There has been much debate about the future of mobile research taking place in various MR forums, regarding the uptake and usability of mobile research, including this recent blog by Reg Baker on Research Live
However, when it comes to surveys, we have found that research participants themselves are already forging a way ahead.
In a recent 16 question customer satisfaction survey by Intersperience for a company whose customer base has a lower than average ownership of mobile devices, we found that at least 16% of respondents responded via some sort of mobile device (whether phone or dongle) – this included 4% who completed the survey on a Blackberry.
Further, users of our online research platforms are increasingly accessing communities and panels of which they are member on their phones. Smartphones also allow our research team and our clients to access communities wherever they are.
Increasingly, ‘the internet’ means ‘mobile’ to younger people – who don’t see a distinction between online and offline, mobile internet and non-mobile internet, so this trend is set to increase further.
This raises two considerations:
1) User experience:
We need to make the experience of using online surveys and communities mobile friendly as a matter of priority as we may be losing participants whose main form of access to the internet is via mobile. This is particularly important for the hard-to-reach 18-25 age group.
This means thinking about the layout of online surveys, the styles of questions asked and the length. The amount of time spent browsing on mobile internet is much shorter than on other devices, although this is gradually increasing.
2) Validity of responses:
When we’re writing online surveys, there is often an underlying assumption from the researcher that the participant is sitting at home in a relatively peaceful environment, using a laptop or PC to provide considered feedback on a given topic.
We know that situation (especially physical surroundings, time and task) affects perception of service. For mobile, that situation is “unstable” and less fixed.
When participants start completing surveys on the mobile web, our assumptions are challenged. We can be less certain in our assumptions about where they are, who they are with and how much time they have to complete the task. Therefore, we need to think more deeply about how people are answering our surveys and whether their responses are valid.