Surveys that use smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly popular and unavoidable. They make it possible to reach respondents who have become “invisible” to the other means of data collection. They represent a new challenge, but also bring great opportunities to the table. You don’t conduct a survey on mobile devices as you do with more “classical” collection means. Here are some tips that will help you to become aware of these differences and to imagine how far your mobile surveys may lead you.
The first lesson is about the relationship that respondents have with their smartphone and, to a lesser extent, their tablet. The cell phone is one of the objects with which we have the greatest bond of personal attachment: we always have it on us, we customize it, we share practically all of our private life with it and, most of the time, we take good care of it.
This commitment is reinforced by the pattern of consumption of smartphone services, or applications. To install an app on your phone is like inviting someone into your home. It’s the equivalent of giving a not so restricted access to your intimate space. It is accepting to constantly look down upon the logo of a brand that you accept in your circle of trust. For the application user, it is the creation of a direct link with your company.
This trust must be maintained. Otherwise, the sanction will be brutal: your application will be deleted and the link broken in symbolic (you are no longer visible) and practical ways (the respondent cannot answer your studies).
The key elements that will maintain this privileged link are the following:
1. Simple and effective applications, as well as short questionnaires (no more than 5 minutes). Unlike the Web, you don’t “surf” in an application. You open it, access a service or information, and then close it. The cycle is very fast and rarely exceeds a few minutes, but may instead be repeated frequently. It is thus also possible to question respondents more regularly.
2. A presentation that is optimized for mobile use. Do not try to reproduce your Web questionnaires in a mobile version. Instead, reduce the amount of displayed data, be concise. If you have many things to say in a question, try to divide it into several sub-questions. Also try to keep each question on a single page, but be aware that it will never be guaranteed, because the presentation will be different depending on the terminals. There always comes a point where the user will have to scroll down to see the different answers. In that case, consider mixing your answer choices to limit bias.
3. A response mode adapted to mobile. Limit the amount of text input by the respondent. On smart phones, there are many other ways to gather information: selection in lists, choice of date from a calendar, photo taking, automatic geolocation, etc. Thus, if you already have access to the information, do not ask for it again, except if absolute imperative validation is needed. Use the known data of the respondents to skip unnecessary questions and go straight to the point.
4. Solicitation mode: a phone is primarily a personal tool. Respondents can often be uncomfortable answering a questionnaire about their personal tastes when they’re at work, or a questionnaire about their work during the weekend. Try to match your invitations with periods adapted to your respondents’ schedules. These invitations can take the form of “push” notifications. These are considered less intrusive and generate much better returns than emails. Use this function to solicit respondents more efficiently, and to invite or remind them about a pending invitation.
5. Proactive questionnaires. Offer questionnaires in which the respondents decide when to answer, at the frequency of their choosing. Rather than offering a questionnaire on the last movie they’ve seen, offer them the ability to give their opinion whenever they leave the movie theatre… Respondents always have their phone at hand and are better able to judge if they can or want to answer a survey. Remind them periodically through “push” alerts, if needed.
6. 100% mobile features. Ask your users to take photos or videos to illustrate what they’re saying, allow them to send voice comments, etc. All these features make the questionnaires more attractive and will allow respondents to be more involved. They will also allow you to extract more information, if you have the tools to exploit them.
7. Instant feedback. On smartphones, applications are used to obtain a result quickly. The simplicity of the questionnaire is important, but so is the feedback that the respondent gets at the end of a survey. The user could receive such a feedback, allowing him to appreciate the time he or she took to answer: results of the latest survey on the subject, recalling the points earned (in the case of a panel), discount coupon, exclusive content, etc.
Keep these things in mind when setting up your mobile studies and adapt them to your own context. There is no single recipe, but a multitude of ingredients that can be used to build an effective solution for your needs.
Mobile surveys should be seen as a way of collecting data in their own right, offering exceptional opportunities by redefining the relationship you have with your respondents. The technology is still new and evolving really fast, and its uses remain largely to be invented.
Imagination is a must in order to allow your studies to take their place, and especially keep it, on the respondents’ telephones.
Have a good summer!