How to Adapt Your Online Study to Mobile

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How to Adapt Your Online Study to Mobile

Before you begin to adapt your online study to mobile, it is worth considering if there is a valid research reason for the switch.

The use of mobile is one of the most exciting and dynamically changing aspects of market research today. Like the move to online data collection in the late 1990s, best practices for mobile surveys are still being developed. In the meantime, many clients and agencies have either experimented with mobile or are eager to conduct pilot studies.

So when is conducting a mobile study appropriate? It boils down to two considerations: methodology and sampling.



Consumers today are almost always with their smartphones, making it invaluable for capturing respondent insights 'in-the-moment' while they are traveling, shopping, exploring, experiencing or purchasing. Specifically, mobile is well suited for:

  • In-Home Usage Tests: Mobile can simplify the process by getting respondents to purchase products themselves and only incentivizing those who fully complete the study. The smartphone then allows easy capture of usage through both structured questions and media uploads.
  • In-Store Shop Along: Mobile gives researchers the opportunity to get immediate feedback on product packaging, placement, pricing, and promotion. The addition of location-based data and photo geo-validation adds to the credibility of the data.
  • Diary Studies: Smartphones are used to manage consumers' daily lives and tasks, making them excellent tools for diary studies. The average U.S. consumer checks his or her smartphone 46 times a day, providing ample opportunity to message respondents and keep participation rates high.


Sample Reach

These days there are certain demographics and global regions that are much more efficiently reached via mobile. Perhaps needless to say, younger consumers are much easier to survey via mobile, but also consider mobile for global initiatives. In Asia and other emerging countries, mobile ownership continues to grow and is often the primary means for accessing the internet.

In addition to better reaching younger consumers and more effectively sampling certain regions, mobile respondents tend to be newer to survey participation. Also since it still somewhat of a novelty, participation rates are generally higher. All of these factors contribute to better, and often more thoughtful, data.


Adapting Your Online Study to Mobile

While there are many benefits to mobile, it does take work and thought to properly utilize the platform. Think about adapting your study in four key areas:

1) Text

Given the interface, it is important to edit the length of all text. Instructions need to be brief and on point. Even more than online, content load times are crucial, and slow rendering surveys will lead to high respondent dissatisfaction and lower completion rates. Google recommends: “… deliver and render the above the fold (ATF) content in under one second, which allows the user to begin interacting with the page as soon as possible.”

Also, avoid overly formal ‘research’ language. While you should never compromise good question design, try to make the feel a bit more casual and inviting. This will ultimately aid in comprehension and understanding, which is key to good research.

2) Question Types

This is an area where mobile is most limited versus online research. Anything that requires excessive scrolling or pinch and expand generally won’t work. This means that large blocks of attributes and grids are out. Also presenting stimuli can be limiting. That being said, streaming content can often be presented successfully.

While some question types won’t work, there are other tools that are well suited to mobile, such as uploading photos and videos. These are activities that can add real depth to your study and capture the true emotions of your respondent. In mobile research, a picture can quite literally take the place of a thousand words.

3) User Interface

Keep the design as clean as possible by avoiding unnecessary graphic clutter. Logos, headers, footers, etc. should all be eliminated. In general, mobile surveys should be limited to about eight to 10 minutes, so you can also eliminate the progress bar that is standard on online surveys. Drop-down menus should also be avoided as they are difficult to use in mobile.

4) Add-ons

In addition to the specific methodologies that are particularly suited to online, mobile offers some unique capabilities. This includes passive data collection, which allows the capture of information on location, app installation and usage, and ad exposure. Respondents can also be asked to verify their location via photos for out-of-home studies.

Lastly, it is important to work with your research vendor to pre-test the user experience. A good mobile survey platform should be optimized for both Apple and Android OS, but it is still crucial to make sure questions and responses download quickly, render properly, and that responses can be easily selected.


Final Thoughts

While not all study types are suited for mobile, the methodology has numerous benefits. Remember, what you give up in question type and survey length when adapting your online study to mobile, you make up in immediacy, depth, emotion, and quality.

Due to advances in mobile device technology and widespread adaption of mobile phones for online access, especially in Asia, mobile research has become a powerful tool for market researchers to harness. If you want to know more about mobile research, how to enhance your methodology toolbox, and Asia mobile panels, check out our Mobile Research Essentials page.

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