Market Research Trends 2012: Part Six – Mobile Sampling and Mobile Ethnography

mobile phonesOn December 14th 2011 the Market Research Trends 2012 webinar featured moderator Ivana Taylor and panelists Lenny Murphy and Romi Mahajan discussing the most prominent trends for market research in 2012.  

Today we bring you the full text of the sixth and final part of the webinar, a discussion of mobile sampling and mobile ethnography, along with the Q&A session.

Here is a list of all the parts of the webinar with links, to be updated as each section is published:

Ivana Taylor

Ivana Taylor

Ivana Taylor:  Why don’t, Leonard, you start and talk a little bit about mobile sampling and how that works?

Leonard Murphy

Leonard Murphy

Leonard Murphy:  Oh, mobile’s just huge. Within the next two to three years, a device similar to– probably somewhat bigger than a iPhone, smaller than an iPad, will be the primary means of communication for our entire species, globally, period. It’s how we’ll interact with each other and the world around us.

So the impact of global cannot be underestimated, in particular in the emerging markets, because they will leapfrog the PC experience in almost it’s entirety. The growth of broadband and PC penetration in Africa, Latin America, and Asia Pacific is effectively already stopped. So there’s whole generations that will grow up that will look at a PC like we would look at a typewriter and just think it’s just an antiquated piece of technology. So their experience with communicating with each other and the world around them will be via this mobile device.

So that said, that opens the door for an amazing opportunity to be able to engage with consumers 24/7/365, in most any situation that you can imagine, and to gain real feedback at the point of experience, whether that be at an event or while shopping or making purchases in a retail environment, whatever the case may be. We have the opportunity to engage them, if we make it a fun and rewarding and meaningful experience for them. I think that’s the challenge.

So as we talk about sampling, theoretically we’ve come back to the days of random-digit sampling, where we can make probability samples, because there’s just so many mobile connections. I think the reality is that’s going to be incredibly difficult to do for a variety of reasons. So we have to think about ways to utilize the model of the app, which is kind of the great unifier right now, to get consumers to opt in and engage with us.

So effectively anytime you download an app, you’re joining a panel, theoretically. 9 out of 10 companies don’t use them that way, but the process is the same. You’re opting in and giving permission to send and receive certain amounts of information. So that becomes the chance for us to fulfill this vision of engaging with consumers in a very different way than we’ve ever been able to do before.

And I know for a fact that some of the major brands in the world are rejecting the traditional models of market research, and are focused on wanting to understand the point of user experience and wanting to understand the levers that make people decide and make choices. And then they use that to predict behavior versus to look backwards and say, well, this is what people did. They want to understand what people are going to do. There is no better conduit to achieve that than via this technology.

Ivana Taylor:  Wow. That’s brilliant. Romi?

Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan:  Yes. You know, when I think about mobile in general, not so much mobile sampling, clearly the trend lines are that it’s growing and so on and so forth. It reminds me of the second sort of wave of the communications revolution, around what Marshall McLuhan said about the medium is the message, because when I think about what people do on their mobile devices, and whether they might interact or do surveys to give information or invoke an app, it’s being done at a time, in a context, in a place that provides a lot more depth of context to the receiver of the signal.

So for instance, if I leave a movie and I get on a mobile app to say if I like it or not, I’m right in the midst of that experience. I’m in situ, as it were. And so when I think about mobile, I think about the fact that people are interacting on their mobile devices in a time and space in which their context is more profound, is actually itself the benefit here.

It’s not so much the convenience. I don’t think it’s so much the fact that — we all lived before. We all were happy people before we had mobile devices and could book restaurants online and so on, or from our mobile devices. It’s that we have a different way of expressing ourselves with regard to the context we’re in. And so to me, this trend is undeniable. It’s one that’s best connected to the way the human emotional profile works.

The one area that I might diverge with Lenny is I don’t know that these media are going to be the primary way people interact. Certainly in parts of the world that are getting more and more poor and have less drinking water and less access to medicines, I think the mobile revolution has largely skipped them. But by and large, again, for those of us who are lucky enough and economically well off enough to be able to enjoy these devices, the context they provide is just unbelievable. And so I would concur with Lenny in that this is a trend that is like a locomotive that’s moving and you should probably get out of it’s way or join it.

Leonard Murphy:  Yes.

Ivana Taylor:  Absolutely. Absolutely. We probably have another 15 minutes and a few more trends to go through. So who wants to jump in on mobile ethnography? Romi?

Romi Mahajan:  Yes. I mean, this one is not dissimilar to the other one, which is instant access to respondents. Meanwhile, they have instant access within context to you. And so I think there’s so much you can glean by learning from people in context. It’s a 100 year old anthropological notion, that if you watch people in the action of living you’ll learn a lot more about them. And in the case of mobile, you’re actually getting people at a time when what they have to say is inflected by experience. So I don’t have a lot more to say about it than that, but it’s definitely a trend and definitely something that we should capitalize on, both from the point of making money, but also from the point of understanding the context in which humans operate.

Leonard Murphy:  Yes. I would agree. And even from a business standpoint, particularly in the realm of market research, yesterday I interviewed Eric Salama, who is the chair and global CEO of Kantar Group, which is the world’s largest market research company. And it was amazing how much he focused in on qualitative as the real growth opportunity. And even though he didn’t say it, I believe this is what he was referring to, is that new technologies like mobile, particularly mobile ethnography, have allowed us to or will allow us to qualitatively understand consumers in a very different way.

Market research has been defined by the quantitative, by the numbers crunching, for a long time. And there’s a real shift occurring that’s into the emotional versus the cognitive. And ethnography is a huge piece of that. I love what Romi was saying about context, and that it really is the key.

Ivana Taylor:  Absolutely. What I hear you guys saying is that we’re probably evolving to a place where we will literally be able to quantify the emotional experience at some point.

Leonard Murphy:  I think so. Well, behavioral economics would certainly indicate that that is the case.

Romi Majahan:  Yes.

Ivana Taylor:  Wow. Well, guess what, you guys? Yes. You have covered just about everything. So one thing that we can do is open it up for questions. And while you guys are thinking about questions to type into the chat box for our experts, anything you guys– Romi, anything you want to say to kind of bridge some things together? Or maybe like– this is making my head swim, quite frankly.  And I guess the question I have for you is, what are some things that I should start doing? You gave us some books to read. What are some things we can start doing differently?

Romi Mahajan:  You know, here’s how I sort of approach it in my life. I just sort of carry my normal life around. I read a lot. I look at different things. I look at trends, et cetera. And I try to apply all these principles to even non-business scenarios, right?

Ivana Taylor:  Oh.

How do you use all these to understand what’s going on with the Arab Spring? How do you use all these to understand what’s going on with the Euro crisis? And that sort of brings it all together to me, because I think business culture, sociology, research, they’re all connected issues. And so that’s certainly what I do.

I do think people should go and get a primer on each of these sort of eight or nine subjects we covered. Each one of them we could, of course, go into in more depth. The one area that you brought up, Ivana, that I do want to emphasize again is, these trends are important discretely, but much more powerful when you combine them. So if you think about, let’s see, mobile gamification, or you think about using network intelligence to improve your consumer experience, et cetera, so when you start combining them in dyads, or more, I think you get a lot more power out of them. And again, the network effect for each one of us on this webcast to continue to talk about these things and either build businesses, nonprofits, or whatever out of these, I think is super important.

Ivana Taylor:  Leonard, how would you wrap it up?

Romi Mahajan:  I would agree with Romi. And actually, we’re a lot alike there, buddy. I didn’t realize that that was what you did too. It’s all about making connections and that’s what I look at these things to do and make connections. And I may or may not be correct in what I think they mean, but certainly the evidence seems to be bearing out that we are looking at a shift in the way that we engage with each other and with consumers in a variety of ways and what that means from the ability to drive value through insight.  Now, one thing we didn’t touch on, though, is the so-called DIY movement, which I know will be near and dear to Vivek’s heart and also to–

Ivana Taylor:  Ivana’s heart too.

Leonard Murphy:  Yes. Yes. And right before this call, you may have heard me blurt it out, that I just saw the transom come through that SurveyMonkey bought MarketTools. That is such a clear message that this whole notion we’ve had of DIY as being sub-par or less than, that just got blown out of the water.

Ivana Taylor:  That’s Romi’s consumerism at play.

Leonard Murphy:  Absolutely. Absolutely. And think about it from a revenue standpoint. So I’ve always been– they probably wouldn’t like me talking about SurveyMonkey, but you have to, because they are the 500-pound gorilla on the block as far as this model goes.

And they’re a massive company. And now they have always kind of fought against this legitimacy issue. And I think that has certainly impacted anybody who uses that whole DIY type of idea. What it’s really about is empowerment. It’s about–

Ivana Taylor:  I’m going to ask Esther to jump in here. So I’m giving you fair warning if you’re on mute, Esther. But I’m going to raise, one of the benefits I see, as a shameless plug for Survey Analytics— I am a customer, and one of the benefits that I see is the fact that it’s a platform that has a variety of brands that are all interconnected. And that allows you, with one point, to actually use a lot of these trends.

So you can use MicroPanel to build your own panel. You can use SurveySwipe with your MicroPanel. You can use– what was the other one? Oh, IdeaScale and do polls. So all your data is in one place, and for those of us that are DIY marketers, that’s a huge benefit. I mean, who’s going to manage all these vendors?

Leonard Murphy:  Right. Right.

Romi Mahajan:  I totally agree. I think technology, and from a DIY perspective, has allowed us to encroach on the priesthood, and–

Leonard Murphy: [LAUGHTER] It’s a Protestant revolution of research.

Romi Mahajan:  It really is whether it’s the church or Penn State’s football team, the priesthood’s gotta be broken down. And I’m super happy to see the DIY piece and so many different companies that are now understanding that there’s so much power that resides in individuals to go do amazing things from a marketing and business perspective.

Ivana Taylor:  Now, see, I think that market researchers who are hung up on the DIY thing and see it as a threat are kind of grooving on the wrong story. It really is a huge opportunity for market researchers who have a technical clue to guide people and to really serve as a resource of how to do it right. Romi, you gave several examples of doing it right and doing it wrong. And if you ignore the core principles and the actual science of it, you’re doing it wrong.

Romi Mahajan:  Yup. And that can be far more damaging than not doing anything at all.

Leonard Murphy:  But the other piece of that is market research–

Ivana Taylor:  I hear Esther. Sorry, guys.

Esther Rmah LaVielle

Esther Rmah LaVielle

Esther Rmah LaVielle:  Sorry, guys.

Leonard Murphy:  Sorry, Esther. Go ahead.

Esther Rmah LaVielle:  I do see that there’s some questions, Ivana, from the crowd.

Ivana Taylor:  Oh, great.

Esther Rmah LaVielle:  I don’t know if you– I love hearing you guys talk. It’s fantastic. However, I really would like to get some feedback and some questions answered for our audience members. Ivana, do you see where the questions are on your end, so maybe we can go ahead and pose questions–

Ivana Taylor:  Can you give examples of how mobile ethnographies are executed? Gamification is a buzzword. OK. So how are mobile ethnographies executed?

Leonard Murphy:  Sure. The dominant model is not that different than any other mobile research process. You need to get people to download the app. And there should be an app, because of the technical capabilities of integrating with the phones’ video and audio. So the first half is get people to download the app.

And once they’re there, then the app becomes the way that you engage them in the ethnographic task. So let’s say it’s a night out on the town, and you want to understand 18 to 25 year old urban males’ Friday night process. So throughout the evening, you’ll ping them and say, take a picture. What are you doing right now? What drinks are you drinking? What are you eating? Whatever the case may be.

And then the respondent population just does that. And they upload it, and then the researcher goes through and analyzes it. That’s certainly simplistic, but that’s the gist.

Ivana Taylor:  OK. Gamification is a huge buzzword. And I agree it will eventually be huge for this and other industries. Without investing significantly, throwing badges and prizes at consumers simply becomes a gimmick, especially when everyone is doing it. Do you see this is as a trend that will really come to the fore this coming year, or will it follow SCVNGR? Big splash, but didn’t expect it to be massive for a few years?

Romi Mahajan:  Let me answer that question super quickly. I agree that you talk about buzzwords and one has to be careful of them. I go back to this principle of gamification by design. I think gamification as an afterthought is going to be gimmicky, but you have to start thinking about it at the very essence of how you’re building out your business or your interface or whatever. So I would suggest that, again, it’s part of the very warp and woof of what you do versus a bolt-on.

Leonard Murphy:  Yes. I would use the example of 3-D in movies. There’s Avatar and then there’s Clash of the Titans. When you’re thinking about the process from the ground up and incorporating game mechanics, they are not based on prizes. Let’s be clear about that. Gamification is not about prizes in the classical sense that research thinks about as throwing money at people. That is not necessarily part of the equation.

So those prizes can come in lots of different ways, social esteem, sense of accomplishment, badges, something along the lines of BadgeFarm. There’s an example. It’s not always about money. Sometimes it’s about the intangibles that are the rewards of a truly well done gamification process.

Ivana Taylor:  Esther, is there anything that you wanted to wrap up with in terms of technologies that we didn’t cover or features that listeners can use inside of the Survey Analytics, QuestionPro and other brand platforms?

Esther Rmah LaVielle:  Actually, I had a question for both Romi and Leonard. Out of all of the trends that we presented, which one of these ones do you think is the most important one to really keep an eye out on?

Romi Mahajan:  So I can answer. It’s Romi. I mean, the trends are all at different valence levels. So clearly the cliche is to say that the mobile trend is by far the biggest of the eight or nine we mentioned. It is a fundamental sort of step away from one kind of paradigm into another one. So I would say that that would be the biggest of the ones. Although, to Ivana’s point earlier, the other ones can really aid and abet the mobile revolution.

Ivana Taylor:  Excellent. Any last words from Leonard? Did you want to jump in on that one?

Leonard Murphy:  I think that network intelligence is the trend to watch, the futuristic data and the predictive capabilities of big data. Everything else we’re talking about is a way to feed the monster, so to speak.

Ivana Taylor:  Well, thank you, guys, I really, really want to acknowledge you for being here with us and sharing your wisdom with the overall community. I don’t think I see any more questions.

There was a question on here that wanted to know who the lady was from Survey Analytics. That would be Esther Rmah. And I’m Ivana Taylor for DIY Marketers. We’ve got Romi Mahajan from Metavana, as well as Leonard Murphy, from our favorite GreenBook Blog. Esther, I’m going to hand it over to you to wrap it up.

Esther Rmah LaVielle:  OK, great. Ivana, before you go, would it be possible to just go ahead and copy all of those questions? It would be great to maybe do some follow-up on those, just to make sure. I think they’d make really a good follow-up post for our blog.

Everything that you see here, including the slides and the recording will be available on our blogs at the end of the day. And that’s going to be on, We’ve got blogs for SurveyPocket, SurveySwipe, every single item we have, we’ve got a blog, this is going to be on there. And I believe we also will have Romi and Leonard be distributing it through their network as well.

So once again, there’s some information here on this page. If you want to contact any of our speakers, feel free to do so. We are happy to follow up with any additional questions that you might have as we come up onto the new year.

So, again, thank you, everyone. Thank you, Ivana, for moderating, Romi and Leonard for joining us today for this really fabulous webinar. This is probably one of my favorite ones I’ve listened to this entire year. So I really appreciate your participation. And thank you, everyone, for attending. And we’re going to go ahead and conclude our presentation for today.

Romi Mahajan:  Thank you all. It was a great joy.

Leonard Murphy:  Thank you, everybody. This was great. Take care.

That’s it for Part Six – Mobile Sampling and Mobile Ethnography.  I hope you have enjoyed this series of excerpts from the Market Research Trends 2012 webinar.  I look forward to watching and commenting on these and other trends along with you in 2012.


About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.

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