The first Smart Phone market research survey of it's kind in Australia

The market research business is moving forward and Stancombe is leading the charge! Read more about the study we conducted (and recently published in Research News) below:


In the old days of the ‘Mad Men’ era, all the very best (if not all) researchers were trained social scientists or psychologists. They conducted unwieldy surveys using a door-to-door paper and pen method and then processed the data using a massive mainframe that typically took up most of the space of a basement, or they ran interviews or group discussions to determine the ‘motivations’ of the emergent, yet passive consumer class. They had ‘dumb’ phones instead of ‘smart’ phones. How times have changed ... 

These days, technology is allowing us to continually get closer to the (much less passive and more rigorously recruited) consumer in real-time. As behavioural economics has told us, people are predictably unreliable when asked to report their own behaviour, therefore the closer we can get to people ‘in the moment’, the more accurate and useful responses are likely to be. One of the latest ways to do this is using a device that many now can’t live without – the smartphone. 

Stancombe Research + Planning recently conducted a seven minute app-based survey among smartphone users to find out how people currently use their smartphones and how they felt about completing a survey on their smartphone. The survey revealed that smartphone users loved completing the short app-based survey on their phone. For many, a mobile phone has become an extension of self (some even sleep with them!). We identified that besides survey completion, respondents are extensively using their smartphone to shop, bank, pay bills, undertake on-the-spot price comparisons, bid on e-bay, take photos/videos, and of course communicate, not to mention endlessly question ‘Siri’. She works hard! The nature of smartphones has provided many of us with newfound levels of convenience and flexibility as well as a greater sense of control – just perfect for making that bargain-purchase-on-the-run, or capturing that spontaneous clip of someone that just has to go up on YouTube right now. 

‘Smart’ devices have provided our industry with a wide range of opportunities for accessing respondents and understanding them in a very up-close, immediate and personal manner. And because people love using their smartphones, and hence are likely to have a high levels of engagement with this medium, we have been using these devices to add value to both qualitative and quantitative research studies for a while now. We just listened and watched as our respondents started showing and telling us how to harness this technology to gain a deeper dialogue with them and develop richer insights.

We have also been briefing respondents to use their smartphones to ‘bring their lives to life’. It all started off a bit clumsily, with videos captured on smartphones being unusable (largely because they were portrait or too far from the subject) and photos being skew-whiff, but with a little bit of guidance, our research participants found inventive ways to deliver increasingly valuable and insightful research materials – particularly via YouTube and Facebook. They up-load videos and photos like pros, take and share photos with us, and SMS tidbits that are often inspirational, just like they do in their day-to-day life. 

But it’s still early days, (don’t you hate that ‘but’?), and there are some shortcomings and limitations. 
  • We have found great benefit in administering a pithy quantitative questionnaire on mobile devices. But, due to the nature of the device any questionnaire needs to be pretty short. 
  • Ideally, mobile technology should be able to tell us where people are and when they are participating in research. But, geo-location technology hasn’t been available up until now. We’re looking forward to it arriving so we can complete the picture of where people are and at what time. It will be great for validation and quality control.
  • Most long-ish term smartphone owners seem to have figured out how to capture video, audio and images and upload them without much hassle. But, some need pointers. Adequate briefing and assistance may be required.
  • Face time brings a whole new dimension to telephone interviewing. But, the background noises and distractions can be bothersome (for the researcher) and impede the process. Picture this – a commuter on a crowded bus at peak time.
  • We have sometimes been dazzled by the creative output of respondents who present their ‘good side’. But, all good researchers know to go beyond that and build in a mixed methodology approach to ensure we genuinely reach consumer truths.
  • Smartphone penetration is growing rapidly, but not everyone has a smartphone (just yet)
  • Mobile devices are very convenient. But, the respondent incurs the cost, which could be a barrier, especially for younger, pre-paid mobile phone owners.

Even with the current technology, app based surveys allow us to engage with respondents in situ, anywhere and at any time like never before, and given the situational nature of consumers, this has got to be advantageous. Smartphones are enabling a rich new vein of opportunity to mine for insights, a new channel for conducting quantitative research and enhancing qualitative research (mostly as an adjunct to what we already do). How exciting!

The 'Online Disinhibition Effect'

The Psyblog makes an interested observation on the phenomenon called the 'Online Disinhibition Effect' the full article here.

"When communicating over the internet people don't feel the same pull towards social conformity as elsewhere. Online, people cast aside their inhibitions, worry less about the consequences of their actions and let it all hang out. Sometimes literally."

In a research context, there appears to be a great role for online methodologies to capture sensitive information that people would not be willing to disclose face-to-face. Something to think about when designing a study that requires people to disclose potentially embarrassing information.

Campbell Soup acts on neuoromarketing-based research

"For years, Campbell’s researchers asked consumers whether they remembered an ad and whether it made them more likely to buy a product. But a 2005 Campbell analysis revealed that, overall, ads deemed more effective in surveys had little relation to changes in Campbell sales.

Robert Woodard, Campbell’s vice president of global consumer and customer insights, says the traditional interview had limited usefulness because people’s words didn’t fully capture their unconscious responses. He says Campbell needed approaches that would help it understand the neurological and bodily responses to an ad rather than how people thought they’d reacted."

Source: Wallstreet journal

See their neuromarketing-based research approach below:

Social media and research

With so many people tweeting, blogging, facebooking, myspacing and youtubing - market research companies have been continually developing technologies to turn all this information into something useful to sell to research buyers.

Recently Nielson and Facebook have joined forces to sample the 300 million plus user base for research purposes. The problem is that any research outputs will be based on people who choose to 'opt in' to participate, i.e. an opt in sample of heavy facebook users is prbably not representative of the general population. Read more here

A more passive approach is sentiment analysis, which (from my understanding) uses sophisticated software programs to monitor the moods and opinions of millions of people as they chatter online (twitter, blogs, forums etc) and then processes the information with highly complex linguist algorithms. Apparently the jury is still out on this technology (it's still early days), but it's easy to see the uses for brands like Apple or Google who are constant points of conversation on the web. Read more here

Speed dating crosses into education and marketing industries

It's nothing new, but there is lots of evidence to support the speed dating model can:

1) Help different disciplines cross pollinate

2) Be a cost effective way of meeting new people

3) Take the "trash time" out of interviewing potential job applicants

It seems giving people time constraints removes a lot of 'conversational fat' we don't need, which allows more time for people to meet more people...which increases the chances of meeting the right people

Interactive Collages Makes Quant Fun!

Not that it isn't fun enough already....

But I just stumbled across this and I couldn't help but think how great it would be if we could harness this technology within online quantitative surveys to build mood boards and the like. (Think about it Les - no more scanning and re-sizing a thousand photographs)

Essentially it is simply an online collage building technology which allows you to cut and paste different images together and then add words...

Tis quite fun to have a play around on, and only takes two seconds...

Using light to read minds...

Researchers at the University of Toronto used near-infrared light shined on a person's brain to "read" the subject's mind and determine which of two drinks they prefer. By reading images of the brain, they decoded the person's drink preference with 80 percent accuracy. According to the biomedical engineers, the technique could someday enable people who are "locked in" to communicate using their minds.