It is Time to Quit the Mobile Sampling Skepticism

Today’s consumers are overflowed with product choices, constantly pinging smartphones, and that pot of pasta that is about to boil over. It’s your life and it is mine – and this affects your opportunity to research Fast-moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) consumers. They have no time for being an online panel member, nor do they feel motivated to.

” FMCG buying decisions are low-involvement in nature, and it takes a high level of engagement to sign up to be a member of a panel.”

And they shouldn’t: FMCG buying decisions are low-involvement in nature, and it takes a high level of engagement to sign up to be a member of a panel. CO-RO is an FMCG brand, and we want our respondents to be fresh, unbiased and both low- and highly-involved to get insights matching reality.

The solution, we have found, is to capture them through what I call mobile sampling.

What that means is consumer research conducted via smartphones and where respondents are recruited from survey to survey through a sampling approach like Dynamic Sampling that finds and incentivizes respondents through mobile apps.

The problem with panels is their sample representation

We have gradually moved all of CO-RO’s brand tracking and a lot of ad hoc quant studies from panels to mobile research. We began this journey due to two challenges:

The first challenge we faced was a big discrepancy between what our consumer insights told us compared to the signals we found in our actual sales data. The gap was so big we did not trust our research data and, thus, they became useless for us.

The second challenge was that we could see our consumers from lower income segments and less urbanized areas were not represented in the data we got from panels and for several markets we had no access at all.

That level of sample representation made it a necessary journey for us to find an alternative to online panels and, thus, reimagine how we survey consumers to align our insights with reality.

Mobile sampling captures consumers in their natural habitat

Our challenges with panel-based research sent us on the lookout for a new way to approach consumer insights that would give us the sample representation we needed, both in terms of actually reaching consumers in our target groups and geographies and capturing consumers in a way that produces more realistic survey replies.

The solution was to go with a sampling approach that recruits respondents where they are; on their smartphones. No sign-ups or commitments, just a quick “what do you think?”

My team and I researched different approaches and eventually realized that the future is mobile and that the future is now: we did a few test studies and quickly found that the data we got were much more in line with the indications we have in sales data and that they were much more representative of our consumer segments.

And it makes sense: mobile is everywhere. Consumers from all social classes and in any country have a smartphone addiction these days. We all take these short, careless breaks and we will do just about anything to get out of reality. Including taking part in surveys.

Utilizing this through a mobile-only sampling approach is our opportunity as an FMCG brand to survey consumers in a situation that is closer to the state-of-mind they are in when buying our products. That and being conscientious about not driving survey fatigue through long or difficult questionnaires is the best way to ensure sample representation.

I know there is skepticism around the data quality produced by mobile research. To that I say: As with all other sampling, mobile research requires high diligent quality reassurance and strict standards of operation. In my team we have found that it is crucial to choose a supplier with high quality standards and QA processes to ensure the sample quality. We have found that and over the years we have moved our previously panel-based research to almost exclusively using Dynamic Sampling.

Real consumer insights only exists if we trust data

The insights we produce in my team are a vital part of management reporting and working with marketing KPIs. That begs having a credible and high-quality data foundation for monitoring performance and developments in key markets as well as conducting further investigation of potential issues to guide actions.

Thus, only if we trust data can we truly say our quantitative market research provides us with consumer insights.

The shift to use a mobile research provider has meant our consumer research is now mobile in both the user experience respondents get and in sampling respondents.

We now have a modern and scalable tool for our consumer dialogue that is consistent, we trust it and it works.

It has given us:

  • The right geographical reach
  • Better sample representation
  • More true-to-reality insights due to the context in which respondents are sampled.