The 5 Questions about Mobile I Wish I Heard More from Clients

April 15th, 2016 by Kelly


It’s no surprise that mobile usage continues to rise, 68% of adults own a smartphone, which has nearly doubled in the past 4 years according to 2015 PEW Research. Only among 2 demographic groups is that not the majority – adults 65+ (30%) and those without a high school education (41%)Several groups are more likely to only use their smartphone for internet access including young adults, low income, less educated and non-whites. We don’t even reference the fact that 89% of adults are online anymore because it’s really all about mobile.

- Michael Link, chief methodologist for Nielsen

And when it comes to market research, 35% or more (depending on the audience) are now completing online surveys from a mobile device – so in the near future, it will be the majority.  From a survey taking experience perspective, the length, format and design dramatically impacts the respondent’s interest in completing – along with data quality/representativeness. Given the facts, what should clients be asking about the impact of mobile on their market research?


1. Should we optimize for mobile?

Yes, it needs to be responsive and adjust the layout based on the device/screen. Otherwise you will be discouraging the majority of survey takers from completing your survey. If two out of five people are potentially responding to your survey invite before a cup of coffee, help them out.

coffee kid

2. Should we make surveys shorter?

Yes, absolutely. Studies have already shown the impact of survey length on completion rates (think cost) and quality of data (think representativeness). And frankly that was an issue long before mobile but is much more heightened now. Keep it to 10 minutes or less if possible. “But what about our 40 minute brand tracking study we have had in place forever?” It’s time to re-assess the questions, ask only the most valuable and make it modular. You might actually be able to ask more by breaking it up – ask the key measures each time and rotate those least likely to change or less essential topics.


3. Could it be more expensive?

It’s possible. Everyone expects things to be faster and cheaper online compared to other methods but the panel providers have their work cut out for them to compete for quality and timely respondents. And optimizing for mobile has an expense too. You may want to question the bid that comes in much lower than all the others. Cheaper is not always better especially if you want to reach a representative audience in a reasonable timeframe.


4. How should the survey design be different?

Its best to keep it simple to get respondents to complete and accurately answer the questions. Grids, complex scales, too many response choices and open ends are more likely to divert their attention to something else or just give up all together.


5. Given the hype about mobile, does that mean we should abandon telephone surveys all together?

No it doesn’t – but you should be asking if the sample includes cell phones as well as random digit dialing. Almost half of the population, if not more depending on your audience, relies exclusively on their cell phone and doesn’t have a landline anymore.