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Merchants should use mobile to find out about target consumers: study

July 13, 2010

Sean Conry is vice president at Techneos

Sean Conry is vice president at Techneos

The mobile medium offers various channels that are ideal for collecting information about merchants’ and marketers’ target consumers, including SMS, the mobile Web and applications.

Survey-based market research company Ipsos and survey software provider Techneos are working together to pilot new technologies and applications for mobile research.

Their latest project called “The Great British Weekend” was conducted during the May 2010 Bank Holiday long weekend using Techneos’ survey research application, service-oriented development of applications (SODA) across multiple mobile phones, including Nokia and BlackBerry devices.

“[Marketers and merchants should] start making it easier for their customers to tell you what they think, where and when it’s important to them, and do it now,” said Sean Conry, vice president at Techneos, Vancouver, BC. “Mobile is the perfect channel for learning from your marketplace because it helps you to get anytime-everywhere feedback.

“You’ll be blown away by what you learn,” he said. “Researchers normally prescribe when we want people to provide their feedback to us—it’s traditionally a ‘push’ approach where we email you when we want to hear from you.

“However, in this method, we enabled people to tell us their opinions when and where it was important to them.”

Ipsos is a global survey-based market research company.

Techneos provides mobile survey, customer and enterprise feedback, panel, ethnography and digital diary services to Fortune 500 firms, global market research organizations, government and academic institutions worldwide.

Great mobile surveys
The “Great British Weekend” is a study inspired by how people use their mobile phone in their everyday life.

The project enabled participants to provide anytime, anywhere feedback and allowed Ipsos to understand a day in the life of its panelists and answer the question: “What’s happening right now?”

This project incorporated the use of a new mobile research technique that combines surveys with multiple choice, sliding scale, open text, the capture of pictures and GPS locations to understand people’s lives, moods, environments and decisions.

“To our knowledge, it’s also the first time  ‘rich’ mobile surveys that go beyond simple questions and answers—incorporating photo capture and GPS tracking—have been deployed via apps across multiple mobile phone makes—Nokia and BlackBerry,” Mr. Conry said.

Mr. Conry said that marketers, merchants and researchers can leverage the concept and results of this study to dive deeper into just about any consumer segment.

The mobile medium proved to be a great tool allowing participants to express themselves, according to Ipsos and Techneos.

When the companies followed up with participants, 97 percent said they enjoyed it, 97 percent thought it was interesting and 100 percent would participate again.

“We learned that people love to show you pictures of the food they eat and the media they consume,” Mr. Conry said.

“But overall, we found that combining GPS with photos and traditional survey questions helps you understand so much more about a consumer’s life patterns and habits, and gives you incredible confidence in your data,” he said.

Mr. Conry said that this new technique made the researchers challenge their stereotypes of consumer segments they thought they had figured out decades ago.

“Typically, researchers are worried about certain segments like teenagers, being inaccessible for research by any other means and so we look to mobile phones as a possible new channel for market insight,” Mr. Conry said.

“We had some preconceptions about who would participate and what we would learn,” he said. “Some came true, but two unique examples really stand, out challenging preconceptions.”

The researchers came across many unique day-in-the life mobile diary entries, including a tech-savvy grandma who used the BlackBerry application in between looking after her granddaughter and checking Facebook.

Additionally, there was a stay-at-home mom who stayed out playing cards until 5:30 a.m. after attending a Hell’s Angels funeral.

“Both of these individuals represent consumer segments we thought we had figured out ages ago that blew our preconceived notions away by providing whole new insights,” Mr. Conry said.

“It only happened because we were able to make research more personal, portable and relevant,” he said.

Final take
Dan Butcher, Mobile Commerce Daily

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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