Reaching the Next Billion Participants - With Surveys (Part - 2)

Felix Rios, Market Research Technology Manager, Ugam,

Following my last post where I addressed innovative ways to reach the next billion participants, I want to address how we need to adjust our approach with surveys.

In some markets, users tend to switch off their data throughout the day to stretch their allowance for the entire month (if they have it at all). Many users share internet connection between several households in the community and many use WAP connectivity to access Facebook.

While it may become harder to get someone on a mobile device engaged in a single 30-minute session, it may be more engaging to have several short, tweet-like interactions during the day. This means that we have to rethink our “traditional” ways of sending online surveys. If users are only connected for short periods of time, they are not likely to spend this time completing an online survey.

While SMS surveys may be on their way out in some parts of the world due to the prevalence of messaging applications like Whatsapp, Snapchat, Line, etc., it still could be our strongest ally in developing economies. How we link this data in the back end is what will bring this technology to the next level.

We have to see beyond the single-session survey and start thinking in terms of “Smart” surveys that use those pockets of spare time throughout the day. SMS as a deployment method can allow participants to check in upon arrival to a place; we can then send surveys adapted to that particular experience and even send reminders to forgetful participants. This, mixed with the wide adoption of electronic payments, is a powerful combination to send surveys and properly incentivize our participants.

In a recent conversation with an acquaintance from another agency, he laughed when I said that the days of the 30-minute long surveys are numbered. But the reality is that if we want to reach the next billion participants we better have a strategic approach to mobile surveys nailed down. We have to leave behind the topic of device-agnostic surveys, and start thinking about experience-optimized surveys. Our questionnaires need to be able to adapt to one market’s reality and integrate seamlessly with another market’s strengths.

I can hear some people saying that this could mean a jump back in time. The channel that we use to send the surveys is not what is important; it’s the technology that amalgamates all the different sources of data that’s important.

If the center of the debate is the need for mobile devices with a data connection to receive online surveys, we are seeing technology as the destination. Instead, we need to look at it as the way. The key here is not how you send the surveys, but how platforms will allow us to aggregate and draw insights from SMS surveys from some markets, online survey data from other markets, non-structured data from wearable devices and behavioral data from smart home devices.

Otherwise, we haven’t moved much from old-school pen-and-paper surveys.

Five characteristics of the next billion participants:

  • They skipped two whole technologies: “I need a computer to connect to the internet” and “I need a landline to have a phone”.
  • They are mobile in nature and embody the true sense of the mobile participant. Because they are mobile natives, they are used to short and quick interactions with digital content.
  • For them, the mobile device is not a recreational/fashion gadget; it is not one more way to be connected, but is instead the only way.
  • Many of these users will not have internet at home and will not have an internet-enabled mobile device.
  • Many of these users will have data connectivity in their phones, but will not have WiFi at home.
Some of the content in this article originally appeared in RWConnect on October 23, 2014.

The Author:
Felix Rios is a Market Research Technology Manager at Ugam. He is passionate about technology and beyond the office walls, also enjoys photography.


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