When I came back from holiday last week and looked at my mail, I was delighted to see that the most recent issue of Research World (the ESOMAR magazine) had a number of articles on mobile research. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, mobile research has really won me over (see also my report, The Challenges And Opportunities Of Mobile Research for full details). The “anytime, anywhere” aspect of the mobile phone, combined with people's emotional attachment to it, makes it an ideal device for people to share their thoughts and opinions in a research context.
When reading the articles in Research World, however, I feel that the industry is missing out on a great opportunity. The emphasis of the conversation here is on mobile research's methodological challenges, such as sampling, guidelines, and research bias. I agree that there are still some hurdles to overcome with regards to representation, costs, technology, and privacy, but I believe market researchers shouldn't get too caught up in these but should instead embrace mobile phones as a new research channel and look for innovative research approaches.
The last thing the industry should do is repeat what it did with the first 10 years of Internet research — copying long pen-and-paper surveys into a new channel. I believe that mobile Internet research can significantly change the way that research is conducted: Immediacy will become the standard, and results will be based on a 360-degree view of people's behavior. Questions like "Which of the following brands have you bought in the past three months?" will disappear. Instead, mobile research will give insight into respondents' actual buying behavior in the past week, including pictures, videos, in-store satisfaction surveys, and product reviews.
Market researchers need to think out of the box and come up with innovative ways to conduct research through mobile phones. As an industry, we should keep a close eye on how social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and foursquare are experimenting with mobile applications to engage their users on the go, and we should copy some of the successful elements to our research tool box.
Do you agree that we should loosen up a bit about the methodological challenges that mobile provides and should focus instead on the great opportunities that it can offer? Let me know!