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The Essential Considerations for Implementing Mobile Panels

The development of effective, engaging and succinct mobile surveys is crucial as the MR industry moves to adopt mobile research, and hopefully you found our best practices recommendations useful.

Let’s turn the attention to implementing mobile panels – an equally critical factor in the expansion to mobile MR. Panels have been instrumental in market research since the industry went online more than a decade ago. Now, as we move into the next decade, their value will either grow or atrophy depending on whether or not researchers succeed in offering panelists a rich and engaging mobile experience.

Panelists now receive email, and thus survey invitations, on their mobile devices, and they may already be accessing surveys intended for PC interaction from their phones. The missing puzzle piece is to bring their panelist websites to their mobile devices as well. Kinesis President Leslie Townsend provided an informative and forward-thinking article in Quirk’s magazine that addresses the issues surrounding mobile panel adoption. She believes, and the rest of us at Kinesis agree, that the expansion to mobile (or even better – multimode) panelist websites is essential to the progression of market research.

For in this multimode world, mobile device users increasingly expect that the websites they visit via their PCs will also be highly functional via their mobile phones, and panelist portals are no different. However, due to technology and device size limitations, it is unrealistic to expect that all online portal functionality can be easily replicated in the mobile environment. Therefore, below are some essential considerations for implementing mobile or multimode panels.

First, a decision must be made regarding what types of mobile devices to support. Obviously smartphones provide much deeper functionality than feature phones (although feature phones are currently being utilized quite effectively in mobile market research). Then there are the tablets and Netbooks that blur the distinction between PC and mobile device. Many believe it to be advantageous to optimize panelist websites for smartphones, since these represent the preponderance of mobile browsers and offer panelists a highly dynamic and engaging experience. However, our own analysis of mobile traffic indicates that there are still a significant number of survey-takers using feature phones, and the region and type of panel will often dictate the requirements around device type.

Second, it is critical to identify the features most commonly used on the panelist websites and confirm that those can be replicated for the mobile portal. Functionality for registration with double opt-in, lost password retrieval, and the ability to check and redeem incentives are probably must-haves. Panelists who use both their PC and mobile device to interact on the portal will likely find the mobile site frustrating if it does not offer the features that they use most frequently — and frustration can quickly turn into disengagement.

Another consideration is how mobile device usage affects profiler design. Profilers deemed short and easy to complete in terms of PC interaction may still be too long or difficult to complete via a mobile phone. Functionality that isn’t commonly supported by mobile devices (Flash, JavaScript, tables, etc.) should be avoided as well.

Device detection technology is highly recommended. You may have some projects that simply do not render to a majority of mobile devices (such as a card sorting exercise, or a survey that requires large amounts of text input). In these instances it will be necessary to restrict access to these the surveys from the mobile portal.  This can be achieved by utilizing automated device detection for incoming respondents, so ensure your portal platform offers this functionality.

Panelist recruitment is also a key consideration. If you are building a mobile panel, or recruiting new panelists to an existing online panel via their mobile phones, they could possibly arrive from a variety of sources. Consider all of the forwarded emails, mobile websites and mobile social networking apps available as potential access points – and also the new geo-location technologies that are gaining ground. A single authentication process is highly desirable for both mobile and PC respondents, but may not be possible. Note that usage of geo-location has additional implications, as laws vary by region and have to be thoroughly researched. A separate opt-in may be required.

The adoption of mobile panels is clearly wrought with new considerations and challenges, but their potential to advance market research is immense. With more and more panelists using their mobile phones to access email and the web, mobile panelist websites will quickly morph from ancillary to necessity. And just as we mentioned in the Essential Considerations for Mobile Survey Design post, selecting a panel management solution provider that possesses the software functionality and delivery experience necessary to help you achieve success is, hands down, the number one best practice recommendation.

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