As Ray Poynter notes, mobile has finally arrived in market research!
“people have been saying mobile is the next big thing for over 15 years, even in the days when that meant SMS, or WAP, or writing 100s of apps for different types of phones. At conferences and client sessions I keep being asked “So, when will mobile be the big thing?” The answer is that it is now a big thing, and it has been for probably 18 months or more.“
What’s notable though is that industry discussion is still oriented around the ‘grand dames’ of the market research toolkit: surveys (now moving from online to mobile, albeit sometimes “accidental mobile”) and CATI (telephone interviewing). Here at FACE we’re wondering, what about qual?
Well, let’s start talking about mobile qual! We’re excited to have research director Sharmila Subramanian writing a series of articles for us sharing her vast experience of mobile research methods, something she’s built up over many years of research with Nokia in particular.
First, when do you need to use mobile research methods? Sharmila shares three case studies:
Why mobile is useful:
Here at FACE, we are committed to trying to root consumer understanding and resultant insights within context as much as possible. This requires us to be able to understand consumer moments and interactions when they happen – not just in the home, not just in the research environment. Out of any tool for capturing thoughts and behaviour, mobile presents the best means of doing so.
Beyond this, mobile provides a simple and intuitive interface for capturing consumer attitudes and behaviours for a number of obvious, but important reasons:
1. It’s people’s primary communication device
2. It’s an extension of people’s bodies and selves: always with them, always on. This makes it invaluable in gathering in-situ understanding
3. It’s the most personal device that people own, so it’s a fantastic platform for capturing more private or personal thoughts and behaviours
4. People are used to engaging through apps, making a mobile research app a logical research interface
This is not to say that mobile should be utilised for any & every research activity. It is a one-way method of research, with little scope for researcher-participant interaction. As a result, it is not for briefs or lines of enquiry that require a great deal of laddering and researcher probing in real time.
Moreover, its very nature does not lend itself to long form, highly considered response. When was the last time you tried to write something akin to an essay on your mobile? I bet it was pretty painful. Don’t expect any different for a research participant!
Three use cases for qualitative mobile research
From our own experience on a range of projects, mobile research comes into its own on three types of briefs:
1. Understanding response to concepts:
Whilst we would not advocate a mobile-only methodology for concept testing and development, mobile can prove an invaluable supplement to F2F methodologies where we wish research participants to “live” with concepts beyond the confines of the focus group facility. Initial reads on concepts often give us an understanding of their initial impact and wow factor. However, getting participants to then live with the proposition, and document when they see roles for certain ideas and concepts via mobile, can go much further in identifying their potential usefulness, and ability to fulfil needs within the real world.
On a recent project using FACE’s mobile research app, this approach proved invaluable in deepening understanding around a concept for a new service. Whilst an online community and groups gave understanding of the initial comprehension and appeal of that concept, subsequent mobile research gave us a richer picture of where participants actually saw a role for the proposition – in terms of where, when, how they would utilise it and why. We would not have been able to get that level of understanding by utilising other methods that rely on hindsight or recall.
2. Product trialing:
Mobile can come into its own in terms of understanding product usage and response – ultimately, it gives us the ability to understand those moments in-situ, as they happen. And it makes it easier for the user to document those moments – no paper diary completion, no need for recalling of hazy memories on an online community or in a group. Everything from first impressions of a new product, to first and repeat usage, to understanding how response to a product can change over time can be readily captured within mobile research. Moreover, it gives us the ability to understand all of those things across a variety of contexts, times of day, as well as the social dimension that may be at play. As a result, we get closer to a more holistic understanding of product usage.
A recent example of the power of mobile for product trial can be seen in a project FACE conducted looking to understand response to a new product format. FACE’s mobile app was used by a range of participants over a week to understand their first impressions of the product, how they used it, the triggers and barriers to use, and how their response changed over time. This helped us to define the key benefits and use cases for the product prior to launch, as well as helping to provide starter thoughts for which elements of the product experience future communications should leverage.
However, the approach also proved powerful in providing a wealth of rich multimedia material that could be utilised by the client to provide more compelling evidence of the value of the product.
3. Shopper interaction:
The very mobile nature of the, well, mobile, clearly lends itself to helping to better understand the shopper experience. Whether in terms of gaining learnings on retail environment, in-store communications, or product placement, the discrete form, and bite-sized mode of interaction of the mobile makes it ideal for consumers to gather quick thoughts, images, and documentation of journeys within store.
FACE employed a mobile approach for understanding response to a new store layout format for a well known food and drink brand. This was invaluable in gaining firsthand accounts of what was a new concept in-store – accounts that were not influenced by researcher presence. The unmediated nature of this capture was essential in identifying exactly what the key hooks, and turn-offs of the new format were, and helped provide a compelling story for the client, through the use of raw, consumer generated content, to help our client sell the concept to retailers.
So, that’s an initial overview of three times mobile research is one of the best methods we’ve got in our market research toolkit. Next up: getting the most out of a mobile approach – the do’s, the don’ts, and best practice for making a mobile methodology a success.
If you’d like to discuss this further with Sharmila, contact her at Sharmila@FaceGroup.com, on LinkedIn or Twitter @SharmilaSub. To stay in touch with more of our qual thinking and methodology knowledge-sharing, join our mailing list.