Making Mobile In-the-Moment Real

At the ESOMAR Congress in New Orleans, Justin Wheeler and Jackie Lorch of SSI discussed the wide variety of research projects enabled by mobile research.

Traditional surveys taken on a mobile device are just one type of mobile research, and – in fact – a typical panel survey should expect to have 60% of its responses from mobile users. But mobile opens up new forms of research that are only possible via installed apps.

The mobile phone provides a microphone for audio feedback, a camera for photo and video capture, an accelerometer for movement detection, GPS for location detection, a gyroscope for directional detection, and push notifications for in-the moment content. The SSI mobile panel consists of members who have downloaded an app onto their device: 550,000 U.S. panelists have this installed. A single mobile panelist is passively contributing over 1,800 data points a day, including how many times they’ve looked at their phone, everywhere they were, how fast they drove, and the apps they used. Each day SSI gets 18 million pings of panelists going past fast-food restaurants, as just one example. Mobile research lets you marry survey data with behavioral data at scale and in ways that were impossible or too expensive before.

Pokemon Go is part of the larger trend of consumers doing whatever their phone tells them to do! They will upload photos and record videos and go on missions to stores and locations. If they are already “on location”, at a store with a research objective, they will compete a survey there: the uptake rate is 22 times higher to such requests than to invites to panelists to take online surveys. SSI completed 3.5 million in-store surveys last year.

As a result, the list of types of mobile projects that SSI has conducted is long and is growing: market sizing, market assessments, home inventory and audits, in-context concept testing, shopping lists, product innovation, competitive intelligence, shopability and product findability and placement, mobile diaries, purchase intent and behavior, on-the-go experiences, in-store ads, in-context ads, ad awareness, in-home usage, out-of-house usage, mini-ethnographies, meal preparation studies, product usage and consumption behaviors, satisfaction/re-purchase, and more.

Most panelists aren’t worried about the amount of information they’re providing and whatever privacy they may be surrendering; they’re more worried about impact on the battery life of their phone and on receiving compelling rewards.

The earliest adopters of mobile research over the past three years have been CPG and FMCG companies and, in the U.S., Fortune 50 brands. In fact, one company has shifted 80% of the $12 million it spent annually on surveys to mobile research in store and at home. That’s $9.6 million a year diverted to mobile surveys.

Mobile research is poised to explode from the consumer-goods industry to far more categories: and that is making “in-the-moment” mobile research real.