Smartphones: The Future of Marketing Research in Asia Pacific

  |  March 7, 2013   |  Comments   |  

Asia will be central to the development of mobile research.

Editor's note: In this guest post, Ray Poynter, director of Vision Critical University shares the key takeaways from a mobile marketing research conference he co-chaired. Vision Critical is a global market research technology company that builds online platforms to facilitate two-way communications connecting brands and customers from concept testing to buyer preferences and behavior. The community panel's research firm has  more than 600 clients globally from Discovery, Banana Republic to Yahoo. In Asia, it has offices in Australia and Hong Kong as well as China through a recent partnership with Morpace, a full service market research firm.

Global leaders in marketing research gathered in Kuala Lumpur in January for the MRMW (Marketing Research in the Mobile World) event. This event (which I had the honor of co-chairing), comprising workshops and a conference, highlighted the importance of mobile devices (from feature phones to smartphones to tablets) and the key role that Asia Pacific is beginning to take in global marketing and marketing research.

Mobile phones have been seen as the "next big thing" in marketing research for at least the last five years. The logic seemed inescapable, because most people in Asia have a phone, and because people normally have their phone with them, the phone is the obvious way to integrate marketing research into people's everyday lives. However, until now, three key factors have held mobile marketing research back:

  1. The lack of good systems for contacting people. Until recently, there were no good lists of people willing to take surveys, or take part in other forms of marketing research, via their mobile phones and/or tablets. But now, there are a growing number of lists and panels of people willing to take part in mobile surveys.
  2. Feature phones (the phones we all had before smartphones) were too limited and too variable to allow anything except the most simple of surveys.
  3. Mobile surveys need to be short, and most traditional marketing research surveys are long, often longer than 30 minutes.
The MRMW event, in Kuala Lumpur, gathered leaders in the field from across Asia Pacific, Europe, and America. The gathering clearly signposted the three key themes that are taking place in marketing research and Asia Pacific, and which are ushering in a new world. These key themes are:
  1. Smartphones are going to be the focus of most marketing research in Asia Pacific. As prices keep falling, the feature phones are going to be less and less relevant, even in the developing markets. In many of the developing countries, people are bypassing personal computers and are accessing the Internet solely via mobile devices. Tablets are an attractive option for marketing researchers (because of the big screens), but most tablets stay in the home, whereas smartphones are with people all the time.
  2. Data integration is going to be essential to the future of smartphone-enabled marketing research. By collecting passive data (such as location and usage), marketing researchers can avoid asking redundant and time-consuming questions and collect more accurate data. By linking survey responses, and passive data, to transactional databases, we can shorten surveys down to the essential questions (for example, probing the why question).
  3. Asia will be central to the development of mobile research, for both reactive and proactive reasons. Because the marketing research in Asia Pacific is smaller (in revenue terms) and less developed than in North America and Europe, there is less investment and attachment to established ways of conducting marketing research. Because the market is less invested in the past, it should be more ready to adopt the new. The complexities of the Asia Pacific region (languages, character sets, rapidly evolving societies, fast adoption of new technology) mean that mobile research is both needed and possible.
People carry their smartphone with them as they see advertising, consume products, travel, use services, and live their lives - indeed they will experience much of their everyday lives via their phones. Mobile marketing research, via surveys, communities, and passive data collection will soon be common, right across Asia Pacific.


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Ray Poynter

Director of Vision Critical University, author of The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research, and founder of Ray has spent the last thirty-five years at the interface of market research, technology, and innovation and is in regular demand, in Europe, America, and Asia Pacific, as a workshop leader, trainer, consultant, and writer. Ray was responsible for the creation of Vision Critical University in early 2012. As a director of Vision Critical University, Ray's role is to help source and create additional materials, to speak at conferences and seminars, and to help develop best practices in technology enabled research.

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