Name something that virtually everyone you know has with them nearly all the time, and just about every day.
If you thought “mobile phone” the numbers back-up your observations: Of the approximately 7 billion people currently living on Earth, there are between 4 and 4.5 BILLION unique mobile users globally; that translates to about three in four adults on the planet who own a mobile phone. The number of global mobile phone users is forecast to exceed a staggering 5 billion by 2017.
The magnitude of smartphone use is even more noteworthy when you consider that smartphones as we think of them today – with HD touchscreen, myriad apps, and high-speed internet “on the fly” – have only been available since Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007. Imagine: It took only five years to go from zero to over a billion smartphones sold!
While the smartphone is not yet as omnipresent across the globe as the mobile phone, it is on an impressive growth trajectory – by virtually any standard of measure:
- There are approximately 1.75 billion smartphones in use globally today.
- Smartphone penetration (i.e., the percentage of individuals owning at least one smartphone) has expanded to more than a third of the global marketplace.
- By 2017, smartphone penetration among mobile phone users globally will approach 50%.
These impressive numbers – and their implications – have not gone unnoticed by the market research industry. In 2011, for the first time ever, self-completion of mobile surveys was the fastest-growing research methodology.
What makes mobile technology so research-friendly?
Five Key (Research-Friendly) Characteristics of Mobile Technology
- It’s (nearly) everywhere.
Mobile phones are the most widely owned type of electronic device on the planet; they are changing how, when, and where humans communicate. If you are a researcher, you no longer need to wait for a respondent to answer a phone call, open a piece of “snail mail”, or even access email on a desktop computer; you have what amounts to nearly instant access to your target respondents 24/7.
- Mobile devices broaden the potential respondent pool.
They provide access to affluent individuals, those with few financial resources, and everything in-between. Particularly in emergent countries, those who have less material wealth are much more likely to “reach out and touch” their friends and families via mobile phones. No matter which point on the socioeconomic spectrum you need to explore, chances are you’ll be able to connect via mobile technology.
- Mobile is already being used in a big way within “traditional” market research.
There’s no learning curve involved. Mobile devices are being used to complete about half of all computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) in most markets – and in emergent markets, that percentage is significantly higher. About one in four online surveys are currently being completed using a mobile devices (phones, phablets, and tablets), so most people doing online are already doing mobile. Mobile devices are also being used for face-to-face quantitative and qualitative research.
- Mobile devices afford research participants an expanded role in the research.
Rather than responding to prompts given by an interviewer or a research instrument, mobile devices are enabling individuals to become more active players in the research process. And it also empowers those who comprise our clients’ target audiences to drive research – and market decisions – to a degree that was not possible or practical before these devices were used. These devices are proving to be instrumental in the creation of new forms of market research.
- We’re no longer dependent upon respondents to remember.
“Passive” data collection supplements the participant’s subjective input with objective information that can lend context and quantification to that input. There’s no extra effort required, and no need to rely upon the accuracy of their memories. Passive data is telling us what people do, when then do, how long they do it, the emotions evoked, and – in some instances – where and with whom they do it. Location-based applications, such as Foursquare, allow us to follow people through their day and “push” requests to them based on where they are and what they are doing, in real time.
Through the use of mobile technology, we – and our clients – are being rewarded with data that is increasingly fresh, accurate, and nuanced. Want to know which products and services a 40 year-old female saw advertised as she rode the subway or bus? Are you interested in exploring how millennials really spend their free time (and with whom they spend it)? Are you trying to gauge interest in a new product being sold in your client’s Big Box store – the one that the research participant just entered – and determine whether interest would be any greater if you offered an Internet coupon to on-site customers? Through mobile research, the world, in essence, becomes one big focus group suite, with the device serving as the one way mirror.
Click here to learn more about mobile surveys and how to create them for any device, any country, any language.
*This post was adapted from its original format with permission from our partners at blog.nebu.com