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5 Things Every Survey Programmer
Wishes You Knew About Mobile Research

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By Joe DiGregorio, Senior Director, Global Programming

As is the case with any trend in market research, large or small, the rapid growth of data collection on mobile devices has brought with it countless new tools and methodologies.

Having started my career at the dawn of the transition from computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) to online as a method for data collection, I’ve lived through many of the challenges associated with this type of transition before. There’s a game-changing medium in town, and (almost) everyone wants a part of it. Clients are told they need it but not all of them know why or how to use it. Research methodologists brainstorm how to transition the old methods to the new without impacting historical data, and they invent brand new methods never before feasible with the old research methods. Developers race to create every new application they can think of, hoping enough people can be convinced they are useful. Some of them stick and become part of new way of doing research.  Some of them gather dust as they are replaced or fail to prove their worth.

While all this goes on, your operations team is acting and reacting, drawing, erasing and redrawing the line between what is possible and what is not possible. It often falls to them to be the bearer of bad news when a request is made for something that isn’t quite feasible, regardless of any upstream promises. This unfortunate position, however, could have been avoided.

With that in mind, and without further ado, here are five tips about mobile programming to help you develop a better mobile study:

  1. Keep in mind that mobile devices have small screens.
    I know what you’re saying: “I already know that mobile devices have small screens!” However, this influences survey design in many ways. Having programmed some detail-rich conjoint designs in my time, I’ve witnessed firsthand how much content we all try to cram onto one screen. Screen real estate is at an even bigger premium on hand-held devices. Keep your questions short and sweet and avoid horizontal scrolling.
  2. Test all questions on all devices – and then test again.
    It goes without saying that some question types will render differently on mobile devices vs. desktop/laptop devices. If the survey platform being used for your project is worth its salt, it will have optimized rendering for mobile devices. For some question types – grids in particular – the layout of the question will be significantly different. Many platforms will display grid questions as a vertically scrolling series of single or multi-select questions on a mobile device instead of the default matrix style display. This goes back to the size of the typical mobile screen that will not allow the horizontal space necessary for more than a few columns without horizontal scrolling. Be sure to test your surveys on both types of devices so you know exactly what your respondents will be seeing.
  3. Specify on which devices you want your survey to be available.
    Related to the above point, you may want to control what types of devices can be used to take the survey. Many survey platforms will detect the device type at a general level. This detected information could then be used to alert respondents to use a different device and/or screen them before continuing the survey. At a minimum, you should track the device type in case there are significant differences in responses between the two groups.
  4. Keep it short.
    Yeah, you’ve heard this one before. Still, on mobile devices it is even more crucial that you limit your survey length. Your survey faces much more competition for the respondent’s attention on a mobile device than it would on a desktop or laptop. Mobile surveys work best when they are quick transactions.
  5. Take advantage of the unique capabilities of the mobile platform, but
    be prepared for the results.
    Some of the most commonly used features unique to mobile surveys are the multi-media uploads. Being able to ask respondents to take a picture of what they are seeing or doing, record a video of the same or provide an audio response instead of typing an open-ended answer in a text box can provide rich results. They also can provide some unexpected and surprising results. If you have any of these question types, make sure you and your project manager accommodate time for at least one preliminary review of the uploads before the end of data collection. You may need to recoup some respondents you remove from the data based on this review and possibly reconsider or reword your question(s).

While this is by no means an exhaustive list (and some of these items may even sound familiar to those who lived through the transition to online research), keeping these in mind the next time you design your mobile study will go a long way towards efficient, high-quality project execution.

Joe DiGregorio is responsible for all operational aspects of uSamp’s programming and hosting team. He helps define and implement efficient, quality processes for the team, identifies opportunities for enhancing uSamp’s programming offering and works with other internal teams to devise creative solutions for meeting our clients’ needs. He joined uSamp in November 2012, with 14 years of market research operations experience. Joe holds a BA in Mathematics from Nazareth College in Rochester and resides in Rochester, NY.

Removing Respondent Bias from
the Research Equation:
Why Mobile Makes Us More “Honest”

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By The Editors

At MRMW this year, Justin Wheeler shared fascinating research in a presentation that probed one seemingly simple question: Are mobile respondents more honest? Wheeler’s research is trying to get at the twin problems of social desirability bias and consumer satisificing. The former describes the phenomenon of respondents providing answers that they think researchers will want to hear or that they think will make them appear in a more positive light in researchers’ eyes. The latter describes the mental shortcuts or paths of least resistance consumers will unconsciously take when asked to recall specifics of advertisements or products in an online survey. Wheeler’s research indicates that mobile could be an antidote to both of these problems. How? In-context mobile surveys remove interviewers from the equation, mitigating the influence of social desirability, and also eliminate the need for consumer recall.

See below for a video of Wheeler’s entire presentation at MRMW:

uSamp’s Justin Wheeler discusses why mobile research is better from uSamp on Vimeo.

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June 2nd, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Being Pulled into the Future:
A Review of MRMW

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By Jacob Tucker, Senior Analyst of Insights and Strategy

The Market Research in the Mobile World conference in Chicago was filled with emerging technologies, new capabilities, and aspirations to push the limits on the type of data we can collect. Be it simply adapting online surveys to mobile, using geolocation technology to intercept shoppers during purchase decisions, or experiencing personal moments with consumers through wearable computers like Google Glass, it is clear that many organizations in the market research industry are trying to pull us forward into the future. As I took in presentation after presentation, a few common themes emerged.

1. Researchers are increasingly tasked with understanding the “why”
in addition to the “what.”

Knowing that 74% of shoppers are likely to try Product A while just 48% are likely to try Product B can only take us so far. What is it about Product A that speaks to consumers more than Product B? We think that mobile methods are better equipped to give us these “why’s.”

2. Segmenting data by standard demographics is diminishing in favor
of behavioral characteristics.

We’re less interested in the differences between men and women, for example, as we are the differences between someone who is on five social networks compared to only one. These behavioral characteristics have a more significant reach in the marketplace, and mobile opens the door to discovering more behaviors which can help us understand just how far that reach is.

3. Consumer intimacy is the underlying concept that researchers seem to be dancing around as it pertains to mobile.

We’re trying these new methods in order to get closer to the consumer. It makes sense that if we can feel what the consumer feels, we can market better experiences for them.

4. Mobile is here to stay, now let’s prove its value.

The next necessary step I see for mobile is evidence that it actually works. Now that we’ve been exposed to its potential, we need to find out if companies are indeed making better business decisions because of it. What information are we gathering from mobile that we couldn’t get from other methods? Would the best business decisions be out of reach without this information? Those of us diving into the waters of mobile believe it to hold some uncharted answers, and now it’s
time to prove it.

Jacob Tucker is senior analyst of insights and strategy at uSamp. In this role he supports all aspects of mobile research projects. Prior to joining uSamp, Jacob worked as a research assistant in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of North Texas. He also served as an independent researcher for the Cooper Institute in Dallas. Jacob received his B.A. in Psychology from Howard Payne University and his M.S. in Kinesiology from the University of North Texas.

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June 2nd, 2014 at 4:49 pm

uSamp University:
The Wonderful World of the IHUT

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By Tina Day, Director of Organizational Development and Quality

uSamp University is our column for breaking down some of market research’s thorniest concepts and terms. We write for both industry newbies and seasoned pros looking for a quick refresher. Because there are often differing schools of thought about the application and value of many of these techniques or methodologies, our intent is not to be the final word, but merely provide an introduction for curious researchers. At the end of each post we’ll also suggest a few links for further reading.

Not to be confused with everyone’s favorite pancake house, an “IHUT,” or simply “HUT,” is, at its most basic, a type of in-home study that involves consumers using and evaluating a product. IHUT stands for in-home usage test, and it has long been one of researchers’ go-to studies for detailed, in-context consumer feedback on anything from pillow cases to, well, pancake mix.

IHUT 101

As the name implies, IHUTs are used to test products with real consumers in their homes. This type of study is particularly useful for testing prototypes before they hit the market, newly released products, or existing products that may be in need of a redesign.

Consumers are shipped the product or sometimes instructed where to purchase it. Their feedback is gathered in follow-up surveys, or, in the case of mobile research, in real-time using smartphones or tablets. IHUTs can give market researchers deep and important insights into many facets of how a product is perceived and used, and how it fits into a consumer’s regular routine. Maybe consumers are overlooking an important step in preparation, or maybe they’re having trouble with the enclosure system. An IHUT can reveal such product challenges.

Here’s what an IHUT can help you do:

  • Learn how consumers interact with the product in a natural environment.
  • Understand sequencing of consumer interaction with the product.
  • Collect in-the-moment consumer feedback about the product as it is used or consumed.
  • Gauge the popularity and satisfaction of the product.
  • Discover new uses for the product.

Going Mobile, Baby!

Mobile technology greatly streamlines home-use testing and can decrease time to field. Mobile can also replace time-consuming, costly follow-up methods such as phone surveys and the outmoded in-home visit.

Perhaps most important, mobile expands what was previously possible with an IHUT. Respondents can offer feedback at every step of their journey with the product – from their first encounter with the product to final use or consumption.

Mobile IHUTs also allow for types of data that we only dreamed of before. For instance, respondents can take pictures and even videos while interacting with a product. Is the packaging too difficult to open? Video tells the frustrating story. Do people find surprising uses for a product that could drive innovation? A picture is worth a thousand words.

Click here to learn more about in-home mobile research solutions.

Simple, But Substantive

The whole point of in-home testing is to get accurate, quality feedback from consumers or potential consumers of your product. To do that, your goals as a researcher should be clear going in, as should your questions.

Here are examples of questions businesses typically hope to answer through in-home testing:

  • How do consumers use my product? It’s likely that the overworked team down in product development overlooked some really cool uses for your product. Consumers won’t.
  • Is the packaging engaging and attractive? This is often your customer’s first encounter with your product, so it can really set the tone for what you can expect from sales.
  • What suggestions for product improvement do customers have? You’d be surprised how honest and thoughtful your consumers can be. They’ll openly tell you about the proverbial good, bad and ugly if you give them the opportunity.
  • How satisfied are consumers with my product overall? If you could only get one data set back, this might be the one. Do they take it to bed at night and tuck it in with them or leave it in the corner of the garage? That could be the make-or-break question.

Size Matters

There are a few key factors to remember with IHUTs, whether mobile or traditional. First, over-recruiting is crucial. Product types, respondent pools, whether a product is purchased by a respondent or delivered through a fulfillment company all affect completion rates, so determining the sample size is an intricate and important stage that needs to be considered. Often, the sample size needs to be well beyond double the responses desired.

For this reason, many suppliers have prescreened pools ready to go. They could have tens to hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of consumers who fit varying demographics. These consumers can often be reached using mobile apps and geofencing technology to locate, recruit and validate willing participants. So much for the pen and clipboard days, huh?

To learn more about home-use testing and IHUTs, here are some suggestions for further reading:

Tina Day is uSamp’s Director of Organizational Development and Quality. With over 15 years in the market research industry, she has a well-rounded understanding of the end-to-end research process and uses her expertise to drive training and development efforts throughout the organization. In addition, Tina supports key initiatives related to quality and operational efficiencies, with a strong focus on uSamp’s Mobile Solutions..

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May 21st, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Satisficing and Social Desirability Bias:
Is Mobile Poised to Solve These Problems?

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By The Editors

Are mobile respondents more honest? We know that mobile lends itself to in-context surveying, but mobile devices themselves may have an enormous impact on how honestly consumers answer questions. Why? Research shows that respondents will often take the path of least resistance when answering difficult survey questions, a phenomenon called satisficing. Additionally, traditional in-store market research requires positioning researchers on-location to ask consumers questions, and that face-to-face interaction causes consumers to want to give the answers they expect researchers want to hear – versus what they really think, a problem known as social desirability bias.

The good news? Mobile helps us get answers while consumers remain in the store, in front of the products, but adds a level of privacy that at-home research provides. Additionally, with the ways that smart phones have become a natural part of our everyday lives – studies show that we look at our smart phone once every three minutes – consumers don’t find mobile surveys to be disruptive. Therefore, mobile may just provide the key to unlocking two of market researchers’ thorniest data quality problems.

In this video, Justin Wheeler explains more about how mobile may be poised to solve these problems.

To learn more about this study, visit uSamp at the Mobile Research in the Mobile World event May 27-30th in Chicago, or stay tuned for a post-event recap.

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May 12th, 2014 at 9:47 pm

The Power of Convenience:
Mobile Market Research in an On-the-Go World

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By The Editors


It’s no secret that we at uSamp are excited about mobile technology. Smartphones and tablets open up a whole new realm of market research – often resulting in richer, more interesting data. Mobile enhances in-context product testing by introducing convenience. Consumers can provide feedback and record smartphone video responses while still in the store aisle, and they can continue while in home and testing out the products. uSamp VP of product innovation Justin Wheeler recently sat down with Bob Lederer of the famous Research Business Daily Report to talk about what exactly mobile technology can do for market research and the benefits of having another platform to get insights. Watch the entire video interview below.

Written by adrien

April 23rd, 2014 at 6:11 pm

ARF Re:Think 2014:
A #Social Retrospective

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By The Editors


If you missed ARF Re:Think 2014, you only missed one of the biggest market research and advertising events of the year. Go ahead, #facepalm.

From March 23rd through 26th, more than 2,500 top advertisers, market research companies, ad agencies and more gathered in NYC to “Inspire Intelligent Growth” and push our industry toward making smarter, faster, and better business decisions. There were a lot of interesting talks given and exciting news announced. But if you missed it, don’t beat yourself up. We have you #covered with this quick recap of the most important happenings and news shared on Twitter.


Talks by Keith Reinhard of DDB Worldwide and James Burke and Euan MacKay of Kantar Media captivated audiences.

From our booth, we  spread love, not war–in the form of creamy chocolate hazelnut spreads, that is. Our live demo on mobile IHUTs featured results from a recent study on spreadables from Hershey’s, Jif, and Nutella (complete with samples!). Who did consumers crown as king nut? Check out the results here.

While meeting with hundreds of attendees and attending presentations, we definitely noticed more chatter over the importance of tracking and analyzing mobile data. Here’s what people were saying:

And in the mind-boggling-facts-department, presenters did not disappoint:

Legos: The Ultimate Time Killers

We also had a blast scooping Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and chatting with attendees at our booth. Plus, shirts!

All in all, the show was a great success, so much so it prompted a few post-event responses from Huff Post and Greenbook. If we missed you this time, be sure to come out and visit next year. We’ll be there, ice-cream scoops a ready.

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April 8th, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Quantifying Emotion:
How to Collect Data Based on a “Feeling”
Live from #ARFReThink2014

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By Daniel Ross, SVP of Product and Technology


It’s no secret that we’re in the age of quantifying. In baseball, it’s all about the numbers – countless stats are collected and analyzed to try to predict the success and future of players and teams. However, that does not mean we can discount the “feel” of things, either. As Chairman Emeritus of DDB Worldwide Keith Reinhard told a crowd at ARF Re:think 2014 yesterday, when you hear the bat crack against the ball, you know it’s a home run.

The same, according to Reinhard, goes for advertising. As much as there is a science behind how to make a successful campaign, so much of it comes down to a gut feeling of what will do well. Specifically, Reinhard explained, success can come when connecting with your audience emotionally. Take State Farm’s campaign, for example. Their advertising isn’t centered on their policy, it’s about the hometown feeling they offer their subscribers. Their promise to be “like a good neighbor” and be there for you when you need them most is what attracts people to their business.

So if Reinhard is right, and successful advertising often comes from emotional appeals that develop based on gut feeling, how do you gauge when you have a successful campaign? That’s an idea uSamp is continually trying to address, most recently through our expansion into Mobile. We want to get that data from our users in the moment – capturing their emotional responses as they experience them.

The possibility for reaching consumers at the moment of truth is already out there. Keller Fay Group’s CEO Ed Keller and Discovery Communication’s Senior Vice President for Market Resources Beth Rockwood addressed this idea during their ARF Re:think 2014 session “Talking Social TV 2″ yesterday. Television viewers are socially connected, with 1 in 5 viewing occasions involving social media. People are already developing the habit of cataloging their in-the-moment responses to what they see and hear around them.

If Reinhard’s right and advertising’s success is the emotional response, then businesses need to collect that data instantaneously and to have an accurate understanding of how their company and products are perceived.


Written by adrien

March 25th, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Hazelnut Wars:
Hershey’s and Jif Joust with Nutella

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Until recently, Nutella held a monopoly over the hazelnut-spread market. There really wasn’t anything remotely comparable to the distinctly Italian substance that people enjoy for breakfast, dessert, or with a spoon straight from the jar. Now, nearly 70 years after Mr. Ferrero introduced hazelnuts to the world (in order to make the most of the chocolate shortage during WWII), America’s favorite chocolate factory, Hershey’s, has entered the market with a remake of the classic. Not to be left out, peanut sweetheart Jif threw their hats in the ring. The result: a lot of chatter over whether these American copycats could eat into the territory long occupied by Italy.

This was fodder enough to inspire the uSamp Mobile team to test out the emerging product concepts. Anything for an excuse to run an In Home Usage Test (IHUT). So we nerded out.

Over the weekend, we sent our Mobile Army out to the grocery store to conduct a side-by-side comparison of the three products in this market. Over 175 people actively participated in just under 48 hours, resulting in a rich compendium of consumer testimonials rich with flavor that rivaled the nutty spread.

Overall findings suggest that the brand’s equity had influence over taste. Some findings:

  • We also learned that new entrants had succeeded in creating quite the buzz. More than half of the consumers were more excited to try the Jif or Hershey’s brands over Nutella.
  • Overall, we found the hazelnut-spread bar is low: 56% reported that the spreads exceeded their expectations, Jif being a particular standout.
  • 66% don’t like the price/value of these spreads, even when it came to their favorite.
  • Several testimonials suggested that the hazelnut spread might even cannibalize the Herhsey’s and Jif brands’ core products (chocolate and peanut butter).

This video testimonial captures the essence of our findings:

What can the brand guys can take away?

This is not just a study of taste buds. This study showcases the key benefits of mobile market research story-telling. It reveals brand equity, provides competitive analysis, evaluates new concepts, and reexamines the old.

Written by lsozio

February 24th, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Morpace Case Study:
Mobile Gives Electric Vehicle Owners a Voice

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We love pushing the boundaries of mobile market research innovation. More importantly, we love providing our clients with the platform and the freedom to take mobile in directions that we never considered. Our latest collaboration with Morpace and their panel of electric car enthusiasts (see video below) highlights a creative execution of mobile research. Not only was the vertical intriguing, but the consumer feedback proved product altering for Morpace’s auto clients.

This also got us thinking about how we can best communicate the value of mobile research to those not yet invested in this space. Interested in expanding your mobile repertoire? Check out four more ways to make mobile research work for you.

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February 24th, 2014 at 4:29 pm