MMR Survey Length

10th September, 2014

Mobile SurveysMobile market research has prompted varied discussion around efficient survey length. The advent of mobile market research as an accessible tool for researchers and businesses alike has encouraged discussion around best practices in the field, including engagement and survey completion rates. ESOMAR recently produced their yearly Global Market Research Report, confirming industry leader predictions that the humble survey is in decline. This comes despite increasing amounts of dedicated mobile research through mobile applications and market research software, with increased spend in surveying.

The decline of the survey as a central market research tool will come as no surprise to many (such as the ones who predicted it, doh!). Market research surveying techniques have slowly shifted towards integration with mobile systems, on the fly insight development and the abilities to capture and analyse wider ranges of media sources. Providing participants with a standard issue questionnaire and expecting them to sit through over 15 minutes is becoming more unrealistic, especially with those in difficult to reach markets, or those without prior incentive to engage with the survey itself (be that incentive financial, prize, inclusive to panel etc).

Applying data research to the problem does not solve drop out issues. Increasing or decreasing survey length results in the same effect: participants lose interest around halfway through, regardless of 10 minute or 30 minute length. Participants build speed toward the end of the survey, blasting through questions, devaluing the data they provide. Many regard keeping surveys short as an integral method of ensuring data quality whilst simultaneously ensuring the participant does not record any survey burnout (not applicable if public survey). However, once a survey is started many participants feel compelled to reach the end – but as mentioned above, this can be detrimental to the quality of the data received.

Many industry leaders engage with the development of mobile research. It is clearly a massively advantageous tool in the market research locker. However, the shift to digital and mobile research has removed the familiarity and humanised aspect of face-to-face and telephone surveys that allowed interviewers to gauge participant weariness. Adjusting survey length to compensate seems a likely course of action, however, as mobile is just that – mobile – survey length becomes a different beast. And many potential market research participants are thinking mobile first, desktop/laptop later.

Surveying in market research will not entirely disappear. The mobile transition has already begun facilitating different survey techniques and lengths. Mobile market research allows a participant to engage with the survey whenever they want, to put it down at breakfast time and pick it up again on the commute. Surveys will remain one of the most important data collection tools for any market research project – it is no coincidence that around half of all market research spend is for survey tools.

Certainly as technology evolves to allow for increasingly precise measurement devices we will see more implicit market research, wider varieties of gamified environments, further forays into biometric market research and a larger focus on behavioural feedback in the field. With mobile devices increasingly powerful and offering a wider range of capture points, we may begin to see the merge of mobile survey tools, mobile data and passive implicit and biometric data to build entire behavioural models, specific to location, business, industry or time.

The humble survey is not dead, it is just an evolving beast.