You’ve been at SSI for about 8 months now. What made you decide to join SSI?
The technology and solutions that SSI provides to research companies and corporate clients. There’s a huge need in the market right now for mobile solutions. Many people talk about mobile data collection and mobile questionnaire design but very few people know how to do things the right way in terms of research methodology. SSI, for me at least, is the company that really knows what they’re doing.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for mobile research?
There are a number of opportunities. There are two main mobile categories: active data collection and passive data collection. Active is growing rapidly and is where we ask people to respond based on their location: either where we know they have been, where they are now “in-the-moment” or where we would like them to go in the future, (the mission shopping experience.)
Passive data collection involves gathering information “in the background” about what websites people are looking at, where they are travelling or other activities that can be tracked, with their permission, on their mobile devices. There’s a huge opportunity for us to target using mobile, especially based on location and getting close to the moment of truth.
How does in-the-moment mobile research work exactly?
A typical case study would gather answers to questions at a specific location in real time. Say you want to target a Starbucks location and want to know the wait time and whether the barista is friendly. You will never know what really goes on inside the store until you hear the in-the-moment experience of people who are there. Using mobile technology we can validate that the person is actually in the location of interest.
What type of mistakes do people make when doing this type of research?
I was at a conference in Singapore recently and attended a workshop about an in-the-moment study for a toothpaste brand. The workshop highlighted all the potential pitfalls. From the very beginning the project had a lot of issues: locations were incorrectly mapped, the GPS didn’t work as expected, timing was off so questions were asked 10 minutes after the person had left the location. With mobile, the devil is in the details. It all matters; every touch point matters.
What can you tell us about SSI’s mobile products?
In 2013, we launched the QuickThoughts panel app on Android and IOS so people can take surveys on tablets and smartphones using the unique mobile capabilities of these devices. Last year, we rolled it out globally and QuickThoughts is now in 19 countries and growing. SSI has been working on their Proximity Sample, geo-location-based product for a solid year now and we’ve gained experience from a number of successful geolocation test projects: past (interviewing people we know have been at certain locations in the recent past); present (interviewing people when we know they are at a certain location); and future (sending people to do “missions” at specific locations.) When you consider the native services on mobile devices like GPS, camera and video, there are so many ways to make use of that functionality to actually target people to get the information we want in the moment. That’s what SSI’s Proximity sample is designed to do. We’re aggressively recruiting people to the QuickThoughts panel and we reward people based on the effort they put in. Our panel is the only one to offer iTunes rewards as well as a variety of other rewards.
We also have many people on all our panels worldwide who are choosing to take traditional research surveys on mobile devices. Our proprietary diagnostic tool called QuestTest makes sure that every survey we push through to someone on a mobile device is compatible and gives them a good experience.
What is the biggest mobile research challenge for the industry?
The biggest challenge is to join the dots between different types of mobile data. For some panel companies the main problem they are having is they build separate panels for different functionalities. For example they build a passive tracking panel to track people at a specific location, another panel to support mission type projects. It then becomes a difficult challenge to join and build on the different data streams. I think the key to success is to have one broad- based panel that supports every type of project, so you know, OK this person went to a Starbucks and we surveyed them there and we also know what apps, sites and search terms they use and maybe they are looking at a Dunkin’ Donut site while they’re in line at Starbucks. That’s the type of critical information that any brand needs to understand in order to optimize their business.
What are you hearing about mobile research as you’re out and about at conferences and talking to clients?
Everyone is talking about mobile but fewer people are doing a lot of quality mobile research. There is a gap between talk and action because people are not exactly sure what it means to do mobile research. So there’s a big need for education and knowledge-sharing on this.
The knowledge team at SSI does an excellent job of explaining how to do things right. I’ve worked at multiple companies but SSI is the first company I’ve seen with a team dedicated to knowledge and research and to doing right things in the right way. It’s the single most important thing for us because when you talk to clients the thing they really care about is better insights to drive their business. Based on what we are seeing, mobile can provide that and we are seeing very positive results from our technology and our mobile offering.