Monday February 4, 2013

Smartphones seen becoming the ‘centre of digital’ marketing


<B>Fergusson:</B> ‘If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you’re not going to grow.’ Fergusson: ‘If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you’re not going to grow.’

KUALA LUMPUR: Mobile phones, which are proliferating and increasingly used to access the Internet in Asia, are becoming a powerful tool for both marketing and market research as they tap into key consumer trends.

“Mobile phones connect location, voice, social, and m-commerce more than any other device. Mobile is becoming the centre of digital,” TNS global head (digital consumer) James Fergusson said.

“If you are a market research supplier, mobile has to be your primary area of investment. If you don't have a mobile strategy, you're not going to grow.”

He was speaking last week at the two-day Market Research in the Mobile World conference in Kuala Lumpur. Organised by Merlien Institute, the international event was held in Asia the first time.

Fergusson, whose company is a global market research firm, noted that at present, smartphones represented a fifth to a quarter of the mobile devices in the marketplace. However, he said that the various barriers, including barrier to mobile Internet access, had dissipated.

Chief marketing officers, he said, were finally catching on about the opportunities offered by mobile phones, which extended far beyond communication.

“In the last 12 months, mobile advertising spend, albeit from a small base, doubled (globally) and it will continue to grow year on year because no matter how you put it, this device will become very quickly the number one way in which people take messages and content from organisations that are targeting individuals and groups,” he said.

According to him, the keys to success for passive mobile measurement (passive refers to monitoring behaviour without asking questions directly to participants) include building up a panel of respondents who can trust the research company with their data and incentivising engagement so that these respondents remain on the panel.

Fergusson also advised researchers to create communities, as opposed to traditional panels (of respondents), because this would allow them to build accumulated data and knowledge of those participants and increase their key data assets which drove far better insights.

Other key ingredients to building a mobile strategy include: the research firm's capabilities have to represent all operating systems, it needs to have a combination of active and passive measurement, it must be able mine multiple data sources, and it must have big data ability (processing large and complex sets of data).

“You also have to be nimble, flexible and interactive with clients. Don't overpromise. Don't over-commit because you and your clients can end up very red faced,” Fergusson said.

Jitendra Papneja, senior manager (consumer insights and strategy, Asia-Pacific) of Kraft Foods' snacks division Mondelez International, told conference participants that marketers and market researchers were out of synch with how consumers in the region spent their time.

He noted as an example how Singapore consumers spent 25 hours per week online, more than all the other media put together.

However, according to Google, less than 2% of media spending in South-East Asia was spent online.

Jitendra said more and more consumers were researching what products and services they should buy before they even entered the store, and even in the store, they would check what the products were all about via their mobile devices.

“The first five minutes (in store) are crucial and no device other than mobile is (well-placed for) this critical window of time,” he said.

He cited several key challenges with use of mobile research.

These are the difficulty to get a representative sample, limited questions and shorter interview length (he recommended a maximum of five questions in order to avoid a fall in respondents' interest level), different operating systems and devices, costlier than face-to-face research in some cases, and limited mobile research experience on norms in Asia.

“Many of our questionnaires are still one-hour long,” he lamented. “If you (researchers) ask the marketers, they'd say, Take all (data) that you can and it doesn't matter how I use it; I'll find that out later.' With mobile research, we will have to be very focused, which is good.”

On the advantages of mobile research, Jitendra said these included better accuracy than face-to-face research due to shorter questionnaires, and the respondents were much more involved compared to other mediums.

Other advantages are it is interactive (hence higher respondents' involvement), provides real-time data, has better participation rate, and allows multimedia feedback (eg photos and videos).

“The most important advantage is it is easy to get photos and videos uploaded by consumers (compared to the traditional diary method of research),” Jitendra said.

Kantar Mobile head of global mobile practice Guy Rolfe listed a few key challenges for researchers as well, including the enormous amount of data.

“How do we sift through all those data to find nuggets of insights?” he asked.

Rolfe also pointed out that the market research industry was starting to get new competitors from businesses which one would not traditionally think of as market researchers, including big retailers (, Tesco, etc), financial outfits, digital social search and mobile operators.

He said responsibility was another key challenge.

“There has been a number of industry players that had their fingers burnt in the (mobile research) space in terms of what they did and how they used the data,” he said.

He cited the 2011 case of Apple collecting and storing iPad and iPhone's user location data which led to then-CEO Steve Jobs giving a rare apology.

In this new digital age, Rolfe said, there was a need a new breed of researchers.

“We need researchers who are not only literate in designing questionnaires and analysis, but who bring new skills to the table such as being literate in digital ethics and privacy, understanding behavioural data and understanding big data,” he said.

  • E-mail this story
  • Print this story
  • Bookmark and Share