Mobile Market Research Trends, Part 3: Passive Data Collection

passive data collectionOn January 30th, 2012, Survey Analytics sponsored a webinar on Mobile Market Research Trends. The webinar was moderated by Esther LaVielle of Survey Analytics and featured Romi Mahajan, CMO of Metavana, and Chad Bhandari, co-founder of SurveySwipe. Today we bring you the full text of Part 3 of the webinar, which covered the topic of Passive Data Collection.

Esther Rmah LaVielle

Esther Rmah LaVielle

Esther LaVielle: All right, let’s go ahead and move on to our third topic here, which is passive data collection. This is a new thing to me. I actually have not heard about this until a couple days ago. So it’d be great if either Romi or Chad could tell us a little bit more about exactly what is this thing called passive data collection, and how does it work?


Chad Bhandari

Chad Bhandari: Absolutely, I’ll start, and then Romi can definitely contextualize it much better than I can. The idea here is that most of the research that we do today is active in the sense that we send out a survey, or we ask respondents to participate in an online chat, or participate in ideation, or participate in a community forum of sorts. The idea with passive data collection is that because we have apps installed on four different platforms, or we have apps available on four different platforms, you can actually get, with users’ consent, data that is extremely valuable for research.

As an example, I think my favorite thing is that we can actually– we today actually collect what apps people are running – except iPhone. On Android, since Android is a more open platform, we can actually figure out things like what apps are installed, what apps are currently running, how much data, cell phone, and wi-fi people are consuming per day, and, on top of that, we can obviously collect the operating system version, model, battery level. So very, very deep information that you can then tie it with a panelist’s profile. And then you can use that profile eventually to basically segment users whenever you’re trying to send surveys to or do deeper research.

Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan: So let me take off from that from what Chad said and talk about passive data collection in a slightly more philosophical way. I think Chad’s exposition of some of the technical details was awesome and what you can learn. But when I think about passive data collection, and it’s something that I’ve been thinking about now for a while as a marketer, the best analogy that I can think of is this notion of white coat syndrome in the medical profession, when the doctor walks in in his white lab coat, your blood pressure automatically goes up because you know something’s going on.

And most active methods of collecting data by definition skew the data you’re getting. Passive allows people to be in their normal context, in situ as it were, and allows you to really understand how they think, how they react, what their behavior is without some sort of force-fitted scenario. So the fact is that myself, I tend to be be an honest and authentic person. When I get a survey, part of me is wondering what should I answer? What other people who, if they were watching me, what would I say? How many drinks do I have a week? What should I put down on that survey, to be a little facetious about it. Passive data collection allows you to really understand what people do versus what they say they do.

And so I think it’s an incredibly powerful context, one in which if you think about it from another analogy, structured data gives you the skeleton of the body, and the unstructured passive data that you can collect fills out the body and makes a human out of it. So I’m extremely excited about this, about this trend, and I think we’ll see a lot more of it going forward now that we’re technically equipped to collect passive data with ease.

Chad Bhandari: One more thing that I would like to add, I absolutely agree with what Romi said. One other thing that we also do is when a survey is submitted, we actually automatically collect lat/long, the GPS location of where the survey was taken. So while that’s interesting, what that really achieves is validation of the fact that if you say that you’re at some point versus us collecting that data, when the response is collected, we can actually validate the fact that the user was where they say that they were.

Esther LaVielle: I have one question about that. Do you think passive data collection violates any privacy issues or anything? I can definitely see that being a problem with this kind of data collection.

Chad Bhandari: I think by definition the panelists become part of the panel, and then we have– I guess it is a concern. I’m not going to say that it’s not a concern. But there are several ways you can alleviate the problem, or at least mitigate the risks of really making your panelists angry. We have extensive support for opt-in, so what that means is basically. as part of joining the panel, apart from your standard terms of service, we also have several screens where we basically tell the user that, hey, you’re going to be part of app metering, or you’re going to be part of bandwidth metering. So we are very explicit about what we collect, and then the user can turn it off whenever they want.

Romi Mahajan: One last aside on that, and again, I apologize to those who are listening who– I’m a marketer, not a market researcher. But it’s definitely worth saying that I found that if you collect data from someone and you give them back value for that data, people are pretty OK with it. When people really get bothered is when you’re getting data from them for your own good but don’t give them any value exchange for it. And so my view, Esther, is that while there is a privacy question involved in this, it will be mitigated as we are able to give people back something of value and exchange, whether it be data, knowledge, wisdom, something monetary, et cetera. So yeah, but absolutely, again, huge trend and very prescient of the Survey Analytics team for putting this on the webcast.

Esther LaVielle: Sounds great, thank you very much for that explanation. All right, let’s go ahead and move on to the next thing, which is HTML5.

That’s it for Part 3: Passive Data Collection.  The upcoming installments will cover the following topics: HTML5, mobile ethnography, and hyperlocal surveys.

Click This Link to Get the Webinar Video and Slides

About Dana Stanley

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


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