As an analyst, my job is to examine the emerging research methodology landscape and see what trends are evolving and how market insights professionals are leveraging and integrating these new techniques into their research toolkit. While this type of research is extremely enjoyable, every now and then I am lucky enough to be able to get my hands dirty and play with some of these methodologies. This time around, I got to play with passive mobile behavioral measurement data.

Similar to online behavior tracking, mobile behavior tracking passively records the activities that consumers perform on their mobile phone. With this data, you are able to know, for example, how many inbound and outbound texts are made, when and for how long a person uses an app like Facebook, or how many megabytes of data they downloaded or uploaded. Vendors that provide this tool include Arbitron Mobile, comScore’s MobiLens product, Research Now Mobile (formerly iPinion), and RealityMine (a spin-off company from Lumi Mobile).

In our study, we partnered with Arbitron Mobile to track 195 UK smartphone owners over the course of two months in late 2011. And, to provide context to this behavioral data, we also had the respondents complete an online survey that captured demographic and psychographic information as well as attitudes to and behaviors focused on social media and mobile activities. We got some very interesting insights. For example, these consumers spent 29 hours per month on their mobile phone; women spent more time using Facebook, both via the app and via the website, than men — 8.9 hours versus 3.1 hours. And, we found that certain psychographic statements like “Having access to the mobile Internet is critical to me” significantly influence the amount of time spent on a mobile phone even when controlling for demographics like age, gender, and income.

What did I learn from this experience? I learned several things, but the critical one is this — do not fall prey to the “shiny new object” syndrome. Having the opportunity to work with behavioral data was exciting. However, while behavioral data in and of itself is great, it only becomes really powerful when you incorporate context, such as the qualitative insights that provide the “why” behind the behavior. Market researchers’ success is not measured by how many different and sometimes very cool data sources they use. Rather, their success lies in how they integrate them and weave them into a story that provides an accurate and enlightening glimpse into the lives of consumers.

What do you think? Can you see yourself incorporating mobile behavioral measurement in your research?

Clients can access the report “A Month In The Life: How UK SuperConnecteds Use Their Mobile Phones” here.