Mobile Limitations

I remember the first time I met with Gayle Fuguitt, CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation. It was at an ARF Research Impact Forum last fall and she told us her story about how she shifted 85% of General Mills’ research to the internet in one year. I was really impressed. And she concluded her talk by saying that what she experienced with the switch to online, is what we might experience with mobile today.

But can we really switch 85% of online research to mobile? I am not so sure.

Mobile research is great to capture reactions on-the-spot, to get visuals (video, audio, photo), to track respondents, to get quick answers, to get high response rates, to reach people in some countries with high mobile penetration but low level of computer literacy, etc. But can we really ask anything on mobile? Can we get the same type of data?

At BuzzBack, more and more of our projects include a mobile component and most of our surveys could technically be taken on mobile devices. But, there are some limitations and we might not be able to switch everything we are doing online to mobile, particularly to mobile phones. Simply optimizing surveys to fit on a smaller screen as suggested by this recent article in CNN is just not enough.  How can you evaluate a print ad on a phone screen? Will people be ready to answer a 30-question survey on their phone screen? What will happen to open ended responses? Most likely, they’ll become more concise and less like the rich, verbal feedback we are used to getting. As we previously mentioned, we have to be considerate of mobile technology’s limitations.

Certainly, as a researcher we will find ways to address some of the issues and think outside of the box to increase the use of mobile in market research, but how much of online research will really move to mobile?