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The future of research is mobile. For both quantitative and qualitative methods, researchers must connect with consumers through the medium where they are most engaged. For the average citizen, this has become the smartphone, where between 3-4 hours of our waking time is spent consciously or subconsciously linked to.
Specific to online surveys, 65% of all surveys are completed on mobile devices. However, over 90% of all survey invitations are sent via email and completed via in-app browsers. Considering that only 18% of all emails are opened, researchers are placing a very low ceiling on what they can achieve.
Adding to the researcher’s misery is an imbalance in user experience between the respondent journey and the modern customer experience in an online or mobile environment. Since the iPhone was launched in 2007, the last fourteen years have been spent optimising the user experience to ensure a seamless, and sometimes, addictive journey for the consumer. While this is happening, researchers have been stuck in the 20th century, which has caused survey engagement to drop 76% since 1997.
It’s simple, market research must adapt, and technology will allow them to do this.
If you look at research invitations via email, they are fighting a losing battle with a total success rate possible of 18%. Even leaning on SMS, and other alternatives, penetration is not where it needs to be with respondent engagement, a challenge that has stared the industry in the face for years with no respite.
The simple transition to push notifications which can be optimised, automated and tailored to each individual to enter their day at the time that is most likely to leverage instant engagement. Companies like Empushy, XtremePush & OpenBack who are pioneering this space, the future will be in identifying who, where and when a research invitation should be sent to each respondent based on their schedule.
Capturing the attention of the consumer has become an industry in itself, as companies vie for the eyes and ears of users all over the world. Researchers must join the fight by tapping into the latest technologies, to avoid falling by the wayside.
In order to keep people engaged in the long-run, you need to understand their reasons why they joined that consumer panel or community. If you download the Uber app, it’s probably so that you can get from A to B. Thus, in research-based mobile apps, you need to get the respondent from A to B as swiftly as possible so they reinforce their reason for having that app.
For example, once a survey receives a notification, completes a survey and claims a reward, they are reminded of why they downloaded the app in the first place. Simple UX design and navigation makes the panel feel like a ‘community’, where users’ core transaction within the app (i.e. completing a research task) is easily identifiable and their reason for having and keeping the app is clear (i.e. earning rewards instantly).
This is an essential part of minimising churn in mobile apps, and researchers must learn from their respondents, taking an iterative approach to maximising engagement.
Over the last two years, our mission has been to optimise survey experience and design. The flow should mirror that of the user’s other apps on their phone, while protecting research methodologies and ensuring quality assurance methods can be employed e.g. time and response tracking.
There is no denying the impact of a native app experience in research. Once respondents are exposed to the simplicity and ease of navigation via mobile, it is very difficult to return to email invitations, clunky browsers and slow transitions between questions. When attention spans are like a short fuse, any friction point can cause drop-off, so it must be the goal of the researcher to ‘hook’ users in with engaging and enjoyable survey experience.
An early trick we learned from our early respondents, people hate the word ‘survey’, so we called our research tasks ‘bundles’ to remove the negative association and ultimately, improve the quality of our panel.
An underappreciated asset for optimising respondent experience lies in the incentive structure offered by the researcher. Too long have panelists been coaxed into a dangling carrot in the distant future, resembling a €20 gift card that they could never reach without a commitment level only professional panelists could strive for.
The future of incentive structures will revolve around instant gratification. The idea that psychologically, consumers prefer smaller rewards, more frequently, if they are to remain interested and engaged. For Bounce, that meant creating a rewards system of tangible online and in-store rewards with a value small enough that people could get their dopamine hit early, and often, despite its smaller denomination.
Whether it was a free coffee, a charity donation, a discount code on your next takeaway, or cash straight to your phone, engagement exploded. By creating a system that dangled smaller pieces of the carrot along their respondent journey, we managed to engage cohorts that traditional panels couldn’t connect with e.g. Millennials & Gen-Z.
To avoid the same mistakes of past researchers, we operate on a philosophy of constant iteration across our entire app experience. We will ask our respondents on a weekly basis how we can improve – this includes improvements to push notifications, rewards, referrals, length of surveys, design of questions, and any other ideas that would make our app a more enjoyable experience.
As we move towards qualitative functionality, this philosophy will be imperative. Our goal is to create the future of research technology, being respondent-first in everything we build to reconnect researchers and consumers that have drifted apart in recent years.