Mobile survey

How to conduct successful customer surveys over mobile

17th Aug 2017
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Unless you’re part of the lucky 10,000, you’ll no doubt be aware of some of the more commonly cited mobile usage statistics in circulation.

However, here’s a recap: There are currently around 4.5 billion mobile phone users across the globe. In the US, 78.7% of this demographic are smartphones users, whilst in Western Europe this figure is 71.7%, but accelerating fast.   

Perhaps most significantly, this means our digital footprints are predominantly derived from our mobile use, as a 2017 global comScore study highlights (click to enlarge):

comScore mobile usage

As a result of this shift, surveying customers is increasingly becoming a mobile requirement. Survey Monkey stats back this up - around three in 10 surveys are conducted on a mobile phone in the US, whilst internationally, this figure rises to five in 10.

Yet many brands who consider themselves part of the digital vanguard have failed to match the delivery with the demand.

“In the age of, instant gratification has become a way of life,” says customer insight provider, Questback. “We search for, evaluate, and often buy products and services online, without ever setting foot outside the door. On the occasion we do wander into a retail store or an office, we come well prepared with research, comparison data, and feedback from other customers.

“The way we shop and buy products and services has changed, but a significant number of companies have not updated their customer surveys to meet this change in the marketplace.”

Design thinking

Producing successful, engaging surveys for mobile requires a shift in rationale. At the design stage, this can mean abandoning some universal best practices.    

“Grid questions are some of the most commonly used in marketing research,” says Allyson Kuper, a consultant at Bug Insights, in an article for Quirk’s review.

“From a data collection perspective, this is intended to be a very efficient way of collecting opinions from respondents. Survey participants must only view the scale once and can simply go row-by-row answering each of the questions on the same page.

“The big problem is that grid questions are simply not working as a data collection method. The format is nearly impossible to view effectively on smaller-screened devices… As mobile users increase, it will become more important to have content that is perfectly suited to these devices. For researchers, this means it must be formatted for the screen to allow for a respondent-friendly survey experience. If the user is required to scroll horizontally and vertically, they will more likely abandon the survey.”

Mobile surveys grid format

In 2014, alongside colleague Tim Glowa, Kuper tested just how repellent grid questions were, finding that survey-takers are three times more likely to abandon surveys when they reach a grid question relative to other question types.

Whilst mobile responsive tools such as Survey Monkey and TypeForm are becoming more prevalent – alleviating some of the grid issues – other design concerns are often hampering a customers’ capacity to finish surveys sent to them by brands.

Open-ended questions: Whilst gleaning a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data can be more effective in terms of obtaining more actionable insight, open-ended questions can be frustrating for mobile users, due to the laborious nature of having to type answers on smaller smartphone keyboards.    
Number of questions: As with surveying on any digital channel, the longer a survey is, the fewer people complete it. However, as stated in comScore’s 2017 mobile hierarchy of needs report, our mobile usage is becoming ever-increasingly flippant, suggesting that surveys designed for smartphone devices require even more brevity than other digital channels.  
Multimedia overload: As stated in a Survey Monkey blog, embedding multimedia such as logos, images and video may capture the attention of survey respondents, but come with load time and data usage that can create frustration and ultimately, survey abandonment.

Time to experiment?   

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts in this series, timing and relevancy are the two overriding factors determining a successful surveying process. For mobile devices, this means capturing feedback in the moment, and can often mean thinking outside of the box when it comes to gaining the attention of your customers.  

“One method that is gaining traction is pushing invitations to customers via beacons to an app, in businesses where this is possible,” says James Bolle, head of client services at InMoment. “This can be ultra-personalised and ultra-relevant. We have one client who is pushing invitations to customers after they know they've been in their store.

“We have also seen increases in the number of brands that are incorporating feedback requests into payment apps. Many clients are now using Wi-Fi login details to know when you're in their locations, and push invitations accordingly.”

Other areas of experimentation including via messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and Twitter, where brands can lean on polls and DM requests to glean feedback. In contrast, the tried and tested method of using SMS for surveys still accounts for open rates of over 90%, according to a Dynmark report, but cannot guarantee as high a rate of response as messaging app services, which command interaction from the customer from the outset.    

“In general, talk to the customer in the way they want,” Bolle adds. “If you know your customer's contact preferences, use them. If you don't, then mirror the way they contacted you. This should include newer ways of asking for feedback, such as those mentioned above.

“It's important when trying to understand journeys online that you are not intrusive or disruptive at key points. Never ask questions when someone is about to click "Buy". However you invite customers to provide feedback, if you ask the customer stupid questions, or provide onerous, long surveys, it doesn't matter as you'll get poor data.

“Make sure you incorporate data from different sources so that you don't have to ask customers for stuff you should already know. Don't ask them to rate your processes - do they know about them, do they care? Ask them about their experiences.”

As Questback states, ultimately, success with mobile surveys circles back to how effective your data strategy is.

“Real-time data makes a powerful difference in customer experience as having this data enables the organisation to create a climate that makes each customer’s experience positive and productive. The right data can help make customers stick around for years to come.

Data needs to be aggregated across customer touch points including chat logs, emails, call centre recordings, social media comments/interaction, how they respond to promotions and more.

“With the right data your team will have a holistic view and then tools need to be in place for you to slice, dice and then report on the metrics that matter to your business.”

But the key, says Kuper, is to always ensure you test every hypothesis you may have.

“The audience may play a large part in determining whether or not mobile use will be relevant. For example, if you are targeting a demographic such as millennials or workers in the technology industry, mobile usage will likely be much higher and you need to design and test accordingly.

“Do a pre-test with a subset of the target population. This will help to determine likelihood of mobile usage, the effectiveness of mobile survey functionality and will identify if there is a need for refinement prior to going live.”


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