time, surveys that do not work on the respondents’ preferred method of accessing the internet (say, their mobile device) will miss a portion of some audiences and results will become less representative.
You don’t have to keep it short and sweet: It is a commonly held view that longer surveys are not appropriate for completion on a mobile device. While it is true that drop-out can be higher on longer mobile surveys and that complex surveys can be difficult to complete on a mobile device, we also know that survey respondents can be persistent given the right incentive and an appropriately designed survey.
Engage key audiences: Some difficult to reach audiences, such as busy mothers and young people, are more mobile-reliant. Increasing flexibility means that they are more likely to be able to participate in surveys. Ultimately, by giving respondents the choice to complete the survey on their preferred device, we hope to encourage them to remain engaged.
Making ‘device agnostic’ research work
The digital industry has been delivering a device- agnostic experience using responsive design for some time; websites react to the screen size and nature of the device being used to access it. This is an attempt to optimise the user experience. As a panel company and fieldwork provider, we are especially keen on a device-agnostic approach, but this principle raises additional considerations for research data collection.
Optimising the respondent experience without compromising the accuracy of data collection is challenging. Device-agnostic data collection must be fit for purpose for it to be of any use. There are a few key things to consider:
- Is it the right choice for you?: ‘Going agnostic’ should be considered in light of any impact on the research objectives. The decision to take a device- agnostic approach must be informed and taken at the research design phase.
- Screen size: The more difficult a survey is to get through, the more likely the respondent is to drop out. For example, long answer lists may prove challenging to respond to if the list runs off the page, while the touch interface also introduces a ‘fat finger’ effect to responses.
- Orientation of keyboard: Response to open ended questions can be more wordy on a mobile compared to a tablet. We are used to writing text on our mobiles in portrait mode, but when held in landscape the keyboard removes half the screen, sometimes obscuring the text being written.
- Data consistency: Different survey experiences can elicit different responses. Keeping question formats consistent and thinking about the different respondent experiences should help to minimise these ‘modal differences’.
Views on the application of a device-agnostic approach to online surveys vary. We see strong resistance in some cases, with the view that some surveys are best taken on a PC as respondents are more likely to focus on the survey task. It is true to say that more complex surveys benefit from a larger screen.
Conversely, we have seen concern that by not utilising mobile data collection, parts of the population are being excluded. This has gone hand-in-hand with the decision to make wide-ranging revisions to survey design and a desire to think about data collection in a perhaps enlightened, but certainly new, fashion.
Ultimately, by allowing respondents to take part in research using whatever connected smart device they choose, researchers are able to improve engagement and provide a better quality of data.
Senior research director
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T: 0207 084 3000