Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The shift in market research and the role of mobile optimisation in driving a tech-first approach

By Diana Trifu, Senior Manager, Project Success at Lucid

In 2008, Mary Meeker made some bold predictions for the uptake of mobile marketing, stating it was poised to overtake the fixed internet by 2014.

More than 12 years later, with a global pandemic that has driven the world into remote lockdown, market research still lags behind in mobile optimisation. There is no doubt that the average person spends more time on their mobile phones; yet, recent research by MRS (Market Research Society) together with industry leaders Dynata, Kantar, Lucid and Toluna revealed that almost a third of surveys conducted globally are designed purely for the desktop experience. Whilst mobile survey ‘starts’ have increased over the last few years – 33.7% in 2019, an increase of 4% from 2018 – the uptake of mobile marketing is still surprisingly low.

This research is a remarkable turning point for two reasons – one with its findings that show the majority of the market research industry needs to catch up with the digital era and secondly, that the industry’s global leaders have come together for the first time to highlight how serious this issue is for the whole of the marketing industry.

What the stats say

Overall, mobile survey starts and completes have increased but at a slower rate to desktops. Encouragingly, the ratio between starts and completes for phones has improved to 94% which is a good step towards parity with desktop devices for the surveys that allow all devices.

Surprisingly, 17% of surveys are still set up to not include responses from mobile devices and as global leaders such as Forrester predict global smartphone penetration to reach 67% by 2024, the industry must address this before it’s too late.

In order to delve deeper into the reasons behind respondent’s methods of survey completion, it is essential to consider:

Behaviour is affected by many different factors including gender, age, employment type and location. By including research preferences, behaviours and differences in respondent demographics in relation to mobile survey design will ultimately increase completion rates and produce the most valuable responses.

Age and gender also play a huge role in the way that a respondent completes online research. Males tend to show a higher preference for desktop usage, especially in the 60+ age range, whereas females prefer portable devices.

Case in point: 74% of respondents who prefer mobile would still choose to complete surveys at home. This may have been due to the effects of lockdown and covid rules across the countries surveyed, however, the result is mirrored by a very low result for those preferring to take part in out of home survey completion. Considering that many people would have access to a desktop computer in their homes but would still choose to complete a survey on their mobile device further compounds the necessity to get mobile research optimised.

And, unsurprisingly, mobile completion is much more popular with the younger generation. However, it is not necessarily the case that desktop usage will become obsolete as the tech savvy youngsters get older – 32% of 60+ respondents said they simply found the questions easier to read on a desktop computer. Age related sight issues will undoubtedly keep the large screen option necessary regardless of technical prowess!

How to optimise research design with a tech-first approach

Market research is only truly successful if it reaches the right audiences and draws the right sample sizes through a holistic design and cross-device user experience. Part of this research explored what factors encourage respondents to complete a survey.

ResTech – the comprehensive term for the software and tools that help analyse insights initiatives – is becoming crucial to the success of modernising research. In order to fully gauge the opinions of different groups of people. It can help businesses remain on the pulse of their customers’ changing sentiments so that they can understand what makes them tick, what they care about, and how to best appeal to them through personalised and targeted messaging.

The design of a research piece is equally essential. Questions that cannot be fully seen on a mobile phone screen, or even that require the user to rotate the device can be an instant turn off. The majority of respondents prefered interactive questions as opposed to those with classic tick box or rankings and there was a strong dislike for the types of questions that required sharing of videos or photos.

This feedback, combined with the fact that 49% of respondents stated that they would drop out of a survey if it was too long, outlines why many respondents give up before completing the survey. It is clear from this research that there are still many problems to address in order to increase current research attrition rates.

We need to come together to push the boundaries of market research, focusing on three things as we look to 2021: applying ResTech and a tech-first approach, ensuring holistic design, and enabling a true cross-device user experience. With this in mind, the industry must come together, to truly enter the digital era and focus attention on adapting to a more mobile world.