Lets chat mobile – Canadian Researchers Reevaluate Traditional Research Methods

In his latest article, Eric Grenier talks about online polling as the greatest threat to the telephone polling industry.

Ya, I’m pretty much past it. As quoted at the end of his article, most pollsters are.

David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data predicts, “the business of polling will be completely online, within the next 10 years.”

In his interview with Grenier, Darrell Bricker said, “It’s funny that we get caught up in conversations about data collection methods like online vs. offline, it’s almost a bit quaint. The truth is that the marketplace has already decided on much of this – and online is winning in all markets where it’s feasible.”

Great, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get to the really interesting stuff of research methodology.

It is my job as an analyst with Abacus Data’s Canadian Millennial Research Practice to understand the trends in research, as far as they seek to engage this hard-to-reach generation and to understand how evolving methodologies fit in with the broader story on new polling methodologies. 

I am interested in having a real discussion.

In Canadian research we need to start talking about the uses and misuses of prevalent trends in research spanning past the computer screen and onto mobile platforms. 

While mobile research is still new, SMS mobile surveys were being conducted by research firms as far back as 2000 (when I was 11). Today mobile research is still conducted via SMS but is more rapidly developing through mobile internet and apps designed for survey research.

Mobile platforms can be used as a survey tool or, with permission, as a measurement tool. In addition, mobile devices support deeper insight through qualitative research that shares picture, video and voice recordings to provide insight into research findings.

Mobile platforms allow researchers to access and engage key research audiences who are typically harder to reach in telephone surveys. The Canadian Wireless and Communications Association figures show that half of all phone connections in Canada are now wireless. Canadian wireless phone subscribers number over 26 million, fully 75% of Canadian households have access to a wireless phone.[1] Today six in ten (60%) Canadian millennials have a data plan on their smartphone (Abacus Data Millennial Survey, January 2013 was an online survey of 1,012 millennials between the ages of 18 and 29).

This increase in mobile is changing the face of research around the world. While this massive shift causes undeniable problems to sampling, it also provides unprecedented opportunities for research of specific subsets given the ubiquitous technology accessed by most Canadians today.

This report on a 2010 study published by AAPOR (the American Association for Public Opinion Research) in 2013 talks about the higher frequency of dropout rates and biased data associated with poorly executed mobile survey research that is not optimized for smartphones. Researcher Carey Stapleton describes it as “voting with your feet.”

While researchers see mobile technology as a way to engage respondents, survey design for mobile technologies have not been fully vetted yet. Our industry-wide standards will need to be re-evaluated as research technologies for mobile research improve and evolve.

As researchers learning to navigate new and mixed methodologies to answer questions with the best insight available – it is up to us to understand the benefits and fallbacks of both technologies that have been used and developed over decades of experience, and those that fall beyond untested waters. 

Now that the Canadian polling industry has begun to accept that online polling will dominate, given the evolving market demand for research, we now have to learn the strengths and pitfalls of mobile research. Mobile research will force researchers to re-evaluate traditional survey approaches to maintain the engagement of the mobile-savvy participants.

So then it is up to us to develop best practices, model new survey techniques and help organizations to ask the questions they need answered.

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Jaime is an Analyst at Abacus Data and a thought leader for its Canadian Millennials research practice.

Contact Jaime Morrison:

T: 613-232-2806

E: jaime@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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[1] The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, The Canadian Market, <http://cwta.ca/facts-figures/>.