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Thriving in a Mobile MR World

mrmwsignI really enjoyed my time last week at Merlien’s Market Research in the Mobile World 2011 – a great place to meet and exchange ideas with the people and companies working to make effective mobile research a reality. We discussed the nitty-gritty of mobile survey applications, and the big picture of mobile adoption around the world. Taking it all in it’s hard to argue that mobile won’t play a major role in the future of the market research industry, both in the developed and developing worlds.

Here’s the thing, though. Most of the conversation during the conference focused on the “what” of mobile research – how to reach people, or whether or not to keep surveys short(er). Very little was said about the “so what,” even though that’s where we as research professionals can earn respect and remain relevant.

Technology firms were ascendant; discussions about what to do with the data far less extensive. And while this was perfectly appropriate given the emerging nature of mobile survey applications, it made me wonder about how we'll do once mobile's fully arrived as "the 5th methodology."

Right now of course more people are asking why mobile? than are asking how mobile? There are very good answers to that question (It's immediate! It's in the moment! It lets us into places we haven't previously been invited!), but we should be careful not to confuse these methodological arguments with useful research answers. As mobile research mainstreams our clients will stop questioning its validity and start demanding its utility. Will we be prepared? Or will the current inclination towards DIY mobile research turn into another nail in the traditional market researcher coffin?

Hey I'm someone routing for MR to adapt and thrive (coffins are creepy). Let's play to our real strengths - the ones that really should be true regardless of methodology.

  • Challenge people for the why underlying the what. At the conference Leonard Murphy talked about the bright future of mobile qualitative and I agree. As researchers we're supposed to be the "why people," and in a mobile setting that has to mean more than simply asking better survey questions within a short-format questionnaire. It should also mean regularly leveraging the qualitative capabilities unique to mobile in the service of more powerful feedback.
  • Sift and ye shall find. Our mobile surveys will most likely be shorter, and yet the potential for data overload may increase given the ability to gather highly detailed (but not necessarily useful) "passive" data from participant devices. More than ever we need to embrace the role of curator and storyteller with regard to both qualitative and quantitative information, ideally with the aid of text mining or other pattern recognition software solutions.
  • Most of all let's be the ones most interested in the "so what" of mobile. We can no longer just assume we'll know more about statistics than our internal clients, as analysis has become necessary survival skill for most professionals. What I hope, however, is that we can still legitimately claim the mantle of "most interested." Engineers don't design buildings because of their training; they do so because they've probably always liked to build things. Similarly Market Researchers have always been the folks who ask the most questions and look closest at the data because that's what we like to do. If that's still true, then why wouldn't you invest time in understanding and critiquing mobile techniques?

Comments

  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky Sunday, 31 July 2011

    Great points Mike; I agree that once we nail down some of the practical methodological issues the real point is how can we use the data to serve business needs effectively. Thanks for the reminder that we can't put the cart before the horse on this; the end has to drive the mean as much as we can.

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