What Kim Kardashian Can Teach Us about Mobile Research

The use of mobile survey research seems to be on the same upward trajectory as Kim Kardashian’s fame and visibility, albeit a couple years behind. The number of mobile survey research platforms has increased dramatically given the prevalence of smartphones as consumers’ preferred device for online access and communication. Given Kim’s similar rise to fame, researchers can learn from her successes and missteps when considering a mobile survey research methodology.

  1. Only wear fashions that are suitable for your figure. Kim is generally well-dressed and stylish but every once in a while she suffers a fashion failure that could have been prevented by not blindly buying into the latest fad. The same goes for market research. A mobile survey methodology should be chosen because it is the best fit for your research objectives. For example, if you’re conducting research with retirees, a mobile platform may not be the best method for reaching them. Though penetration of smartphone usage is growing among the senior population (24% to 57% since 2012), alternative modes of research may be better suited for them.
  2. Choose your partner wisely. After Kim’s short-lived marriage to Kris Humphries, she seems to have met her perfect match in Kanye West (aka Yeezy). Similarly, there are several options when it comes to administering a mobile survey, including mobile apps, SMS, and mobile browsers. Once the goals of the research have been clarified, carefully consider the mobile technology by which consumers will respond. For example, surveys administered in mobile browsers may be ideal to reach respondents when intercepting them on a website, whereas an app may be a better choice if it is important to reach respondents as they enter a retail store.
  3. Take a good selfie. Kim Kardashian could be labeled the Queen of Selfies; she has even given advice on how to take the perfect selfie using proper lighting, facial angles, etc. Similarly, screen space on mobile devices is limited so it may be difficult to accommodate images, multimedia, and long 10-point scales while continuing to be visually appealing to respondents. In the last few years, survey programmers have utilized Adobe Flash and other technologies in desktop surveys in an effort to make surveys more engaging, but many of these technologies are not fully optimized for mobile platforms or not supported by particular mobile devices (e.g., iPhones do not support Flash). Furthermore, because of consumers’ diminishing attention spans, especially among the millennial and younger generations, and the declining availability of unlimited data plans from mobile phone carriers, the length of the survey should be shorter than a traditional desktop survey – ideally, no more than 5 minutes.
  4. Be cognizant of privacy. Many attribute Kim’s fame to a certain video that went viral several years ago. While she handled the situation with style and ultimately benefitted from it, researchers have to be more mindful of respondents’ privacy and not break their trust when conducting mobile research. Many mobile research applications have an optional geolocation feature which tracks and/or stores the location of respondents in an effort to trigger a survey when they enter a particular venue. While this may be a handy feature, researchers should consider whether it is really necessary to meet the study’s objectives as it may be viewed as invasive by respondents and will likely affect cooperation rates. If it is used, respondents need to be made aware that their location is being monitored and their confidentiality will be protected.
  5. Stay connected. Kim uses an effective strategy for self-promotion: whether she’s posting selfies on Instagram, attending star-studded events, or giving us a glimpse into her life with her television shows, she remains (for better or worse) firmly planted in the public eye. Unfortunately, given current mobile technology, respondents are not always connected like Kim. Respondents may drop out in the middle of a survey because they moved to a location that is out of their carrier’s network or they unknowingly switched from a wifi signal to their data plan. Therefore, the method used to survey respondents should allow them to start the survey where they left off in the event that they lose network connectivity, without having to re-enter their answers.

Just as Kim Kardashian’s life does not resemble that of an average person, mobile surveys have profound differences from traditional desktop surveys. Researchers need to remember to adjust their thinking if mobile research is being conducted, just as Kim does when pregnancy forces her to make more reasonable fashion choices: “I never thought I’d say this but I’m wearing flats today”. Because it’s safe to say, mobile research will be around much longer than the proverbial 15 minutes.

Written by: Sara Farbry, Senior Director, Client Services