ESOMAR Conference: Making optimum use of mobile technology for research applications in India

By Mitra Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | May 03, 2010
The paper, 'Billion Dollar Baby', discussed at the ESOMAR conference addressed the roadblocks and showcased mobile-based applications for data collection

The ESOMAR Conference held on April 30 at Ramada Plaza Palm Grove, Mumbai exhibited the diversity within the Indian market research industry. During one such session, Madhumita Chakraborty and Sandeep Arora presented their report, 'Billion Dollar Baby', talking about the impediments in market research due to the multiplicity of the Indian market.

Also discussed was the growth in the number of mobile users, which would unfold opportunities to tap the market in a cost- and time-effective manner.

The report stated that mobile-based data collection is a reality in India. Its usage is mostly seen in companies where work on a distribution system involved intermediaries or large-scale ground staff.

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Normally, mobile-based research is primarily embraced by youth marketers, technology firms and the telecom industry, to reach the target audience and also to collect observational data. On the technological front, one needs to understand that mobile phones work on multiple platforms. So, developing an application that works smoothly across brands and models is a major task for mobile technology developers today.

The life of the battery on a handset is also a matter for concern, if mobile phones are to be rolled out for data collection. Batteries last for four to five hours; but with an interviewer being on the road for eight hours, it means that the person needs to carry a spare battery to last throughout the day.

Further, the yardstick to consider mobile methodologies for research should be changed. What can expedite the adoption of mobile-based research designs into mainstream projects is the method of data collection, with advantages and limitations. Different elements of data should be captured via different media; each one bringing its inherent strength towards higher quality and efficiency of data collected.

Most studies tend to use mobile technology for 'active' data collection (where the respondent has to feed in the data through his/her active involvement). While active data collection would definitely remain one of the ways in which data would be collected through mobile platform; mobile technology could also produce exceptional results when it is deployed as a 'passive' medium of data collection (the data gets collected automatically, instead of someone having to feed it in), such as location-based data or mobile-phone usage logs.

Mobile-based data collection can also reduce time spent on printing, courier, supervision and data punching costs; thereby improving the cost-effectiveness, quality and speed of operations. In addition, new revenue streams for research firms -- tracking on-ground activities, consumer promotions, trade activation, shopper studies, and contact with rural audience -- can also be explored significantly.

One of the applications currently in use is Location Based Service (LBS), which is is utilised for field force optimization.

Another application sends out an hourly SMS to a particular central location; so that one can get information at the end of the day. The benefit of this application is to save cost on supervision. It can help manage logistics better. The communication process between the interviewer, supervisor and the respondent can be transparent via this system.

The conclusion is that applications that can be deployed on mobile phones are only limited by the imagination.