I’ve blogged before about the benefits and drawbacks of mobile MROCs, but an article today in Research by Reg Baker got me thinking about it once again. Reg has some great points in his article, so I thought I would share my thoughts here, and discuss the implications for mobile market research online communities (MROCs).
On the expense of data plans…
I absolutely agree with Reg on this point. With many research projects being global in scope (and communities following in this trend), the cost of accessing a mobile survey or MROC could be substantial depending on the data plan a participant has and how they are charged for that data. In a mobile MROC in particular, there is more multimedia content that is necessary to download, leading to higher data usage by participants. Of course, we can always bump honorariums to help users pay for the extra data, but it’s a point to consider nonetheless. I’m lucky to be grandfathered into an AT&T data plan that gives me unlimited data for a decent price, but many other smartphone users around the world aren’t nearly as lucky.
On the point of ‘less than expected’
I think this is the best point in Reg’s article. In many cases, clients expect a lot more than simple survey responses. This is especially true in online qualitative research, where clients are used to in-depth, thoughtful responses to moderator-led conversations. While some people can write small novels with their thumbs, others are much more of the one-word response variety. Early tests we’ve done indicate it’s much more of the latter than the former. For many, it’s too time consuming and difficult to write lengthy responses or create new content on a mobile device. Instead, many use smartphones for content consumption. In the realm of qualitative research, this is far less useful.
On ‘set to divert’
I can’t speak to the survey side of mobile research quite like Reg can, but when I look to mobile MROCs in particular I see similar questions and challenges. For example, just because participants like playing Angry Birds and checking in on their Facebook friends doesn’t necessarily mean that giving them mobile access to a mobile MROC means they will contribute more content or become more engaged. Of course, giving them more channels to participate isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we just have to be careful to understand the unique role of mobile and how it fits in with the overall research objectives. I’m seeing a lot of the “shiny new toy” syndrome as I look around and see how mobile is being used.
In re-reading this post I realize it sounds like I’m bashing mobile research. That’s not my intent at all… I’m the first to look for new cool technology to incorporate into research (in fact, that’s my role at PluggedIN). I should also mention that I’ve been wrong before when it comes to new data collection tools/techniques (see also: PluggedIN’s experiment with running research studies in Second Life). However, I get the feeling that mobile MR is the solution looking for a problem. Someone want to prove me wrong (please)?