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Mobile-based Market Research

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Past & present

The 5th research method after paper, person, phone & PC? Most typically these self-led mobile methods involve surveys, interviews or diaries conducted via Mobile Apps, Mobile Web, SMS/MMS and sometimes Voice Memos. 

The method has been around as long as mobile data has been generated by mobile devices, but really began with the rise in SMS messaging in the 90’s. Some might say it’s 20 years old ! FYI: Our first trials were in 1999 with UK Mobile Network One2One. 

Eventually Smartphones catalysed the channel as a method in its own right, with true internet capabilities and the development of Apps. In the past SMS and “WAP” (early mobile web) Market Research failed to take-off, as these lacked true benefits to researchers and brands versus other methods and given the skew in audience, clunky mechanism, and costs to respondents. 

Nowadays, Mobile-based MR is reaching a zenith given the channel’s prevalence, relevance and advantages versus more traditional (and old fashioned?) ways. 

More on the drivers of Mobile-based MR follows…

Drivers of mobile MR

Mobile can really work if these 5 R’s meet your needs. 

Relevance & fit


Response Speed & Real-Time

Really handy

Rich Media

Always on instant insight 

Location, location, location 

Relevant real-time research 

Anytime, anyplace, anywhere 

In the moment/emotion/mouthful 

A multi-channel multi-media method

Options & opportunities

A multi-channel channel in itself 

Many methods within the method 


With mobile you are not limited to one or two options, but many. 

Qual or Quant? Online of Offline? 

Survey or Diary? Text only or multi-media? 

Mobile App or Mobile Web or SMS Survey? 

Data only, or Image/Video/Voice Capture? 

Quant: short surveys, quick polls, ad hoc, panels, tracking, etc. 

Qual: TXT-depths, Vox-Mobs, Life Diaries, Ethnography/ images/video, etc. 


Relevance… Increasingly fitting to more and more audiences/topics/brands. Reach… The ubiquitous ever-present mobile wins hands down. Real-time… The fastest response, quick-fire research is here. Really Handy… If well designed, very convenient for respondents & brands. EnRiched Insight… Not just text and numbers but images, video and voice!


Short & Sweet Not Always 

The Best Substitute for 

Depth & Detail 

Biggest Barriers for Mobile MR 

Irrelevance… a bad fit for audience, brand or topic may need to be avoided 

Technical… a multitude of devices and browsers to be considered/tested 

Psychological… concerns for brands and respondents needs to be overcome 

Over-long/complex surveys… an industry issue, even more so for Mobile ! 

International variations… for usage, devices, networks and regulations 

Check and plan for the above. 

Get help if required. 

Mobile quant

Quant: When you need numbers for precise measurement and confidence in results 

Main Options for Mobile Quant 

1/. SMS/Text Surveys 


Usually an initial opt-in/ permission question sent to database/panel 

Questions & Answers pre-scripted, open or closed/ framed 

Replies can be paid for by agency/supplier (free for respondent) 

Works well for CustSat where relevant brand/event/ moment and/or where audience has free time (e.g. during a ferry crossing) 

Response can initially be very fast, although “a long-tail” 

2/. Mobile Web 

Survey invite displayed to user on relevant mobile web page 

Works well for mobile website UX/Sat surveys and for audience understanding 

3/. Dedicated Mobile Survey Apps/Panels/Communities 

Survey experience can be richer and longer and more complex versus web/SMS 

Usually deployed with opt-in panellists (existing or mobile only) 

Make your own (DIY) and Panel/Agency Owned App Services 

Apps can collect data even when offline (and upload later) 

4/. Surveys Embedded Into Apps (like adverts) 

Quick fire surveys built into App experiences 

Look like adverts to start, but follow a simple Q&A survey approach 

Mobile qual

Qual: When you need depth, detail and diagnosis 

Main Options for Mobile Qual 

1/. Text Depths 

Open-ended text conversations between researcher and selected respondents 

2/. Vox Mobs 

Capture and delivery of video opinions using mobile’s camera 

Utilising pre-screened or recruited respondents 

3/. Mobile Diaries & Journals 

Using Apps or Regular Surveys 

Capture behaviour and in-the-moment feelings/ moods/emotions 

Randomised or event-driven 

Can be 24/7 or select periods 

4/. Mobile Ethnography 

Study of people and cultures in “real life” 

Discovery not measurement 

Mobile enables capture of images/video/voice-descriptions of events/ moments/experiences/ life on an ongoing non-intrusive basis

and finally...

Memorise The Mobile MR Mantra…

Check – Ensure mobile method fits with audience/topic/brand 

Constrict – Keep Surveys Short & Simple. 

Engage – Engaging (Reassuring) Invites (+ opt-in). 

Entice – Meaningful Incentives/Rewards. 

Retain – Keep Respondents Engaged (flow and above). 

Plan – Plan and work around country variations. 

Get help – Consider & work with best (technical/panel) partners. 


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