Bob Lederer recently posted a video in which he asked whether mobile was the last hope for the MR Industry. Beneath this question was an acknowledgement that online surveys are in decline mostly because users don’t answer emails and can’t be bothered to type in custom URLs. These factors were compounded recently by the unrest caused by GDPR. We see this as a wake-up call to wean ourselves off a dependency on email to engage market research panels.
Emails bounce, fall into the dark pockets of spam folders and simply sit, unseen, in overcrowded inboxes competing with emails that demand less time investment than a survey. The growing time-lag between sending survey invitations and filling quotas alongside the widening gap between the number of invitations and the number of completions should speak for itself. However, it is our love affair with free and low-cost online surveys that is keeping us blinded to the reality that email has passed its sell-by date. But all is not lost. There are ways to re-invigorate MR studies, with or without breaking off the engagement with online surveys.
One problem with online surveys is in the nomenclature: we still largely perceive them as ‘online’ rather than ‘mobile web’ when the majority of our time online today is spent via mobile devices not PCs. Smartphones and tablets provide our window on the web and while emails are still accessible from mobile devices, they’re far less attractive than a short-sharp attention-grabbing SMS or App notification. The latter demand less investment. By nature, they’re shorter in length, easier to read and are more disposable. We don’t file text messages: we delete them.
It is unsurprising then, that on average the response time to a text message is 90 seconds, where for email it is 90 minutes. Furthermore, the open rate for email marketing is 22% where it is 98% for SMS. If that does not convince you of the declining power of email compared with the still under-utilised medium of SMS, a 2018 study by Funmobility found that email marketing has an average click-through rate of 3.2% while the average for SMS is 36%. Across the board, SMS is 11 times more effective than email. In conclusion, if you remain wedded to your online surveys, SMS may be your best hope of making viable use of your panel to fill quotas. Consequently, SMS invites are increasingly being deployed as a tactic to reinvigorate ailing online survey campaigns.
Our view however, is that like landlines, online surveys are falling into disuse in a mobile world. By contrast, Apps are becoming the loyalty card of the survey world – every brand wants one. Brands want an App icon on their customer’s phone or tablet and agencies want a way to fill quotas quickly from their panels.
Geolocation, till receipt scanning, barcode scanning, video, audio can be included in the survey content or captured in responses. Some features, like ratings scale sliders, are not new but elicit a more intimate response on smartphones due to the more tactile experience of using a finger instead of a mouse. And there’s something far more familiar about taking a selfie with a smartphone than a laptop. Then there’s the other great convenience of App surveys – they can be taken on or offline at leisure with no pressure to complete in one sitting. App notifications, if switched on, provide a zero cost means of alerting panellists to new surveys or reminding, thanking or resoliciting them at any juncture.
What stops most companies from using Apps however, is a misplaced belief that the cost and complication of creating one is outwith their reach when in fact it can be completely free. Although rare, some companies offer Software Development Kits that enable brands and agencies to create their own Apps using the App developer’s resources, by simply adding their own brand styling. Alternatively, brands can insert survey software into their existing Apps, adding an extra dimension to, say a loyalty app for a seamless white label experience. Some such Software Development Kits are created using standard development languages meaning there is no need to engage a highly specialised developer.
Once your panellists have the Survey App, as a researcher you have a multi ways to attract the user’s attention. Email, SMS and App notifications can be layered and very often app notifications, which are free to send, are not ignored because users have signed up to them. In combination, these three give researchers a multi-pronged approach to gaining interest and generating timely engagement. More advanced Survey Apps will include caching features that mean users can take surveys off or online at their convenience. And since App Surveys tend to be more pleasurable and convenient for respondents, they create stickiness and loyalty rather than survey fatigue. Apps and their invitations are a modern researcher’s most cost-effective, fast acting instrument and a panellist’s preferred engagement tool.
By Neil Jessop, CEO of OnePoint Global
Neil co-founded OnePoint Global in 2006 with the aim of enabling market researchers to reach respondents on any handset in any country to conduct surveys using mobile as the primary means of engagement. Neil is a pioneering thinker and innovator in the market research technology space.