By Wale Omiyale, SVP of Market Research, Confirmit
With over 3.8 billion people online – that’s 50% of the world’s population – it’s no surprise that digital interactions are a normal way of life for many of us. For Market Researchers, what’s most interesting is how the connected population is actually using the internet. It spans every aspect of our lives from entertainment and shopping, to work, learning, and our day-to-day social activity.
In the infancy of digital technology, it was easy to separate a digital interaction from a physical one. Someone sitting in front of their computer was, of course, purely digital. Conversely, visiting a store to make a purchase was strictly physical. Now, however, the boundaries between digital and physical are blurring, and the divide between the digital realm and our physical world is becoming less distinct.
A new era of the blended population
In almost every area of our internet-connected lives, digital interactions are either supplementing or, in some cases, replacing, physical actions.
A good example is the increasingly digital element that is supplementing traditional in-person retail transactions. Statistics show that inside bricks-and-mortar stores, 82% of shoppers consult their smartphone regarding purchases they’re about to make. Price comparisons, competitor information and even stock availability can be accessed at the touch of a button and, often, will directly influence the decision to purchase or not.
Additionally, digital capabilities are replacing many physical interactions. Again using the retail example, online shopping is often used to secure physical or digital goods, making store visits redundant for many.
This sea-change in shopper habits, driven by the immediacy of the digital world, can be seen across many other industries too – telecoms, finance, leisure to name just a few. For researchers, this is great news, since the blending of the digital and the physical offers new ways to engage consumers and collect feedback.
Of course, to engage respondents in this blurred environment, it is critical to consider how they are accessing their merged digital/physical experiences, so we can best understand how to leverage the multiple channels available to us.
Our digital experiences are divided among various devices, with desktop and mobile usage still leading other channels.
While desktop and mobile share of web page access are both very high, it is mobile’s 30% year-on-year growth that is perhaps most impressive. While estimates of mobile-enabled research vary significantly, they all make it clear that there are many untapped opportunities for Market Research organisations.
The rise and rise of the mobile app
We know that there are many ways to ask for feedback via mobile: apps, mobile web and SMS being the most obvious. And while mobile has exploded over the past few years, what’s most interesting is the growth in the use of apps. Looking at the total digital time spent over the past few years, app usage has more than doubled since 2013, whereas mobile web has remained virtually stagnant and desktop is showing the first signs of decline.
As a matter of fact, the latest data from Yahoo’s Flurry analytics shows that 90 percent of consumer’s mobile time is spent in apps. This is particularly interesting because one of the key pieces of feedback we hear from Market Researchers is that they aren’t sure respondents will want to download an app.
If general digital behaviour is any indication, an app – in addition to, rather than in isolation from, mobile web and desktop capabilities – is a must for modern Market Research programmes. A key question here, though, is which apps will dominate and drive our interactive experiences? Whoever answers this first and executes a strategy to exploit this space will be well-placed to dominate app-based responses for a long time to come.
Regardless of the methodology though, what is most important to consider is that the merged digital and physical experience is all about in-the-moment interaction. Research programmes targeting mobile interactions must therefore leverage real-time capabilities if they are to have any relevance to respondents.
Location, location, location
This kind of real-time interaction is the prime objective of location-based research. While official statistics vary, sources across the internet suggest that four out of five mobile device owners leave their location tracking on by default, and 74% of adult smartphone owners use their phone to get information based on their location. In addition, at least one third of all Google searches include a specific location.
These behaviours present researchers with a great opportunity to embrace real-time research, with location-triggered surveys that target respondents at the precise moment of an interaction. The practical applications for such surveys are widespread, from mystery shopping and audits to exit surveys and even competitive intelligence, to name just a few.
In fact, in our view, location-based research delivers the single greatest opportunity to capture the right feedback, from the right respondent, at the right moment.
Ignore desktop at your peril
However, with the hyperbole about the potential for mobile-based research, it is easy to overlook the desktop channel – perhaps as the ‘old fashioned’ digital relation. While potentially in the first stages of decline in terms of overall penetration for web access, with nearly half of all users still accessing the web via their desktop, researchers ignore it at their peril.
And real-time, in-the-moment feedback can apply as much to the desktop respondent as it does to the mobile one.
On a desktop, of course, there is more than one way to collect feedback. Web links are widely used, and deliver the majority of desktop-based research responses. However, in research we tend to ignore the more targeted, time-sensitive – and potentially much more successful – route of the website intercept.
Websites are a great place to collect feedback from customers and prospects, delivering the opportunity to gather rich, real-time insight from accurately profile website visitors. What’s more, website feedback can be combined with other channels for broader and deeper analysis and understanding across an organisation. The most pertinent use to our retail argument is perhaps cart abandonment, but website feedback can also deliver in-depth insight about areas such as usability, transaction satisfaction and even customer service.
Unlike almost any other research channel, website intercept can deliver unobtrusive and highly-targeted pop-up surveys based on specific criteria such as traffic source, route to a specific page, activity or time.
Less division, more opportunity
What people’s changing behaviours in relation to digital and physical interactions show is that we are continually embracing new ways of conducting our lives. In the same way, Market Researchers must continually embrace new ways to obtain feedback on our behaviours, sentiments and intent.
By closely understanding how our physical actions are supplemented or replaced by digital ones, the research industry has a great opportunity to leverage this new ‘blended’ way of living, not only through the technologies we use every day, but also from the way we use them, where we use them, and how we move from one channel or location to the next to complete our experience.
About the Author
Wale Omiyale has over a decade’s experience in the Market Research industry and has a detailed understanding of the issues facing the industry as a result of maturation and technological advancement.
Wale works closely with some of the world’s leading Market Research agencies, helping them to implement innovative MR programmes using the most up-to-date data collection channels and practices available.
 Google/Ipsos, Consumers in the Micro-Moment, March 2015