Customer surveys: Ignore mobile at your peril!

10th Aug 2011

Claire Sporton assesses the value of mobile devices as a customer survey channel.

It could be argued that the current rise of mobile as a new survey channel mirrors the introduction of online surveys more than 10 years back. But whilst the adoption of any new channel certainly raises similar issues, this is where the comparison should end.
Switching from paper or phone to online surveys was something that research providers could consciously choose to do or not to do. Respondents were either offered online as an option, or they weren’t, the researcher had control.
The difference now is that the choice between mobile versus web is not in the hands of the researcher but in the hands of the respondent. 10 years ago, web meant PC but today for many, web means mobile. 
In 2007, 87% of mobile customers were not on line but by 2011, 80% of mobile customers were online.
Currently 200 million of the 2 billion phones purchased by consumers are smartphones. In 3-5 years it is estimated that there will be 1 billion smartphones globally.
So the beautifully designed survey which is impactful when viewed on the pc in the office potentially is not what will be seen by your audience.  It’s therefore critical to remember that the new breed of ‘super consumer’ expects to be engaged with in an interactive and dynamic manner. Having to zoom in to view a survey on your mobile and then constantly scroll to view the page is simply not good enough.
Organisations that want to derive the greatest benefit from the mobile survey channel will need to ensure that surveys are automatically rendered into a format that takes advantage of the user friendly interface provided by the latest mobile devices - from the iPhone, Blackberry, Android to other smartphones.
Given that we cannot ignore mobile - because our customers will be making that decision – what are the advantages of embracing it as a channel?
New audiences
The ability to engage via mobile is giving us access to key demographics which previously were difficult or impossible to access, specifically:
  • Young people .
  • respondents from emerging markets such as India, Latin America and China.
  • Busy business people.
  • Through use of QR codes, the tech savvy and consumers who have not provided contact details. 
New research options
In addition to improving respondent experience, mobile opens up a new world of opportunity. For example,  mobile gives the option to request feedback directly after an experience and  geolocation  opens up a world of opportunities enabling you  to track exactly where the respondent was at the time of answering. 

New access opportunities

Peoples working lives are changing - we are all “time poor”. Respondents are less likely to complete surveys sitting at their PC either at home or in the office, preferring to use their commuting time or other dead time in the day to complete a survey whilst on the move.
The latest figures from the Confirmit On-Demand/SaaS site shows that we are already seeing the move from the PC to the mobile channel. The numbers are still small but in a 6 month period we have seen a 60%+  increase in respondents opening survey links from mobile devices, from 2.32% In December 2010 to 3.81%. In June 2011, Whilst percentages seem small, in reality this means in the month of June, over ¼ million Confirmit surveys were accessed via mobile devices in US alone.
Alongside the opportunities there are of course risks, we need to be wary of sample bias and understand the implications of differences in response due to channel. But overall the biggest risk surely is that completion rates nose dive because we have not created a rich user experience that consumers have come to expect from the mobile environment, dramatically reducing survey reach and missing out on the exciting new opportunities mobile surveys provides to enhance our understanding of our customers.

Claire Sporton is director of enterprise feedback at Confirmit.

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