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Brian Jones

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Boaty McBoatface: Social Media Meets Market Research on the Cyber Seas

Posted by Brian Jones

Mon, May 02, 2016

Boaty_McBoatface.pngIn case you missed it, the UK’s Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) asked a silly question on a serious topic, and the cyber seas responded in kind. News media and bloggers converged in viral fashion and grabbed the opportunity to steer the campaign on their own course. I put my market research cap on and joined the flotilla. 

Background on the Buzz

On March 17th, the NERC agency launched a campaign to promote the future launch of their newest and largest research ship, designed to carry scientists and their equipment to the earth’s Polar Regions. Their #NameOurShip campaign invited the public to submit name ideas, and it quickly caught on as an opinion poll. The cyber buzz really unfolded after a public relations professional suggested the name “Boaty McBoatface” upon seeing other silly names people had posted, and the name sailed to the top of the boards. On April 16th, NERC pulled the plug on collecting votes, and a NERC spokesperson stressed that there is no guarantee the ship would be named after the winning entry because the final decision will be made by the chief executive of the organization.    

What I Learned from Those Influenced by the Campaign

The #NameOurShip campaign was hugely successful in emotionally engaging the public, despite the backlash to NERC scuttling the winning name. People left waves of comments for NERC’s leadership to surf through.  

“The only reason I ever heard of this is because of the name controversy. Far more people are likely to stay interested in Boaty McBoatface than some humdrum 'sensible' name, because it has already been adopted as a kind of maritime national pet.” (Comment posted on one of the many Boaty Blogs)

 The comments made for an interesting read, and I came up with a few takeaways. 

  1. There is a deserving national identity with heroic British polar explorers that would look great in large letters on the transom of a $300 million research ship, e.g., the “RRS Henry Worsely” (15,774 votes). Henry Worsely died in January while attempting to complete the first solo and unaided crossing of the Antarctic—just 30 miles short after crossing 900 miles in 71 days. 
  1. Beneath the veneer of the online pranksters and goofballs who posted votes for names like “Ice, Ice Baby” (3,673 votes) and “Boatimus Prime” (8,365 votes), the public clearly wants a memorable name that makes a global statement about British identity, and for some, that’s a whimsical endeavor. 
  1. For some, “Boaty McBoatface” (124,109 votes) presents an opportunity to do public good on the behalf of NERC’s commitment to the pursuit in education in science. The “RRS Dora the Polar Explorer” (983 votes) might not get smirks from scientists performing serious research, but mom and dad might have a more favorable impression of NERC if their child’s bath toy had “NERC” and “Boaty” logos on it. 
  1. Interestingly, very few online posts revealed interest or concern with NERC’s mission to explore issues such as environmental hazards, natural resources, and environmental change. Instead, the names “Steve Prescott” (1,413) and “Poppy-Mai”/”Princess PoppyMai” (40,384 votes) received buzz; both individuals were struck down with rare forms of cancer. If NERC more clearly links their mission to staving off visible human or ecological tragedy, they might make good use of the awareness equity that their campaign has generated. 
  1. For others, the campaign was a pretended attempt of government to give citizens a voice when the final decision rests with privileged few. This is compounded by anxiety over the upcoming European Union membership referendum. NERC must navigate public sentiment in an environment where people are a bit on edge. This is expressly dangerous when a social media campaign is presented as crowdvoting. While crowdvoting or crowdsourcing can be a legitimate form of research, when public perception can’t differentiate a PR campaign masked as a public opinion poll from serious market research, it erodes researcher’s ability to get reliable market insights. 

For market research to work, we need the public to be smart—not silly. There is research value in capturing emotional response, but we need to strive to capture unbiased rational opinion. Social media marketing can taint the waters for research if the public perceives a campaign as being less than honest and truthful. 

The Australian Government is now pirating the #NameOurShip approach for their own new Antarctic scientific research vessel, vowing to avoid the ballast that seemingly sank public opinion of the UK’s campaign. I can’t wait to see what the Aussies come up with. 

Brian is a Senior Project Manager at Chadwick Martin Bailey. Given his Navy background, he feels compelled to point out that the vessel-who-must-be-named is not actually a “boat” and should be called “Shippy McShipface.” 

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Topics: consumer insights, social media, brand health and positioning

Embracing Mobile Market Research

Posted by Brian Jones

Thu, Jul 23, 2015

Who are the mobile consumers?

mobile research, cmbLet’s get this straight: I am not addicted to my smartphone. Unlike so many of my fellow train commuters who stare zombie-eyed into their small screens, I am not immersed in a personal relationship with pixels. I have an e-Reader for that. But, my smartphone IS my lifeline.I’ve come to depend exclusively on my phone to keep me on-time and on-schedule, to entertain me (when not using my e-Reader), to stay in touch with family and friends, and to keep up-to-date with my work email. It’s my primary source for directions, weather, news, photography, messaging, banking, and a regular source for payment, shopping, and ticketing/reservations. I haven’t purchased a PC in nearly a decade, and I don’t have a landline. I also use my smartphone to take market research questionnaires, and I am far from alone. 

Data around smartphone usage aligns with my personal experience. In a recent CMB online study of U.S. consumers, optimized for mobile devices, 1 in 6 Millennials completed the questionnaire on a smartphone. Other studies report similar results. This example illustrates the issue with representativeness. Major panel vendors are seeing over half of Millennials joining their panels via a mobile device. 

mobile research, cmb

How do we adapt?

Much has been hypothesized about the future of market research under the new paradigm of mobile commerce, big data, and cloud services. New technologies and industry convergence (not just mobile) have brought sweeping changes in consumer behaviors, and market researchers must adapt.

A key component of successful adaptation will be greater integration of primary market research with other data streams. The promise of passive or observational data is captivating, but it is largely still in the formative stages. (For more on passive data, check out our recent webinar.) We still need and will likely always need active “please tell me” research. The shift from phone to online data collection has quickly been replaced with the urgency of a shift to mobile data collection (or at least device agnostic interviewing). Our industry has lagged behind because the consumer experience has become so personalized and the trust/value equation for tapping into their experiences is challenging. Tackling mobile market research with tactical solutions is a necessary step in this transition.

What should we do about it?  

  1. Understand your current audience. Researchers need to determine how important mobile data collection is to the business decision and decide how to treat mobile respondents. You can have all respondents use a mobile device, have some use a mobile device, or have mobile device respondents excluded. There are criteria and considerations for each of these, and there are also considerations for the expected mix of feature phones, smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The audience will determine the source of sample and representation that must be factored into the study design. Ultimately, this has a huge impact on the validity and reliability of the data. Respondent invitations need to include any limitations for devices not suitable for a particular survey.
  2. Design for mobile. If mobile participation is important, researchers should use a mobile first questionnaire design. Mobile optimized or mobile friendly surveys typically need to be shorter in length, use concise language, avoid complex grids and answering mechanisms, and have fewer answer options, so they can be supported on a small screen and keep respondents focused on the activity. In some cases,questionnaire modularization or data stitching can be used to help adhere to mobile design standards.
  3. Test for mobile. All questions, images, etc. need to display on a variety of screen sizes and within the bandwidth capacity of the devices that are being used. Android and iOS device accommodation covers most users. If app based surveys are being used, researchers need to ensure that the latest versions can be downloaded and are bug-free. 
  4. Apply data protection and privacy standards. Mobile market research comes with a unique set of conditions and challenges that impact how information is collected, protected, and secured. Research quality and ethical guidelines specific to mobile market research have been published by CASRO, ESOMAR, the MMRA (Mobile Marketing Research Association), and others.
  5. Implement Mobile Qualitative. The barriers are lower, and researchers can leverage the unique capabilities of mobile devices quite effectively with qualitative research. Most importantly, willing participants are mobile, which makes in-the-moment research possible. Mobile qualitative is also a great gateway to explore what’s possible for mobile quantitative studies. See my colleague Anne Hooper’s blog for more on the future of qualitative methodologies.
  6. Promote Research-on-Research. Experts need to conduct and publish additional research-on-research studies that advance understanding of how to treat mobile respondents and utilize passive data, location tracking, and other capabilities that mobile devices provide. We also need stronger evidence of what works and what doesn’t work in execution of multi-mode and mobile-only studies across different demographics, in B2B studies, and within different countries.

But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that this is just a start. Market researchers and other insight professionals must evolve from data providers to become integrated strategic partners—harnessing technology (not just mobile) to industry expertise to focus on decision-making, risk reduction, and growth.

Brian is a Senior Project Manager for Chadwick Martin Bailey, the photographer of the image in this post, and an 82 percenter—he is one of the 82% of mobile phone owners whose phone is with them always or most of the time. 

Watch our recent webinar that discusses the results of our self-funded Consumer Pulse study on the future of the mobile wallet. 

Watch Here!

Topics: methodology, qualitative research, mobile, research design

Global Mobile Market Research Has Arrived: Are You Prepared?

Posted by Brian Jones

Wed, May 14, 2014

mobile research,Chadwick Martin Bailey,CMB,Chris Neal,Brian Jones,mobile data collection,mobile stitching,GMI LightspeedThe ubiquity of mobile devices has opened up new opportunities for market researchers on a global scale. Think: biometrics, geo-location, presence sensing, etc. The emerging possibilities enabled by mobile market research are exciting and worth exploring, but we can’t ignore the impact that small screens are already having on market research. For example, unintended mobile respondents make up about 10% of online interviews today. They also impact research in other ways—through dropped surveys, disenfranchised panel members, and other unknown influences. Online access panels have become multi-mode sources of data collection and we need to manage projects with that in mind.

Researchers have at least three options: (1) we can ignore the issue; (2) we can limit online surveys to PC only; or (3) we can embrace and adapt online surveys to a multi-mode methodology. 

We don’t need to make special accommodations for small screen surveys if mobile participants are a very small percentage of panel participants, but the number of mobile participants is growing.  Frank Kelly, SVP of global marketing and strategy for Lightspeed Research/GMI—one of the world’s largest online panels—puts it this way, we don’t have the time to debate the mobile transition, like we did in moving from CATI to online interviewing, since things are advancing so quickly.” 

If you look at the percentage of surveys completed on small screens in recent GMI panel interviews, they exceed 10% in several countries and even 15% among millennials.

mobile research,Chadwick Martin Bailey,CMB,Chris Neal,Brian Jones,mobile data collection,mobile stitching,GMI Lightspeed

There are no true device agnostic platforms since the advanced features in many surveys simply cannot be supported on small screens and on less sophisticated devices.  It is possible to create device agnostic surveys, but it means giving up on many survey features that we’ve long considered standard. This creates a challenge. Some question types aren’t effectively supported by small screens, such as discrete choice exercises or multi-dimensional grids, and a touchscreen interface is different from what you get with a mouse. Testing on mobile devices may also reveal questions that render differently depending on the platform, which can influence how a respondent answers a question. In instances like these, it may be prudent to require respondents to complete online interviews on a PC-like device. The reverse is also true.  Some research requires mobile-only respondents, particularly when the specific features of smartphones or tablets are used. In some emerging countries, researchers may skip the PC as a data collection tool altogether in favor of small screen mobile devices.  In certain instances, PC-only or mobile-only interviewing makes sense, but the majority of today’s online research involves a mix of platform types. It is clear we need to adopt best practices reflect this reality. 

Online questionnaires must work on all or at least the vast majority of devices.  This becomes particularly challenging for multi-country studies which have a greater variety of devices, different broadband penetrations, and different coverage/quality concerns for network access and availability.  A research design that covers as many devices as possible—both PC and mobile—maximizes the breadth of respondents likely to participate.  

There are several ways to mitigate concerns and maximize the benefits of online research involving different platform types. 

1.      Design different versions of the same study optimized for larger vs. smaller screens.  One version might even be app-based instead of online-based, which would mitigate concerns over network accessibility. 

2.      Break questionnaires into smaller chunks to avoid respondent fatigue on longer surveys, which is a greater concern for mobile respondents. 

Both options 1 and 2 have their own challenges.  They require matching/merging data, need separate programming, and require separate testing, all of which can lead to more costly studies.

3.      Design more efficient surveys and shorter questionnaires. This is essential for accommodating multi-device user experiences. Technology needs to be part of the solution, specifically with better auto detect features that optimize how questionnaires are presented on different screen sizes.  For multi-country studies, technology needs to adapt how questionnaires are presented for different languages. 

Researchers can also use mobile-first questionnaire design practices.  For our clients, we always consider the following:

  • Shortening survey lengths since drop-off rates are greater for mobile participants, and it is difficult to hold their focus for more than 15 minutes.

  • Structuring questionnaires to enable smaller screen sizes to avoid horizontal scrolling and minimize vertical scrolling.

  • Minimizing the use of images and open-ended questions that require longer responses. SMS based interviewing is still useful in specific circumstances, but the number of key strokes required for online research should be minimized.

  •  Keeping the wording of the questions as concise as possible.

  • Carefully choosing which questions to ask which subsets of respondents. We spend a tremendous amount of equity in the design phase to make surveys more appealing to small screen participants. This approach pays dividends in every other phase of research and in the quality of what is learned.

Consumers and businesses are rapidly embracing the global mobile ecosystem. As market researchers and insights professionals, we need to keep pace without compromising the integrity of the value we provide. Here at CMB, we believe that smart planning, a thoughtful approach, and an innovative mindset will lead to better standards and practices for online market research and our clients.

Special thanks to Frank Kelly and the rest of the Lightspeed/GMI team for their insights.

Brian is a Project Manager and mobile expert on CMB’s Tech and Telecom team. He recently presented the results of our Consumer Pulse: The Future of the Mobile Wallet at The Total Customer Experience Leaders conference.

In Universal City next week for the Future of Consumer Intelligence? Chris Neal, SVP of our Tech and Telecom team, and Roddy Knowles of Research Now, will share A “How-To” Session on Modularizing a Live Survey for Mobile Optimization.

 

Topics: methodology, data collection, mobile, data integration

Cloud Computing, IT Professionals Leading the Charge to Adoption

Posted by Brian Jones

Mon, Oct 17, 2011

Cloud AdoptionLast year we shared some of the key trends in cloud computing conversion with the potential  to make 2011 the year of the cloud. Namely, easy integration of cloud and non-cloud computing apps, system management apps that work across platforms, and support from third party service providers who “get” the cloud and its challenges. So, was 2011 the year of the cloud? Our recent Tech Pulse: Cloud Computing Trends and Needs, surveyed over 200 IT professionals and the results revealed an answer a bit more complicated than yes or no.

As expected, cloud conversion has grown steadily in the past year; more than 80% of companies currently use the cloud to house at least some of their apps or platforms. Beyond the growing ubiquity of cloud computing adoption, our study also looked at the following trends:

Cloud adoption is happening at US companies, but on an ad hoc basis: Companies with no plan to introduce cloud computing are rare, but even fewer have adopted a comprehensive company-wide plan. Instead, conversion to cloud computing is primarily implemented within business groups or for specific applications.

Many IT departments are now proactively promoting cloud technologies at their companies:  In sharp contrast to just a few years ago, a majority of IT departments now see themselves as the champions of cloud computing initiatives at their company, while they view more resistance from non-IT executives and line of business managers. Perceived recent improvements to cloud-based technologies along with economic uncertainty have helped changed IT departments from cloud resistors to cloud promoters.

The ad hoc nature of cloud adoption at US companies is creating cloud-based consulting opportunities.  There is a real opportunity for third party consulting and professional service providers that can help companies address cloud-based integration and security challenges. Application management for most companies now is a hodgepodge of non-cloud; private cloud; public cloud and hybrid cloud delivery models with sensitive data moving in and out of company firewalls and across different providers’ public cloud platforms. This is emerging as one of the most serious IT management challenges for the near future.

While this study revealed IT professionals’ lingering reservations about security and integration, it also revealed an opportunity for third party service providers in configuring company infrastructure to work effectively in the new cloud environment.  Clearly 2011 is proving to be a ramp-up period for the cloud.  Now that more IT professionals are primed for cloud adoption, cloud investment by the major players is surging and the enterprise mobility market is trending upwards, the buzz about cloud computing should rapidly come to fruition.

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 Download our latest Tech Pulse: Cloud Computing-Trends and Needs here.

 

 

 

Posted by Brian Jones. Brian is a Project Manager with CMB's Tech team.

Topics: technology research, Consumer Pulse