Mobile Research Conference – Day 1

Article formally published on the Globalpark blog.

The Mobile Research Conference 2011 in London provided a wealth of information to an audience mix of agency, brand and academic researchers – and the technology providers that make it possible. To distribute the lessons learned to an broader audience, will supply a number of articles about the event – here is one account from MRC attendee Natasha Allden)


The MRC got off to an inspirational start with Nathan Eagle, Founder of txtEagle, sharing  an innovative mobile solution to leverage emerging market insights.

As a member of MIT faculty having worked on mobile phone programming, in 2005 Nathan experienced Africa’s ‘mobile revolution’ firsthand by moving there to develop mobile applications to support the community. One day, a nurse came to the village Nathan was working in asking for help after a crash when the local hospital had depleted blood supplies and was struggling to cope. This occurred the following month and then the month after. Innovatively Nathan developed a tool that visualised blood bank levels for hospital staff, these were updated on a daily basis in response to SMS‘s received from nurses in the field. The success of this project was short-lived as it soon became apparent that nurses stopped sending SMS texts due to the cost – a modification was subsequently made that covered the cost of the text and gave 1-cent in airtime to say ‘thank you’ which made all the difference!

This was the starting point for txteagle; a mechanism to incentivise behaviour using airtime and maintain the margin for users. The compensation engine is now with over 230 mobile operators and has over 2.1 billion participants txtEagle has a global reach and client base including the United Nations. With 95% of users working on pre-paid only the model utilises this ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to build the worlds largest consumer database. SMS is a key tool however there is potential for different mobile routes (particularly if we see the introduction of $20 android phones), taking into consideration geography and status of the mobile phone to users. The mobile is the main channel for emerging markets and provides a unique route to access the inaccessible and gain insight.

We can look forward to more exciting projects from Nathan including the largest longitudinal cohort study of 500,000 people over a 5-10 year period which will give insight into consumption and hopes to mitigate future health risks in emerging countries.

Following Nathan’s keynote was a case study of the BSkyB launch of Sky Atlantic (Louise Sharp) – a brand new channel for existing sky customers – with Fiona Blades (MESH Planning). This exciting case study shows how mobile can be leveraged  to derive qualitative insight in real-time for a quick turnaround that provides continuous experience tracking to guide strategic and tactical development. Something that came across strongly in this presentation was that close collaboration in mobile research can enable a process driven research project not just one-off jobs.

The panel discussion on how to use mobile to access hard-to-reach audiences came next, led by Steven Belleghem (InSites Consulting) with Emanuel Maxl (Evolaris), Nathan Eagle (txtEagle), Alistair Hill (OnDevice Research) and Dr. Hannu Verkasalo (Zokem Ltd).

 Some of the key themes included the importance of context, how capability across different mobiles depends on handsets, geographies, age. Alistair highlighted the shift in behaviour which has seen 70-80% of the younger generation in the UK using mobile, followed by Hannu who expressed the importance of not just the phone as a platform but how the phones are being used. Throughout the debate Emmanuel raised the importance of acting ethically and maintaining standards and got the audience thinking about despite going to where the participants are, is this ‘interruption research’ method as participant-friendly as possible.

 Another key theme was gaming – with such a high uptake it was seen as a useful engagement tool however the majority of participants operate on social networks over mobile phones and this was seen as the immediate priority. Nathan’s earlier talk demonstrated how ‘excluded’ demographics in developing countries can be accessed by mobile, Hannu noted that incentivising participants be it airtime, vouchers or charitable giving is dependent upon the target segment. I see a strong overlap in the marketing approach to segmentation as with research recruiting, however there is the threat that mobile surveys are still a novelty, when online surveys 12 years ago saw 70% response rates whereas now barely 2%, panellists expressed the need to keep engaging participants in innovative ways to avoid this threat.

A number of barriers were identified when it came to companies adopting mobile technologies including lack of trust, question of representative samples and cost. Moving forward key points to take away were to

  • maintain honesty and provide explanations,
  • identify champions within organisations who want to be seen as innovators,
  • make sure other research methods aren’t abandoned,
  • make sure mobile is the right channel for the project, and
  • keep questions simple

 As mobile research really gathers pace we can look forward to advancements in B2B research that to date has gone overlooked.

Tiphaine Goisbeault of Mediametrie followed this talk up by again highlighting the important difference between desktop surveys and mobile surveys and tailoring to the different channel the recommendation here is to use a hybrid system that covers the flaws of the other and incorporate third parties (in this instance Keynetics) to compare log data and samples avoiding bias and further validating metrics.

Mediametrie measures audiences of audiovisual and interactive media in France. Their collaborative approach has helped develop a leading mobile research methodology. With collaboration from key partners to identify KPI’s and research tolerances. Findings from their research into mobile internet usage drove out some interesting statistics:

  • In 2 years growth from 26.1 to 35.5% (Q4, 2010) in mobile internet users in France. Currently results come in a quarterly basis hope to be on a monthly basis soon.
  • Portals, Search Engines and communication were top sites accessed via mobile, followed by telecom / internet services (very content rich in France unlike other countries), entertainment, news, electronics / computer science, travel, multi-product purchase / offer, corporate sites.
  • Google, Facebook, France Telecom Orange, SFR, Bouygues, Apple, Microsoft, Wikimedia, Twitter, were the top ten brand sites accessed via mobile.
  • 59.8% male to 40.2% to female
  • Students consume more than other social groups in blogs, music, search engines.

Next up: Sabine Stork (ThinkTank) and Polly Stevens (Hello! Magazine) with a rich media presentation that showed how mobile ethnography could be leveraged to gain valuable insight. Twelve Hello! Readers were closely briefed and developed in-depth videos taken on their mobile of their life and magazine reading behaviour. This was primarily done to differentiate Hello! From other ‘like’ magazines and was received well by agencies, in addition the insight gathered from empowering and developing intimate relationships with a segment of their target market gave insight into customer likes and dislikes.

Similar to observational research (although remote) it was time intensive, and consideration needed to be given to the loss of a control as a researcher, reluctance of participants to include other household members, a tendency to self construct and the inability for researchers to probe further. Sabine recommended combining mobile with other complementary methods as has been highlighted by previous speakers today.

Our final talk of the day came from Alex Osbaldeston and Radu Immenroth of Globalpark who re-iterated the two mega-trends of market research today: social and mobile. Facebooks sees 50% of users log in every day (40% of which are over 35 years old), email is declining and we are seeing people choosing how they wanted to be contacted, if it the survey was relevant to them, participants, typically, were happy to be approached.

Mobile and social are correlated with the latter driving the former, there has been a change in paradigm from ‘always on’ to ‘always in touch’ and from ‘recall’ to ‘moment of truth’. This is where Globalpark have come in with their innovative product Social Insight Connect (SIC). SIC operates on Facebook or applications and provides a full end-to-end customer experience within these applications that feed data directly to the back-end EFS panel software allowing organisations to access and analyse this essential data. The additional benefit of this development is that it encourages users to share rich content i.e. photos and messages above and beyond the incentivised surveys. Globalpark have successfully faced complexity, accepted confusion and taken the opportunity offered by these mega-trends.

In summary: This packed afternoon left one reeling with ideas and information, and there is still Tuesday to go, yet through all the data I drew some key insight in the form of five thoughts to take away from today:

  • Real-Time capability of mobile
  • Relevancy is important to users who are in a position to choose
  • Integrated (Cross-Channel) ensure research is contextualised
  • Collaboration with key partners, can leverage clear objectives and rich data
  • The importance of emerging markets and the gap visible in B2B mobile research.

Stay tuned for more contributions, and please share your opinions on the content! 

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