Ipsos Encyclopedia - Mobile Market Research

Mobile Market Research refers to market research in which the participants take part and answer via mobile devices.


Mobile Market Research refers to market research in which the participants take part and answer via mobile devices.


More specifically, mobile market research typically refers to the following [1]:

  1. Quantitative research where the participants complete surveys on their mobile device
  2. Mixed-mode quantitative studies, where some participants complete surveys via a PC while others use a mobile device
  3. Quantitative research where participants allow applications on their mobile device to gather information about them or their environment, referred to as passive data collection
  4. Qualitative research, where the mobile device either facilitates communication (e.g. taking part in an online focus group from a tablet), or facilitates data collection (e.g. collecting photos and recordings), or a combination of the two.
  5. Research communities where the mobile device is a key method of communication or participation
  6. Face-to-face research where the interviewers are using mobile devices to collect data, sometimes referred to as mCAPI (CAPI utilising a mobile device).


Using participants' mobile phones to take part in CATI interviews is not always classed as mobile market research, but that might change in the future.


[1] Source: The Handbook of Mobile Market Research, Ray Pointer, Navin Williams, Sue York. Esomar/Wiley 2014


Ipsos Point Of View:

​The number of world citizens who own a mobile phone has been increasing constantly over the past years, across all regions. And an increasing number of those owners access the internet via their mobile phone. As happened with online research in the late 90's, market research can not ignore the emergence of this new device which offers many advantages for research :


  • Continuous access to respondents because the mobile phone is carried almost everywhere - at home, on the go, in the store, at the event.
  • In the moment responses – at the time and place respondents buy, see, encounter, allowing in particular to capture the more volatile facts such as emotions/moods, sensory impressions (as opposed to recall-based). Immediate feedback is 40 % more accurate (Gartner Research, 2006)
  • More context - through picture/video capture, recording of atmosphere, weather, persons present.
  • Access to population segments - who use PCs less or never (e.g.. young targets, lower social groups, emerging market respondent).
  • Fast turnaround - thanks to more frequent access to respondents via their mobile phone than via PC or face to face.
  • Research beyond responses - via collection of 'passive data' such as location, device usage, movement.


In the face of these advantages, two main streams of mobile research capabilities have emerged:


Device Agnostic surveys

'Device-agnostic' surveys are online, in-browser surveys that respondents can take on the device of their choice : PC, tablet or smartphone. By including mobile respondents (tablet and more importantly smartphone), the surveys become more representative because we no longer exclude the growing number of respondents who want to engage in research via their smartphone. This group includes targets that are difficult to reach on PC (e.g. young targets, lower social groups, emerging market respondents). In order for a survey to be Device Agnostic in Ipsos, the questionnaire needs to adapts itself to the respondent's device thanks to a device responsive survey template (Ipsos' device responsive survey template is called Engage), the survey should be written with the smallest screen size in mind ('mobile friendly', which implies limitations on the number of characters and answer options) and have a duration of 15 minutes or less (Ipsos limit for smartphone surveys as of May 2016)[2]


Surveys based on a mobile survey application (App).

While Device Agnostic surveys only use the mobile phone's browsing capability, App-based mobile surveys use many more of the mobile phone's features and capabilities. Once the survey app is installed, it becomes 'native' to the phone and:

  • allows surveys to be completed offline (answers will be transmitted when wifi or data network is available)
  • can interact with the phone's location services, thus enabling geo-location, geo-tagging, geo-triggering and geo-tracking [3]
  • can record device information (operating system, model, power status, signal strength…)
  • can interact with the phone's movement sensors
  • communicates with respondents via in-app notifications
  • enables easy upload by respondents of pictures and videos
  • can be linked to other apps
  • can record any events on the phone such as browser usage, app usage, phone/text usage, network information etc. (this is usually referred to as passive metering)


In addition to these new mobile research capabilities, there have also been developments in panellist engagement via mobile in the form of 'panel apps'. By downloading these Apps, potential respondents become part of a panel. Examples of panel Apps are : Google Opinion Rewards, My survey (Lightspeed/GMI), Opinion World (SSI), MobiOne (Ipsos) . Usually, the app leads the panellist to the surveys that are available for him/her and also allows him/her to receive/consult incentives and engage with the research company or other panellists in various ways.


Our vision is that mobile research will evolve quickly from 'mobile friendly' (research that includes mobile such as Device Agnostic surveys) to 'mobile first' (solutions based on mobile capabilities and created specifically for mobile respondents, such as mobile passive metering or geo-triggering).


Our clients are at different stages of mobile readiness today and we, as researchers, should accompany them on the path towards the future. Accompanying them should include both nudging the more timid clients and following the more innovative ones.


[2] For more information, see the full definition of Device Agnostic Surveys
[3] See corresponding Encyclopedia definitions


Recommended readings:

  • The Handbook of Mobile Market Research, Ray Pointer, Navin Williams, Sue York. Esomar/Wiley 2014. A comprehensive guide of Mobile Market Research written by researchers for researchers.
  • 4 reasons for in the moment research. An Ipsos paper showing the advantages of in-the-moment mobile research, based on real cases.
  • Mobile myths. An Ipsos paper that debunks common myths about mobile research such as that smartphone respondents are distracted, don't answer open ends, only young gamers...
  • Device Agnostic IIS Autumn2015 Rationale for taking action


Useful Statistics on mobile phones and their uses, worldwide

  • Stats on browsers, operating systems 

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