Seventy-Five Per Cent and Growing: Smartphone Survey Access Isn’t Going Away

\"mobile_phone\"In August, the International Data Corporation (IDC) reported that the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) (APEJ) smartphone market is continuing to grow at a fast pace, with shipments of 119 million units in Q2 of 2013 – up a whopping 75% from Q2 2012. Japan isn’t being left behind, though, with smartphone shipment volumes increased by 29.2% year-over-year to 8.8 million units. The ratio of smartphone shipments to total mobile phone shipments increased to 77.9%. Ovum predicts that the overall Asia-Pacific smartphone market will more than double in value by 2016 and be worth over USD billion. This growth, while perhaps not as dramatic in some regions, is reflected around the world. Smart- and Web-enabled phones are changing the way consumers connect to the Internet, and how we, as researchers, connect to consumers.

As mobile usage grows exponentially, it’s imperative to understand how this affects the research industry as more respondents choose to access our studies on the move. Researchers must address this trend head-on in order to continue gathering rich, actionable data from survey outreach.

At Decipher, a market research services firm with offices in the US and the UK, we recently reviewed over 100 separate studies representing data from more than 2 million survey respondents over the last two years. The studies, which included three waves of data and two published white papers, tracked the participation of mobile users in traditional online studies. Decipher wanted to answer three important questions: What percentage of respondents are taking online surveys via their mobile devices? What are their survey-taking behaviours? And, most importantly, how does the mobile population impact survey data compared to PC users?

Many trends surrounding the mobile survey respondent were noted throughout the course of the studies.  One significant early trend was the migration of survey takers to mobile devices, but recent data from 2013 has shown that this trend is now slowing, among other behavioural shifts among respondents over the two-year period.

In summary, the top findings included:

  1. Mobile survey takers are 1.5 times more likely to drop out of a survey than those on a PC (likely due to a lack of “mobile friendly” survey design).
  2. Up to 20% of survey starts may come from mobile device users.
  3. Completion rates vary depending on the recruitment method for the respondent list.
  4. iPhone and iPad users tend to have lower dropout rates than Blackberry and Android users.
  5. Features such as grids, first-page design, survey length and open-ended questions may significantly impact completion rates.

These studies give an overview of just how vital it is for researchers to accommodate the needs of today’s survey respondent, both mobile and online. Without addressing mobile respondents’ shortened attention span and device limitations, researchers will start to lose important data and end up with inaccurate and skewed results. So what is to be done? Remembering that every study is unique, common sense recommendations based on the above findings include:

  • Pay attention to the sample method, which has a large impact on how the survey group will respond. Those who are captured without pre-notice or are not accustomed to survey taking will be more likely to access from a mobile device.
  • Surveys need to be designed with the mobile respondent in mind – eliminate dropout triggers such as grids, open-ended questions, lengthy interviews and graphic elements.

Mobile gives us unprecedented access to respondents. With solid design best practices, and attention to sample sources and respondent technology preferences, there is no reason to believe that the research community can’t achieve the level of mobile data quality (or better) that we’ve experienced with more traditional online outreach. This is a global issue that isn’t going to go away, and researchers working in every country – Asia and beyond – need to keep the mobile respondent top of mind.

By Kristin Luck, president, Decipher