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Your market research needs to go mobile

Your market research needs to go mobile Ray Beharry

If you're not reading this on a mobile device, there's a good chance that you'll be checking your phone soon after you finish. No exaggeration -- mobile has transformed how we interact, work, and communicate.

Clearly, reaching customers via mobile is mission-critical for companies. But delivering the right experience to the right person at the right time is often easier said than done. As a result, mobile surveys are coming into their own as a strategic research tool, offering distinct advantages for understanding and targeting the mobile customer.

In the moment: Where mobile fits

Mobile surveys not only make it easier for people to participate, but they can also elicit more insightful responses and more actionable data.

One of mobile's biggest advantages is that passive data can be collected from the devices themselves. Depending on the operating system, this can include respondents' locations, which apps they've downloaded, and their cellular providers. The extra data points add dimension to the responses and new analytic opportunities.

Similarly, mobile gives researchers the ability to more precisely target an audience by location. Smaller, defined geographic targeting of specific populations -- such as people in particular districts during election season -- becomes not only possible, but also more practical. Add a timing component, and these targeting capabilities extend to catch the right people while they're still in the moment.

Even more so than online surveys, where a survey link is sent via email requesting responses after the fact, mobile surveys can effectively pop up to ask a few timely questions and capture reactions and emotions when an experience is still fresh. These types of geotargeting and moment-based assessments offer an alternative to the paid-panel research used by many online research companies.

Beyond questions and answers

Mobile research also offers new possibilities to tie in visual experiences. Asking participants to take and share pictures of products they're using, ads they notice, or what their surroundings are like is a natural extension of how they routinely use their phones. Video and audio responses are also quickly becoming viable options for providing valuable ethnographic context around survey data.

But perhaps the most important reason to consider mobile is the potential bias that online surveys completed on mobile devices may introduce. Across Apple and Android devices, mobile browsers display web pages differently. These differences, such as how drop-down boxes appear, can affect how users answer the questions. Compared with browser-based surveys, mobile applications provide more uniformity across devices and operating systems.

6 fundamentals for optimizing mobile market research

Mobile research is no longer an afterthought for most marketers. Here are six tips to make the most of it.

1. Think end to end
Mobile surveys need to be designed and built for a mobile experience. Consider how users will navigate the survey. Will they be answering with a touch, a swipe, or simple typing? It's not about repurposing online surveys so they work on mobile devices. For the best results, surveys should be mobile-optimized, not just mobile-friendly.

2. Keep it short but intriguing
Mobile attention spans are short. Catch a respondent's attention by asking a few key questions and providing a short, straightforward list of answer options. Capitalize on the medium by incorporating pictures or even video to help engage the participant. However, always opt for substance over style, especially if including images slows down the experience or requires more explanation.

3. Test and learn
Don't just build a mobile survey; take it for a test drive. Does it grab attention in a busy mobile environment? Will users feel like it's worth a few minutes of their time? Sharing a preview and asking for feedback is an important step to streamline the overall user experience before putting the survey out into the mobile landscape.

4. Pop up with questions
As customers interact with content or use an app, take full advantage of getting reactions right then and there. This type of in-the-moment feedback provides invaluable color commentary that supplements tracking data with how users feel as they experience changes or enhancements. For example, if a certain group of customers isn't progressing to the next level in a game, pop up to ask why. Or if spending in a certain region is low, ask geotargeted pop-up questions to uncover what's driving buying decisions.

5. Go broad
Mobile offers flexibility to get to know audiences beyond just how they're interacting with an experience or what they need. Extend pop-up questions to ask about pop culture and current events as they happen. Getting a read on how target customers feel about trending topics in real time is a great step toward proactively building social content that resonates with them.

6. Mobilize online surveys
Even when you use email surveys, mobile must be front and center as they're being designed. More than half of emails are now read on mobile devices, so it's important to make sure survey invites actually get read by crafting short, simple, and descriptive subject lines, taking into account the more limited character displays on mobile devices. Then, be upfront about the time the survey will take and why participating matters to the respondent.

Integrating mobile into your market research provides new opportunities for getting answers to critical questions and understanding actions that have been difficult to measure in the past. The keys are to determine what you want to find out, decide how you will say it, keep it short, be engaging, and identify areas of improvement where you can take action.

From anonymous potential users to longtime customers, your target audiences are out there checking their phones, ready to engage.

Ray Beharry is an accomplished leader with a passion for providing and marketing technologies that engage, enrich, and empower others. Ray’s areas of expertise collide in his position as head of marketing at Pollfish, a company whose online...

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